Lewis County Commissioner Gary Stamper Dies of COVID-19 at 67

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Lewis County Commissioner Gary Stamper has died.

His partner Bobbi Barnes announced his death due to COVID-19 Wednesday night on Facebook. He was 67. 

“As I write this, Gary is in Heaven telling everyone about a small town half-way between Seattle and Portland and 20 miles east of I-5,” she wrote. “I can not thank him enough for being the best friend ever, a fun travel partner, and a person who made me a  better person just by the way he lived his life. He may have lost his battle with COVID, but he won the lottery with friends, family, and constituents who loved and supported him. Thank you all.”

Stamper had been on a ventilator at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver as he battled the virus. He had been vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“He’s just a good soul. He really is. He’s the best dad ever, so we miss him,” daughter Sheena Stamper Woods said.

A renowned prep basketball coach, he was on the sidelines as the Mossyrock girls basketball team’s head coach during its successful run in the 2000s. The run, and Stamper’s coaching career, culminated in a 2B state championship in 2007 when the Vikings defeated La Salle for the school’s first hoops title.

He was elected as a Lewis County commissioner in 2014.

Prior to that, his career was in public education. 

This story will be updated.

Below is a full news release from the county: 

Lewis County mourns the death of our friend, Commissioner Gary Stamper

The Lewis County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is devastated to report that our friend, our Commissioner, Gary Stamper has passed away after a five-week battle against COVID-19.

Gary, who represented District 3 on the east end of the county, died Sept. 29, 2021, at PeaceHealth Medical Group in Vancouver, Wash. He was 67.

A former principal, teacher and coach, Gary had served on the BOCC since Jan. 1, 2015. He prided himself on “standing up for the little guy,” protecting the area’s timber interests and promoting economic growth while maintaining the area’s rural feel. 

Among some of Gary’s most-cherished professional achievements were: 

  • Leading Mossyrock High School’s girls’ basketball program to double-digit appearances at the state tournament, including a 2B state championship title.
  • Advancing outdoor recreation activities across the county, including the construction of a park in Packwood and paving the way for wheeled all-terrain vehicle (WATV) use on the east end of the county.
  • Advocating for our timber county to receive federal timber dollars, such as Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding.

In his personal life, Gary enjoyed traveling with his wife, Bobbi Barnes, and spending time with family, especially his grandchildren, whom he called his “top priority.” His travel adventures – or often misadventures – with his wife were fodder for countless laughs. His family was his world. In addition to his wife, Bobbi, the county’s heart goes out to his daughters and their families: Sheena and Emmett Woods (and their children, Rory and Reese) and Michele and Jesse Gore (and daughters Hadley and Emma); his stepson and his family, Tyler and Jessica Walster (and daughters Olivia and Kambree); and his stepdaughter and her family, Kelly Walster and Charlie Chancellor (and daughter Cree).

A self-admitted softie when it came to animals, Gary also reveled in helping others. Whether it was delivering firewood to a struggling family, buying groceries for a perfect stranger or purchasing shoes for a student in need, the stories community members have shared about Gary’s kindness and generosity have been heartwarming and bountiful.

Gary, who grew up in Lewis County, graduated from Mossyrock High School before earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Central Washington University and a master’s degree in School Administration from Heritage University. 

In addition to a huge network of heartbroken family members, Gary leaves behind countless friends, colleagues, students and staff members whose lives he touched.

The county is planning an informal gathering at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 1, at the main entrance to the historic courthouse (north steps) at 351 Northwest North Street, Chehalis, to honor our friend.

Cards for Gary’s family may be sent to the BOCC office at the following:

To the family of Commissioner Stamper

c/o Lewis County BOCC

351 N.W. North St.

Chehalis, WA 98532

Plans for services will be announced in the future.

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