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‘Living tribute’ will celebrate life of Foley

Tom Foley ‘In frail health’
Tom Foley ‘In frail health’

Spokane’s longest-serving congressman, Tom Foley, will be the subject of a “living tribute” organized by a pair of local businessmen later this month.

Foley, 84, served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years. He has been in and out of the hospital in recent months with serious medical conditions, including aspiration pneumonia complicated by Bell’s palsy, and needs regular at-home medical care. He’s not able to travel, but Rich Cowan of North by Northwest, one of the organizers, said the event will be recorded and sent to Foley and his wife, Heather, at their Washington, D.C., home.

“He’s in frail health,” Cowan acknowledged. But organizers wanted to bring friends and family together to celebrate Foley’s life while he can still appreciate it.

They’ve planned an hourlong tribute starting at 5:30 p.m. on July 24, with news anchor Randy Shaw serving as master of ceremonies for some short speeches, music and a video presentation. The lobby of the Bing Crosby Theater will have displays of memorabilia from Foley’s time in Congress and his stint as ambassador to Japan.

Foley was first elected in 1964 and served as chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, House majority whip and majority leader before being elected speaker in 1989. He lost his 1994 re-election campaign to Republican George Nethercutt in the Republican takeover of the House. He served as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Japan from 1997 to 2001.

“It’s a nonpartisan event,” Cowan said. “It’s just an opportunity for people here to get together.”

Admission is free, with a no-host bar, and attendees are asked to arrive an hour early to record messages that will be sent to the Foleys along with a recording of the tribute. Donations from Avista and Washington Trust Bank are helping to sponsor the event.