Yakima County Commissioner Norm Childress will be remembered as a gentle man with a big heart, Grandview Mayor Gloria Mendoza said.
“I’m sad – it’s a sad day for us in Grandview with Norm. He’s going to be missed; we’re just trying to make it through the day,” Mendoza said Tuesday afternoon.
Childress died of pancreatic cancer Tuesday morning at his Grandview home. He was 62.
Childress was a retired engineering services manager for Benton County Public Works who leaves behind a legacy of service in Grandview, where he served on the City Council and the Planning Commission. He was mayor for four terms — a sum of 20 years in all.
He was elected to Yakima County Commission District 3 in November 2018.
“He was one of our own,” Mendoza said. “He lived in the city of Grandview for many years. “He got to meet a lot of our leaders and became very close with the past mayors. He certainly was one of our loved mayors.”
Knowledge of his illness came as a surprise as did his sudden passing, said fellow Commissioner Vicki Baker.
“I didn’t know the severity of his illness,” she said. “I was shocked. Norm has become a dear friend of mine. I’m devastated.”
County commissioners in a Monday news release said Childress learned just a few weeks ago he was suffering from terminal, late-stage pancreatic cancer and that he was receiving hospice care at home.
“We’re really mourning his loss,” she said. “It just came too fast. We heard he was sick and then today we hear he lost his battle. He was very loved by the staff — the staff and department heads are just very sad today. It’s been very sad for everybody.”
Commissioner Ron Anderson offered prayers to the Childress family in a Tuesday news release.
“We are deeply saddened by the news. Our prayers go out to his wife, Sandy, and the Childress family,” Anderson said in the release.
He leaves behind Sandy, his wife of more than 39 years, two grown children and a grandson.
Commissioners have yet to think about the process of replacing Childress.
“Going forward, we haven’t even entertained the thought of what’s next,” Baker said. “We’re just focused on Norm and his family today.”
He cared about his community, supported small businesses and local projects, Mendoza said. She met Childress when he was a City Council member and she was in early operations of her truck driving school.
He was supportive of small businesses and was instrumental in improvements to the municipal swimming pool, the construction of a dog park and the implementation of a program enhancing the city’s economy, she said.
“He was very supportive of small businesses and I got to experience that on a person level,” she said.
“He was very committed to mentoring new councilmen and people new into service. He was truly an example.”
Baker said she had been working closely with Childress on the commission, especially through the pandemic.
Childress served on various county committees and boards involving the Office of Emergency Management, the Yakima Health District, public safety, economic development and the county’s operating budget.
“He had extensive experience — he was a wonderful partner to work with,” she said. “He always talked about his family and shared stories about them and his grandson, Sebastian.”
Yakima Valley Business Times publisher Bruce Smith said Childress loved to play poker, and he was good at it.
“He was a poker dog, absolutely loved to play,” Smith said Tuesday. “There are two things Norm Childress really loved: His family and poker.”
Smith said he knew Childress for about 10 years, but had been close friends with him the past six years.
Smith said Childress would play in $20 games he hosted as well as larger $1,000 games, and won more than he lost. “Which few people can honestly say,” Smith said.
Childress had a solid local and regional reputation of being a good player and was known by many of the pros in Vegas, Smith said.
He tried to go to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas on his vacation every year, Smith said.
Childress had his own poker attire – Hawaiian shirts with a matching a hand-painted straw hat, Smith said.
“That outfit was his trademark,” Smith said. “He was always a gentleman at the table and very well liked. He will be greatly missed.”