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Mayor Betty Vilhauer

Rainier Mayor Betty Vilhauer does paperwork before a Monday night council meeting in 1979. 

After a long career of community service in Rainier, Elizabeth R. (Betty) Vilhauer passed away on Sept. 10 at Hospice Care in Longview.

She was mayor of Rainier for more than 10 years, and in that time she oversaw a remodel of City Hall, worked to improve sewer systems and streets and for the development of Riverfront Park. She was also the first female mayor of Rainier.

Current Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole said her vision was instrumental in creating the park. The park was dedicated to her in 1982.

“She definitely made a difference and left a legacy in Rainier,” Cole said.

Born on Oct. 8, 1930, on her family’s farm in Rainier, Vilhauer graduated from Rainier Union High School in 1948. She married Alvin (Al) Vilhauer on October 10, 1952, and the couple had two sons, Tony and Toby.

She worked as a secretary for Wilbur Smith Tug and Barge, then Longview Fibre, before working at a Rainier bank and then Portland General Electric until her retirement in 1991.

Prior to being elected mayor in 1978, Vilhauer served on the Rainier City Council for five years.

“She was a genuinely nice lady,” Cole said. “She helped me personally with some institutional knowledge that she had from when she served as mayor.”

Vilhauer also served on the Board of Community Home Health & Hospice for over 38 years, the Rainier Fire Department Board of Directors, and was a lifelong member of Beaver Valley Grange 306.

Carol Everman, Beaver Valley Grange secretary, said Vilhauer was very community oriented, as is her entire family. Her sons, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren are all active members of the grange, Everman said.

“As all our members do, she supported us in our fundraising and came to our dinners,” Everman said.

Everman said Vilhauer joined the grange in 1971, but Everman remembered her from when she worked for Portland General Electric.

“I remember her from when I was a small child, when I went with my mother to pay the electric bill,” Everman said.

Cole remembered Vilhauer as someone who was easy to talk to and sincere.

“She was part of the community for a long time and she’ll be missed,” Cole said. “Our hearts go out to her family.”

A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Oct. 11 at Alston Corner Assembly of God Church. Contributions can be made to the Community Home Health & Hospice, P.O. Box 2067 in Longview.

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