Joe Wrabek, former Garibaldi City Manager, passed away at home on March 7, 2019 following a five and a half year battle with cancer.
Joe was born on September 25, 1949, in Spokane, Washington. Joe grew up in upstate New York and attended Syracuse University before moving to Oregon in 1972. Shortly after moving to Oregon, he settled in the Columbia River Gorge, where he became a land rights activist, testifying before congress in opposition to the Columbia River Gorge Act. His activism led him to serve on Cascade Locks City Council from 1983-89, and as Mayor from 1989-1991. Perhaps more notable, during his time in the Gorge Joe was the rhythm guitarist and a songwriter for the popular bluegrass band, The Dodson Drifters.
Public service was at the heart of everything Joe did. After serving as Mayor of Cascade Locks, Joe worked as the city manager for small cities across Oregon, including Vale, Huntington, Union, Phoenix, Lafayette, and Garibaldi. His humor, music, and fiscal management skills touched every corner of the state. When he wasn’t running a small city, Joe was normally working as a journalist, most recently for the Headlight Herald.
In his retirement, Joe served as a committed board member for both Bay City Arts Center and the Fairview Grange. Among his many activities, Joe planned and participated in songwriting contests and open mics with both organizations.
In addition to his local community music and arts charitable work, Joe was a gifted artist featured at songwriting and talent competitions locally, nationally, and internationally. He released seven albums commercially including: Santa’s Fallen and He Can’t Get Up (2005), Dead Things in the Shower (2011), Pole Dancing for Jesus (2013), the all-solo Naked Album (2015), and Jesus on the Mainline (2019). A pre-posthumous tribute album, Cuppa Joe, was released in 2014 with various artists in the U.S., Canada, and England covering some of Joe’s songs. From global warming to organized religion, to the media and the music business - few subjects were safe from Joe’s dark humor and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Given how many songs he had about roadkill, he’s probably somewhere wondering why cancer got him before a truck with faulty brakes.
Joe leaves behind his loving wife of 30 years, Sandra Koops of Garibaldi, OR; their daughter Kimberly Koops-Wrabek of Portland, OR; and his sisters, Trish Wrabek of Soldotna, AK and Annie LeClair Cieply of Beaverton, OR; nephews Michael Cieply and Nicholas LeClair of Beaverton, OR; cousin Janet (Danny) Towne Jones and Uncle William G. Towne of Lockport, NY; along with many friends and fans. Joe was predeceased by his parents, Leona and John Wrabek. The family will be holding a celebration of life at the Fairview Grange’s monthly open mic on Saturday, April 6, 2019 at 6 p.m. in Tillamook, Oregon (5520 Third St.). The public is welcome, the Grange will have a spaghetti dinner available for a donation at 5 p.m. Please make donations in lieu of flowers to the Fairview Grange or Bay City Arts Center to support other songwriters.