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October 2nd, 2013 12:01 am MARK ZUSMAN | News Stories

Memorializing an Immortal

John Callahan’s friends, fans and family are creating a permanent tribute to the late cartoonist.

news2_3948Illustration by Craig Holmes. Design of Memorial Garden by Stemmler Design
John Callahan is coming back to life. 

On Oct. 3, a group of his friends and supporters will kick off a campaign to create a Northwest Portland memorial to the carrot-topped cartoonist, who died in 2010 at age 59.

Callahan, who drew for WW for 27 years, expressed himself with quivering lines and a blunt, irreverent voice that was often at odds with Portland’s chronic politeness.

A little more than three years ago, Callahan, a quadriplegic, died of complications from bedsores, a constant threat to anyone confined to a bed or wheelchair 24 hours a day.

When he was 21, Callahan was riding in a car with a friend who fell asleep at the wheel. The car crashed into a wall at 90 mph, crushing Callahan’s spine. 

Despite extraordinary physical challenges, not the least of which was difficulty holding a pen or pencil, Callahan produced a prodigious body of work: cartoons, books, record albums, two TV shows, and a movie. He infused all of them with a humor that was as black as it was politically incorrect. Callahan was a nonconformist and one of the city’s brightest lights.

In an obituary, The Washington Post called him “among the most brilliant and original cartoonists who ever lived.”

Good Samaritan Hospital, in the Northwest Portland neighborhood Callahan called home, has agreed to donate land on Northwest 21st Avenue for the Callahan memorial, and Portland artist Tad Savinar and landscape architect Jesse Stemmler have provided a design—complete with a wall of Callahan’s work.

The kickoff to raise money for the memorial will be held at the offices of Topaz Design, at 1815 NW Overton St., on Thursday, Oct. 3, at 5 pm.

Please join us.  

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