Through the last 50 years of his life, Bill Schonely was a Portland guy through and through.
But that doesn’t mean he lived in the city.
For many years, as a married man and after getting divorced, the legendary broadcaster of the Portland Trail Blazers — who died on January 20 at age 93 — lived in Lake Oswego.
When he got remarried to wife Dottie in 1991, they lived in a house in Tualatin for a short time.
There was a move to Lake Grove, and then to Charbonneau in Wilsonville, where Bill and Dottie lived for nearly 20 years. Then they moved to the Marquis Tualatin in 2019, and lived there until the fall of ’22. The Schonelys’ final move was to The Springs Lake Oswego, where Dottie still resides.
The Schonelys didn’t live in the assisted living section of the Marquis. They owned a two-bedroom house on the property, with all the amenities the Marquis had to offer, but also the privacy of a single dwelling.
“It was lovely,” Dottie told me recently. “We had a very nice house. It had everything we needed. We had plenty of room, plenty of storage, a garage, and a garden I could work in. We could go over there (to the Marquis) to eat meals if we wanted, but usually, we cooked our own meals, or went out.
“We liked it there, but it was time to move (when they went to The Springs).”
Bill liked the idea of being close to the Blazers’ practice facility about a mile away in Tualatin, though he rarely stopped by practice. Among his favorite watering holes and lunch spots were the Oswego Grill restaurants in Wilsonville and Lake Oswego. Both have Bill Schonely tables where “The Schonz” would park to have his soup, half a sandwich, and a glass of Chardonnay. On the day former Blazer coach Terry Stotts left town for his new home in Florida in 2022, the two broke bread at Oswego Grill Wilsonville.
Schonely retired from his position as ambassador and broadcaster emeritus with the Blazers in April 2022. Retirement night at Moda Center was bittersweet. A crowd of 18,123 rained love down “The Schonz” as he led them in one last cry of “Rip City, All Right!”
And then, an era was over.
Schonely was the final link from the staff of that inaugural 1970-71 season. For 28 seasons and more than 2,500 contests, he called the games (mostly on radio, but two seasons on television), mingled with fans and sponsors, and became an institution in not only the city but also the state and region.
After his play-by-play duties were unceremoniously ended in 1998, Schonely spent three years calling games for the PCL Portland Beavers before returning to the Blazers in 2003 as broadcaster emeritus as well as the team’s chief ambassador.
He spent much time in the community, representing the Blazers at luncheons and banquets. He emceed countless charity events — mostly gratis — because he was asked to. “I had a hard time turning anybody down,” Schonely told me. His name associated with any event was a big deal in making it a success.
During the summers in the early years, Schonely led a caravan throughout the state, visiting radio affiliates and spreading the Blazer gospel. Sometimes, he would take players along.
“None of us ever turned down a request from Bill,” said Bill Walton, the Hall of Fame center who led the Blazers to their only NBA championship in 1977. “We would drive to Bend or Astoria or Pendleton. We would just be friends in the car. Bill would get us there. We would get to the event, and Bill had organized it for us to meet with advertisers, sponsors, and civic leaders. And Bill would put the show on. It was great to be a part of it.”
During his years as an ambassador for the team, he continued to perform some of the aforementioned duties, and also had game-night responsibilities. He would start out on the concourse, visiting with fans entering the arena. He would stop by 10 Barrel Brewing’s “Schonely Taproom” for a glass of Chardonnay and more interaction with fans. Then he would head to the suite level, where he would meet with sponsors and suite-holders, many of them starstruck to have a few moments with this iconic character.
It wasn’t play-by-play, but it was the next best thing.
“It kept him connected to the people, the fans, the people he loves,” Dottie told me for my new book on her husband. All his people. He is a people person.”
All the attention? Schonely fed off of it.
“He enjoys it,” Dottie said. “He never complained about that – ever. He never will turn down an interview.”
Schonely’s greatest honor came in 2012, when he was presented with the Curt Gowdy Award for excellence in broadcasting at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Springfield, Mass.
“Oh boy, that was awesome,” Schonely told me. “Just to think I’m in there with all those people, broadcasters and writers, players and coaches. And my name is on the wall back there somewhere. That was very nice.”
Did all the adulation go to Schonely’s head? I asked his high school sweetheart.
“No,” Dottie said. “He is still the same Bill I fell in love with in high school.”
And a Portland icon, now and forever.
Eggers’ latest book, “Wherever You May Be… Now: The Bill Schonely Story,” or any of his other books can be purchased at www.kerryeggers.com/store.