Obituary: Elizabeth (Liz) VanLeeuwen

Elizabeth (Liz) VanLeeuwen
November 1925 – Nov 27, 2022

Elizabeth (Liz) VanLeeuwen, 97, passed away at home on her farm Nov. 27, 2022.
Liz, the granddaughter of Lake County pioneers, was born in Lakeview in November 1925, where she lived until attending Oregon State College. While in college she met local farmer Geo. VanLeeuwen when she and several other co-eds came to weed his onion fields.
Shortly after she graduated in June 1947, she and Geo. were married. They had four children and eventually moved back to the VanLeeuwen home farm, west of Halsey, in 1956. In the early years on the farm, Liz taught adult education classes and substituted to help make ends meet.
Eventually, they put in several acres of strawberries and became the “local” strawberry patch. Many who grew up in Halsey and surrounding areas will remember picking strawberries for her.
In the 1960s Liz was instrumental in starting the foreign student host program at OSU and was involved there for about 15 years. Her activities included hosting an annual picnic for students and host families on the VanLeeuwen farm, with attendance being as high as 150 students from 27 countries.
The field burning controversary and the state’s attempts to forcibly take land from farmers along the Willamette River for the Greenway project in the late 1960’s and early ’70’s eventually compelled her to run for office.
She spent nine terms, from 1981 to 1999, as a state representative for then-District 37, representing rural parts of Linn County, including the cities of Lebanon and Sweet Home, where she championed natural resources, small businesses and rural issues.
She never missed an opportunity to deal with constituent concerns, often helping those who found themselves crushed between the gears of government bureaucracy. She always considered herself a stateswoman, not a politician.
Concern for foster children and seeing deficiencies in the state agencies handling their care drove her to look for solutions, eventually helping to form Linn County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
She was also a founding member of Oregon Women for Agriculture and American Agri-Women.
In 1999 she was elected to the Linn County Soil and Water board, a position she held until her death. She was also serving on the board of the Linn County Farm Bureau at the time of her passing.
She was an active participant in her church and felt her faith played a direct role in her life, over the years taking on many church roles including Sunday School teacher, AWANA volunteer, and Christmas pageant organizer.
She was also a 4-H alumni and a 4-H club leader and teacher.
Among many awards and accolades she received over her lifetime were the 1983 Oregon Farm Bureau and Linn County Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year awards, and 1997 Oregon Seed Council Seedsman of the Year. She has been inducted into the OSU Ag Hall of Fame and the Oregon Farm Bureau Hall of Fame.
She was able to be effectively involved in numerous political, civic, and church efforts because of the support of many neighbors and friends.
Liz was a firebrand, a catalyst, a true Oregonian and will be greatly missed.
She was preceded in death by her husband George (Geo).
She is survived by her four children, five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
A celebration of her life and legacy will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, at the Linn County Expo Center, 3700 Knox Butte Road E, Albany.
In lieu of flowers, her wishes were for donations to be sent to the Willamette Valley Campus of Adult and Teen Challenge, P.O. Box 108, Shedd, OR 97377.
Fisher Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.