In Memoriam: Harold K. Lonsdale

Harold K. Lonsdale 1932–2014

Harry Lonsdale, 82, a prominent Oregon scientist, politician and philanthropist, died of heart failure Nov. 11, 2014, at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, Calif. He was an FFRF Lifetime Member who had given $100,000 to FFRF’s building fund.

A wing of the new Freethought Hall addition is being named the “No Hell Below Us” Harry Lonsdale Wing.

“We were so very sorry to learn of Harry’s death and had been in correspondence to obtain his portrait for the wall and feature him in our ‘Meet a Member’ section in Freethought Today,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “We were so impressed with Harry’s achievements, reported in numerous articles about his life appearing in many West Coast dailies.”

Lonsdale was born in Westfield, N.J., the son of a Sicilian immigrant mother and a Welsh father, earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. from Penn State University. He served in the U.S. Air Force and was married three times and had two children with his first wife, Connie Kerr Lonsdale.

His company Bend Research, co-founded with Richard Baker, specialized in membranes and was bought out by a pharmaceutical firm in 1985. “He was a risk taker and entrepreneur. He left a secure career in Silicon Valley and came up to Bend and started a four-man research company, at risk, in 1975,” said colleague Rod Ray, a former Bend Research CEO.

Lonsdale ran unsuccessfully three times as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate “[H]is candidacies had a big impact on Oregon politics in the 1990s,” reported Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian. “And they turned Lonsdale into a determined champion of limiting the flow of big money into political campaigns.”

“If you want democracy, work for campaign finance reform,” Lonsdale said in a 2003 column in The Oregonian.

State Rep. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, credited Lonsdale for playing a major role in creating Oregon’s “robust high-tech industry” while chairing Gov. Vic Atiyeh’s Science Committee in the early 1980s. “They put together a plan that relied on the ingenuity of Oregon and an education system that supported that kind of innovation,” Frederick wrote. “In fact, they were at least a decade ahead of their goals for the Silicon Forest.”

Survivors include his daughter, Karen, and his son, Harold Jr.

FFRF is so grateful that this distinguished entrepreneur, activist and philanthropist rated FFRF and freethought high on his scale of causes.

Freedom From Religion Foundation