‘We thought the danger was over’ – five local lives lost in heat wave

A Meals on Wheels volunteer carries a large electric fan for delivery to a client ahead of a heat wave on June 25, 2021 (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Vickie Jones asked her great-grandson to check on her husband as he watched TV upstairs in the old farmhouse in northeast Salem the couple had lived in for more than 30 years.

It was around 4 p.m. on June 28, when temperatures hit a record-shattering 117 degrees in Salem.

The great-grandson found 67-year-old Donald Jones standing but stooped over, his skin hot to the touch.

“His body shut down while he was standing up,” she said.

Jones said the Marion County Medical Examiner’s Office later told her he died of hyperthermia, a condition when the body overheats.

The couple didn’t have air conditioning, so Jones froze half gallons of water and put them in front of fans.

Even so, she said the temperature upstairs reached 126 degrees.

Jones said they didn’t expect the day to get so hot. They thought the worst had passed on a day earlier, when temperatures reached 113 degrees.

“We thought the danger was over or was about to be,” she said. “He did not expect to die that day.”

Jones is one of five people in Marion County the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed died related to the heat wave in late June. On Friday, the office released their names, addresses and dates of death. That list doesn’t include the location where they died or if they had air conditioning.

There are eight other deaths in that time in Marion County that are still under investigation because of other factors like substance abuse or underlying medical conditions.

Here’s what is known about the other deaths:

Roger Ewing, 68, died on June 28 in an RV park in southeast Salem. His obituary said he was a corrections officer and quite a storyteller. His retirement hobbies included fly fishing, playing banjo and sailing.

Thomas McLeod, 47, died on June 27. He lived in a mobile home park in northeast Salem.

Zachary Bossart, 42, died on July 8. He was unsheltered.

Agueda Gallardo, 74, died on July 4. She lived in a mobile home in Woodburn.

James Patching, 70, lived in a house in Monmouth and was the only confirmed Polk County death. He died on July 3.

His obituary said he was retired teacher and coach who was the life of the party.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected].

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