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Eulogists remember Richardson's best qualities

Oregon's top officials gathered to mourn late secretary of state at Capitol funeral.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - The late Secretary of State Dennis RichardsonWhen hundreds of people from across Oregon gathered in the gallery of the House of Representatives on Wednesday for the funeral of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, they heard from several prominent figures in Oregon politics.

All knew Richardson well. Some knew him better through what they shared with him.

State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, served with Richardson in the Legislature.

"We also had something a little unusual in common: helicopters," said Johnson, a commercial pilot who ran a helicopter company before coming to public life. "I used to tease him — while he flew over hot, steamy jungles in Vietnam with people shooting at him, I flew over magnificent Mount St. Helens."

Johnson added, "There's a certain rigor and discipline required in aviation that I think probably served the secretary of state well. I cannot begin to imagine what a pilot needs from a team in a time of war, but I can tell you what I expected from my team during peacetime: trust, absolute trust. When you get in a helicopter that somebody else has worked on, you need the confidence that the team did their job and took care of the machine — whether you're flying over a jungle or the breathtaking Cascades, you have to be able to trust that the team did the work and did it right."

With Richardson's passing, the Secretary of State's Office is in the hands of his team. Richardson deputy Leslie Cummings is acting as secretary of state.

"If Secretary Richardson was here right now, he'd be giving thanks," Cummings said. "Even in his final days, Dennis struggled to share his great appreciation for our wonderful staff and to make it clear to them how valuable they were to him and to Oregon."

Cummings then read aloud the names of members of the secretary of state's leadership team — a tribute not just to their work, but to Richardson himself.

"He would want you all to know them," she said.

Gov. Kate Brown is expected to appoint a successor to Richardson within the next few weeks. There is no word yet on who she'll name.