Newberg-Dundee police responded to a report of a deceased man at a residence on North Street in Newberg, January 15, 2013, at about 2pm. 64-year-old Steve Gitchell, who was apparently last seen on Saturday, January 12, 2013 by a neighbor, was found face down on his living room floor by his friend and landlord.
Gitchell's friend saw what he thought were Gitchell's shoes from the front porch window. He used a spare key to go inside, found his friend then called police.
Police report that Gitchell, a Viet Nam vet, died of natural causes and that they had found a good amount of cash inside so saw no indication of foul play and no suicide note.
According to neighbors, Steve Gitchell was in excellent health and in good spirits and had not mentioned any particular worries when a neighbor talked to him for about a half hour mid afternoon Saturday.
Gitchell had just moved to Newberg earlier this year and had talked about the long commute from Portland to Newberg.
A friend wrote of Steve Gitchell before his death:
"I'm sure I don't have to tell you how awesome Steve Gitchell is. Just in case you are out of the loop and/or have been living under a rock, I'll tell you.... he is cooler then we could ever hope to be. Today, he said he's sick of coming into our bike shop and not seeing a picture of Eddy Merckx, so he (being a man of action) brought in a signed picture of the Cannibal himself. Best. Ever."
"He says he'd like to race his "new toy" (a carbon fiber Orbea) at the Paris-Brest-Paris when it comes around in 2011. Gitchell has been riding bikes since 1972. He keeps most of his bikes in his flat, but is appreciative of the bike-centric focus of the Gallery."
OPINION by Jennifer Kennedy
After learning of his death, Gitchell's estranged wife and son quickly took possession and removed all his belongings from the home and property where he died of natural causes.
I would like to note that a few of Gitchell's relatives were upset about the content of this story when it was originally published exactly as shown above, sent nasty email to our news desk, apparently worried someone might remove some of the property they had just inherited, and also stating we should have found more humanizing words instead of being so "cold" in our reporting. The words were mine and they were proper, factual, and they were decent, friendly, and accurate. I even found a nice photo and some pleasant words others had written, and included it in the original story. Unfortunately, that was not enough for the estranged family.
I understand the sudden anger and even hostility one may feel when they read about the death of their relative. However, that is no excuse to go ballistic with reporters who went out of their way to report a sad story. Also, note that The Oregon Herald was the only news agency who reported the story.
Upon meeting our reporter on the scene a day or two after our story broke, members of "the family" as they call themselves in writing, yelled and made outlandish accusations to our reporter, specifically worried, it seems to me, about their new property, and also seems to me, more interested in the property, cash, and Steve's bike, and perhaps not necessarily his memory. At least I saw no indicated.
I would not normally publish such an "opinion" but the amount of anger and hostility by a person calling himself "Draeger Gitchell" has forced me to remove the street address and specifically note that the property has been removed and taken, I assume, to the home of the estranged family, which I certainly will not publish.
I was also bombarded with email from a member of the family. I repeatedly asked if the family had any comments they would like to write so we can publish a obit bio, even suggested they write it and we'd just publish as it was written. But they were not at all interested. I also asked for any of the family to tell us exactly how the story was written "poorly" but the reply offered no answers, just snide hostility from Steve Gitchell's relatives.
Personally, it seemed to me they were more worried about getting their hands on Gitchell's property than taking time to help compose a bio in his name. However, I could be wrong. It's just an opinion. I'm still open for anyone who would identify themselves as family to write a rebuttal to this opinion, or at least some kinds words for Steve Gitchell or about his life. So far, I have seen none, and again, an opinion, perhaps now I can understand why Stephen Gitchell lived alone.
Location photo by Aubra Salt who contributed to this story.