Michele Longo Eder Left Her Mark for What She Did and Stopped Doing
One of the greatest issue management challenges is managing your own life. Michele Longo Eder, an Oregonian for 47 years who died at her home on the beach March 12, is someone who made the most of hers by what she did and what she overcame.
Born in New York on the Fourth of July in 1954, Eder moved to Oregon after graduating with honors from Johns Hopkins University to study law at Lewis & Clark School of Law. Eder concluded Oregon was her “Mecca” after reading Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. She was attracted to Oregon’s beaches and moved to Lincoln City to set up her law practice. She met and fell in love with a commercial fisherman, Bob Eder, and they settled in Newport. Then her career and civic activities took flight.
As with most small town attorneys, Eder handled a range of legal cases from contracts to criminal defense. Two of her cases won her national attention.
Eder was the court-appointed attorney for Sandy Jones and her teenage son who were charged in Lincoln County for allegedly murdering a real estate developer on their farm. Eder convinced Gerry Spence, one of the nation’s leading criminal defense attorneys, to work on the case with her pro bono.
Jones, who was poor, remained in jail because of an eyewitness to the shooting and a photograph of Jones holding a rifle. Eder kept digging and produced ballistic evidence Jones hadn’t fired the fatal shot. The case dragged on for three years with two jury trials, two judges and two prosecutors. In the end, Jones wasn’t found guilty. Spence turned the case into a book, The Smoking Gun, which showed how an “average American, even if innocent, is hard-pressed to obtain a fair trial”. Spence dedicated the book to Eder.
Eder and Spence teamed up again to successfully defend Brandon Mayfield, a Newport lawyer, who was wrongfully surveilled and arrested in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 180 people.
Legal celebrity status didn’t deter Eder from a rich domestic and volunteer life.
Legal celebrity status didn’t deter Eder from a rich domestic life. She and her husband had two sons and she took over management of the family fishing business. Their oldest son died in an accident at sea in 2001, which led Eder to write Salt in Our Blood: The Memoir of a Fisherman’s Wife.
She did more than stand on the porch waiting for her fisherman husband to return to dock. Eder became active in fisheries management, research and safety at sea issues. Her advocacy was recognized by her appointment by the Secretary of Homeland Security to serve on the National Fishing Vessel Safety Advisory Committee. Eder played a pivotal role in retaining Coast Guard helicopter coverage on the central Oregon coast.
Assignments just kept rolling in like the tide. Eder was appointed to the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee and two terms on the North Pacific Research Board, which awards millions for fishery research in North Pacific waters and the Arctic Ocean. President George W. Bush appointed Eder to U.S. Arctic Research Commission. Later, she served on the Pacific Fishery Management Council. In these roles, Eder travelled to two dozen countries and visited and spoke at major universities.
For most people, that would fill up their dance card. Not Eder. She served on the Oregon State University board of trustees and held leadership roles for the Yaquina Bay YMCA, Newport Library Association and Olalla Center for Handicapped Children. She was a prominent member and spokesperson for the Newport Fishermen’s Wives. An she found time to screen cases for the Oregon Innocence Project up until final month of her life.
Not surprisingly, Eder was a voracious reader, consuming an average of 45 books each year. She loved to cook for friends and fishing crews. In her spare time, she enjoyed duplicate bridge and competitive tennis. And she always had time for her two grandsons.
Her lifetime achievements earned her respect and praise. But one of her life achievements may be the most admirable of all – she was a 38-year sober alcoholic.
Eder’s final life challenge was lung cancer that spread to her brain. She was 68.
Rest in peace. You earned it.