More than 200 attend celebration of life to honor Rob Gordon, former Bucoda mayor and assistant fire chief


Although last weekend was marked by the return of rainy weather, the clouds broke over the Riverbend Ranch near Bucoda on Saturday afternoon to let the sun shine down just in time for the celebration of life for former Bucoda mayor Robert “Rob” Gordon.

Gordon died June 3 after almost eight months battling cancer.

Along with being mayor, Gordon, 42, also served as the Bucoda Fire Department’s assistant chief and had been serving as a firefighter since just before his 16th birthday. He also ran his own trucking company and the family’s ranch.

He is survived by his wife, Miriam Gordon, and their two children, Jakob and Anna Gordon.

More than 200 people attended Gordon’s funeral ceremony inside the ranch’s barn, including family, friends, truck drivers and fellow first responders. South Thurston Fire and EMS Chaplain Bill Terhune opened the ceremony with a prayer and a statement from Gordon’s mother, Kim Laymon.

“Thank you all for coming. Rob, being my son, was an important part of our family life. It’s obvious he touched a tremendous amount of people in a positive way. He has left us way too young, leaving a huge void for many of us. My family is so fortunate to have such wonderful memories to hold on to, and to watch his children grow,” Terhune said. “We are grateful to all of you for the support, prayers and outpouring of love you have shown Rob and his family during his courageous battle with cancer.”

Terhune wasn’t particularly close to Gordon, but he knew of him from his time volunteering as a firefighter in his teenage years. He described Gordon as someone who was always serving and cared for everyone as if they were his family.

“He spent some diligent time in the local community. He’s been here. He’s been working with many of you either directly or indirectly, or for you with state government activities,” said Terhune. “Being part of the city council, mayor of the city, he was a servant.”

Bucoda Fire Chief James Fowler shared stories of the 17 years he worked  together with Gordon in Bucoda. Fowler promoted Gordon to assistant chief after only a year working at the department.

“Without Rob, I don’t think the Bucoda Fire Department would actually really exist. He did so many things in the fire service for us,” Fowler said. “From maintenance to training officers to responding to calls, he has been a responder in our fire department for the last 17 years.”

Whatever the department needed, from filling out applications for grants to improve equipment and the firehouse to keeping the trucks running, Fowler said Gordon was always up to the task.

“There is so much that he did. And he enjoyed every minute of it,” Fowler added.

As the rural program manager for the Thurston Economic Development Council, George Sharp had started working closely with Gordon over the past couple of years after he became Bucoda’s mayor. Though they hadn’t worked together long, Gordon wanted to do whatever he could to help increase tourism to “his beloved Bucoda.”

“The biggest takeaway was the devotion to his family, his community and all of those that he served,” Sharp said.

“He reached many on behalf of the local community,” Terhune added.

One of those he reached was U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, who had recently been working with Gordon to secure federal funding for a new fire truck. Terhune invited Gluesenkamp Perez up to make an impromptu statement.

“Rob was truly a community servant. Reminds me a lot of my husband … I’m terribly sorry for his loss,” Gluesenkamp Perez said.

Terhune shared more of Gordon’s work during his time as Bucoda’s mayor, and then invited South Thurston Fire and EMS Fire Chief Andrew Schaffran and the department’s honor guard, who presented Gordon’s family with his funeral flag and rang the ceremonial fire bell for Gordon for the last time.

“A special signal of three rings, three times each, represents the end of our brother’s duties,” Schaffran said. 

Olympia Highlanders Pipes and Drums bagpiper Mick Hill then played “Amazing Grace” before those in attendance enjoyed a community potluck lunch in Gordon’s honor.

Immediately following Gordon’s death, Bucoda Town Council member Kiersten Presley stepped up to act as mayor pro tem, but she resigned last week after announcing her family was moving to Texas.

The Bucoda Town Council convened again last week and selected council member Callie Carpenter as Bucoda’s new mayor.

In lieu of flowers, Gordon’s family is asking for donations to help pay for his funeral expenses. Donations can be made online at or in person at any WSECU location toward the Rob Gordon Cancer Fund. Donations can also be made in person at Joe’s Place Bar and Grill, located at 118 S. Main St. in Bucoda.