Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Potters succumbs to Alzheimer?s

Former Ketchum councilwoman dies at 55

Express Staff Writer

Chris Potters, less than one year ago, at the dedication of the Atkinson Park ice rink, in her name. Photo by Willy Cook

Longtime Ketchum public servant Christina Potters died Thursday, Jan. 10, from early-onset Alzheimer's disease. She was 55.

A resident of West Ketchum since 1981, Potters raised two sons, taught school and served in Ketchum government for more than 14 years. In 1993, she was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and four years later ran for Ketchum City Council. She was twice re-elected. Her final job for the city was managing the Ketchum Cemetery.

In 1998, Potters tried to persuade the city to create a geothermal community pool. Her research took her to Klamath Falls, Ore., to see how geothermal heat can benefit a community. Though that vision didn't come to fruition, several of the projects she championed did, including the Guy Coles Skateboard Park, the Wood River Community YMCA, the Dark Sky Ordinance, affordable housing, the maintenance of parks, the open land around St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and opposition to gated communities.

In 2001, Potters ran for her third term on the City Council.

"I just feel that I want to continue making a contribution to my community," Potters said then. "I really love the job. It's creative. It's challenging. It puts you on the line."

Just two years later, Potters was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease and in 2005 resigned from the council.

"It has been an honor and a pleasure to represent my fellow citizens for 11 and a half years," she wrote in her resignation letter. "However, my health precludes me from finishing my third term."

The council unanimously passed a resolution accepting her resignation and extending 30 months of health-care benefits to her.

During her tenure she was known for listening closely to fellow Ketchum residents and defending their interests.

"Chris was a moving force of politics in the city of Ketchum for a long time," Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall—then City Council president—said at the time of her resignation. "She has been one of the largest vote-getters over the last couple of elections. Her service has not gone unnoticed."

Last summer, the city of Ketchum named its ice rink at Atkinson Park for her in honor of her long dedication as an advocate for family recreation and education.

"She was always a strong advocate for the Parks & Recreation Department," former Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon said. "Whatever she did, she did it with a smile and the best of intentions. It was too soon. And it's very sad."

Just two weeks ago, Paul Potters placed an ad in the Mountain Express hoping to find some Good Samaritans willing to help Christina "leave this earth with dignity."

He fielded more than 30 phone calls and experienced an outpouring of generosity. Rather than having Chris "warehoused" in one of the available Alzheimer's care units, he decided to bring her home.

Two friends of the Potters for more than 20 years, Wood River Valley residents Steve Wolper and Reid Dowdle, started a fund in her name to help with the mounting medical costs.

"I hope people can help defray some of the costs that Paul has endured," Wolper said. "She was always an advocate for the less-represented. She was passionate about it. She always had a smile. The strongest image I have of Chris on the Ketchum council was of someone who cared so much for the community. Here's a chance for us to say thank you."

The city of Ketchum has added to the existing fund-raising effort to help the Potters family. An anonymous donor has agreed to match all funds raised up to a maximum of $10,000. A nonprofit organization, the Bald Mountain Rescue Fund, has been made available to facilitate tax-free donations.

Donations can be made to "Bald Mountain Rescue," marked for Chris Potters and sent or hand delivered to: City of Ketchum, Box 2315, Ketchum, ID 83340, Attn: Lisa Comtaruk. Donations may also continue to be made to the "Christina Potters Benefit Fund" at Mountain West Bank in either Hailey or Ketchum. All contributions will be combined.

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