COMMUNITY, Cornelius, Washington County

Former Cornelius mayor, F.G. School Board member Ralph Brown missing now for 30 days

Ralph Brown. Photo courtesy WCSO

Ralph Brown was last seen on May 16, 2021 near his Cornelius home, where he reportedly left around 6:30 p.m.

It’s been 30 days, and his whereabouts remain unknown. 

“Unfortunately, there are no new updates to report at this time,” wrote Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Deputy Brian van Kleef in a June 15 email to this newspaper. 

Ralph Brown was last seen leaving his Cornelius home on Sunday, May 16 in a 2014 Blue Nissan Sentra with Oregon license plate number 319 KQV.

Brown, 76, hasn’t been seen since, launching a search that has spanned multiple counties as deputies seek Brown, who, according to his family, has memory issues and could struggle to get home.

Brown is described as 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 210 pounds, with grey hair and blue eyes. He is missing the tip of his right-hand index finger. 

Brown has held many roles in western Washington County over the years, working as an educator, serving local students in Forest Grove, Cornelius, Gales Creek and Dilley as a Forest Grove School Board director, serving on the Cornelius City Council, and as mayor of that town. He was last elected as mayor of Cornelius in 2000, according to Washington County elections archives.

“To date, we have had reports from community members saying they have seen Mr. Brown, but none of the sightings have been confirmed,” read the last significant update, issued June 2, from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. 

The missing persons case has rippled around Oregon and beyond, pulling in local, state and even California-based law enforcement and search and rescue agencies. Signs on I-84 in the Columbia Gorge asked motorists to be on the lookout for Brown’s vehicle on June 4. 

Law enforcement agencies have searched for Brown in vehicles, on foot, by air with traditional aircraft and via drones, and by boat. 

His phone was pinged by law enforcement on May 16, revealing his last known location to date in the Newberg area. 

A map of Brown’s cell phone GPS signals on May 16. Map: WCSO

“Since the evening he went missing, he has not turned on his cell phone or completed any financial activities,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. 

His vehicle is not equipped with GPS tracking technology. 

During a press conference held June 3, family members said Brown was contacted by phone around 9 p.m. May 16, when Brown said he was “in the bushes,” the Forest-Grove News Times reported

It is the last time anyone has been able to reach Brown, whose phone has not been turned on since that call. 

Members of the public are asked to call Washington County non-emergency dispatch at (503) 629-0111 if they locate Brown or his vehicle. 

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office thanked a long list of agencies that have assisted in the search for Brown. They are: 

Astoria Police Department, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol, the Civil Air Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Oregon State Parks, the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association, the Oregon State University Police Department, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Washington State Patrol, the Western Oregon University Department of Campus Public Safety, the Newberg Police Department, the Forest Grove Police Department, and the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office.

Those interested in helping with the search can email [email protected].

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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