A life lost too soon

 A childhood photo of Michael Paul Bush. 

The deceased man found behind the Keizer Cultural Center on April 16, has been identified as Keizer resident, Michael Paul Bush. 

Bush’s death was ruled a suicide by the Marion County Chief legal medical investigator. 

He was 47 at the time of his death. 

Bush, who is survived by three brothers, a sister as well as a plethora of cousins, uncles and aunts, reportedly had a history of mental health issues, though no issues relating to substance abuse. 

Bush’s aunt, Salem resident Margaret Whitehouse, approached Keizertimes to ensure Bush was publicly identified as well as to share his story. 

Born in Salem and moving young, Bush was a lifelong Keizer resident whose family described as reclusive but having a brilliant mind. 

He was a pasta and gumbo lover, avid cook and a fan of mathematics of all kinds. 

He attended both Whiteaker and McNary, graduating in 1994. 

“He was very smart and great with computers and electronics, that was his passion,” Whitehouse said. 

Whitehouse described one of Bush’s other loves, his cat Pandora, who now resides with his sister. 

Whitehouse described that events leading up to Bush taking his own life were less than ideal. 

After working for the food-processing company formerly known as NORPAC, which was bought out by PNW VegCo LLC when it filed for bankruptcy in 2019, for more than 25 years in multiple positions, Bush was fired in 2023 due to missing about two months of work, according to Whitehouse. 

“He got really sick but he didn’t have any insurance, so he couldn’t get it diagnosed. My guess is he got long-term COVID. He had all of the symptoms. Bad cough and the bad headache, muscle and joint aches, all of that,” Whitehouse said. 

She added that Bush had been unable to get a job after being fired. 

When calling for comment, Keizertimes spoke with a representative from VegCo though they were unable to provide more information about Bush or the circumstances around his firing. 

Due to his lack of funds, Bush became unable to pay his rent, which was around $800 a month at Kennedy Circle, a mobile home park managed by WGP Property Management. 

WGP Property Management is a California-based professional property management company specializing in offering manufactured housing communities, RV parks, and apartment communities. 

The company manages 70 communities across 13 states. 

WPG manage mobile home communities in Keizer, Salem, Brookings, Hermistan, Albany and Oakridge 

A former lot manager and maintenance person, Bobby Fender, spoke about his time there saying the company suddenly fired him and, to his knowledge, has not named another manager for lot residents. 

Keizertimes was unable to reach a current manager at the company when calling for comment. 

Whitehouse described how Bush was locked out of his home and refused entry by Marion County Sheriffs due to nonpayment on Monday April 15, the day before he took his own life. 

Whitehouse stated that Bush had issues with mental health that would affect his temper through out his life, though they were exacerbated when his mother, Jeanie, passed away. 

“After Jeanie died, he wouldn’t let anyone on the property. When my niece would come and try to give him food and stuff, she had to drop it midway on the sidewalk because he wasn’t going to let her in the house. And one time she got a glimpse in the house. The house was virtually falling apart from the inside.” 

Whitehouse acknowledged that while Bush never received any particular diagnosis, this was in large part due to his distrust of medical professionals as well as a lack of support from some family members. 

“He was raised with the idea that you don’t let people see your weaknesses. You don’t let people see when you’re struggling,” Whitehouse said. 

Whitehouse noted that she came in to discuss Bush in order to highlight the issues surrounding mental health in Oregon and how they affect everyone. 

While certain traumatic events can lead one closer to more severe issues from mental health, there are often a multitude of factors, not just one single event. 

A 2015 study on suicidality and its link to housing eviction from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that, for some individuals, there was a significant link between their eviction and committing suicide as of the 1000 deaths they examined from 2005 – 2010, more than one in eight had eviction or foreclosure as the only circumstance or only one other contributing circumstance. 

According to KFF, a healthcare research group, more than 35% of Oregonians enrolled in healthcare self-reported dealing with a mental health issue as compared to 32% saying the same nationally. 

A CDC report displays Oregon’s suicide rate as 19.5 per 100,000 or 889 deaths in 2021 putting Oregon in 17th for the highest suicide rate in the country. 

If you are someone you love have suicidal ideations, please reach out to them and dial 988 to reach the 24-hour Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. 

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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