Former La Grande mayor leaves impressive legacy

By Dick Mason, The Observer February 12, 2014 11:41 am


Buzz Fulton dies Friday at age 93  

Buzz Fulton, a community servant who spoke with a slow drawl but connected with people at light speed, passed away last week.

Fulton, 93, died Friday at Grande Ronde Hospital. A lifelong La Grande resident, Fulton was a city councilor from 1983 through 1990. He served as La Grande mayor his last four years on the council. Fulton joined the city council after a 21-year career as a teacher and administer in the La Grande School District and a 31-year stint in the U.S. Navy and National Guard.

“Serving people, that was what he was all about,” said La Grande Mayor Dan Pokorney.

Pokorney said his leadership style reflects Fulton’s influence.

“He always had time to listen. I’ve always tried to do that,” Pokorney said. “Those people who take time to listen have a broader view of what’s happening.”

Fulton was a high school vice principal for a portion of his time in the La Grande School District. Fred Arnst, then a science teacher at LHS, got to know Fulton during this time.

“They say there are some people who never knew a stranger. That was the way it was with Buzz,” said Arnst, who still lives in La Grande.

Fulton knew how to connect with students, said Bob Gregory, a math and science teacher at LHS from 1960 to 1988.

“He really understood kids. He was always concerned about them and wanted to make the school a better place for them,” Gregory said.

Fulton was thrust into many difficult situations during his time as an educator and civic leader and dealt with them with a distinctive tension-defusing style. 

“He always had a ready smile and a dry wit. Nothing seemed to rattle or shake him. He was level headed and even keeled,” said La Grande City Councilor Jerry Sebestyen, a retired
La Grande High School teacher. 

Fulton is survived by his wife, Velva. The couple were married for 64 years and had three daughters. Fulton is also remembered for his love of skiing and ability to teach others how to master it. Fulton, a skier into his mid-80s, taught skiing for many years at Anthony Lakes and Spout Springs.

“He was a very stylish skier who exemplified the technique he taught,” said Mike Gooderham, a member of the Anthony Lakes Ski Patrol.

Much of his time on the ski slopes was spent helping Special Olympic athletes.

Gooderham has long been struck by how Fulton could connect with people at all levels when teaching skiing. Still, this is not what impressed him the most.

“His best trait was that no matter what the situation was he got along with everyone,” he said.

Fulton, whether on the ski slopes or at city hall, was not one to seek the spotlight. 

“He never wanted to be the center of attention,” Pokorney said. “He was a worker bee. Those are the people who get things done.”

Contact Dick Mason at 541-786-5386 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Dick on Twitter @lgoMason.