Something remarkable happened in Ashland on Monday.
Local resident John Thiry died early that day, after Ashland Fire & Rescue found him apparently very ill on a bench near Ashland Street and Clover Lane on Sunday afternoon. Paramedics took him to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, where he died.
That wasn't remarkable. Thiry lived on the streets. Those who knew him say he had stopped eating much in recent months and his health appeared to be declining.
What was remarkable was the community's response, including a brief memorial gathering in Thiry's honor later on Monday, under a bridge on Clay Street where he often slept.
This was a man who was accused of starting the Oak Knoll Fire, an inferno that destroyed 11 homes. Thiry was arrested and charged with multiple counts of reckless endangerment and reckless burning after he flicked a burning cigarette into dry grass. But a judge acquitted him, saying prosecutors did not prove he was consciously aware of his actions and their possible consequences.
Thiry was cited repeatedly for drinking and consuming drugs in public. He was convicted of throwing rocks at and threatening two middle school girls on the bike path and throwing a traffic cone off the Ashland Street overpass onto the freeway.
And yet the community mourned his passing, including Police Chief Tighe O'Meara and Mayor John Stromberg. Many spoke of Thiry's mental illness, and the fact that no one managed to help him.
This is a community that values compassion, not retribution.