Deborah “Debbie” Elaine Plum was a kind, strong-willed person. She spoke her mind, but also cared deeply for others no matter what their situation was, says her daughter Emily Plum.
“She would befriend the weird kid in class and never cast anyone out,” Plum says. “When I was younger she would set up playdates with the outcasts in class.”
Debbie Plum, who had dark brown hair, green eyes and a kind smile, passed away May 7, 2021, at the age of 68. She is survived by her daughter, her son McKenzie Stolz, husband Michael Plum and a grandson. She is preceded in death by both her parents.
Born in Astoria, Plum was the daughter of a local judge and was brought up well, Emily Plum says. Debbie was close with her father, but had a complicated relationship with her mother. She was known in the small Astoria community — when Emily Plum hosted a gathering in Astoria after her mother’s death she says everyone who showed up had kind things to say about her.
Debbie Plum attended college at the University of Oregon on a dance scholarship. She stayed in Eugene where she met her husband.
In addition to her dancing, Plum spent many years as a legal secretary. She also had a passion for art and was always sketching doodles or playing with clay. Her daughter recalls Plum often wanting to do silly activities like flying kites. Emily Plum says her mother was inclined to help others.
“We lived next to Cal Young Middle School, and she would pick up litter after their soccer games,” she says.
Debbie and her husband struggled with addiction and were in a methadone program during Emily Plum’s childhood. Plum says when she was 16, her parents again had addiction issues. This eventually led to them living on and off the streets for more than a decade.
About two years ago, Debbie and Michael Plum moved to a supportive housing apartment provided by ShelterCare, where they lived at the time of Debbie Plum’s passing. Problems with mental health and addiction complicated Emily Plum’s relationship with her mother, but she says she wants to be outspoken about her mother’s struggles to show how difficult it was to stay connected to resources.
She adds that there are great programs out there, but when battling addiction and living on the streets it’s difficult to remember appointments and keep up with medications.
“I would just say it’s hard to get in touch with people when you’re not really battling your own demons. And you don’t have a phone or you’re trying to figure out where you’re sleeping,” Plum says.
Despite the years of hardship, Plum says her mother was really well known in the homeless community and always helped other people.
Eugene Weekly seeks to run an obituary for every person who dies homeless in Lane County in 2021. This is the ninth we’ve published so far. If you know of someone who has died here while homeless this year, please let us know at Editor@EugeneWeekly.com.