Manzanita recycling center trash art leader dies at 53NEHALEM - He created works of art from things other people discarded.

He helped people without hesitation. He tinkered with everything from Harleys to recipes for fruit wine, and lived life with a youthful curiosity and enthusiasm.

Ronald Lee Hintz, the colorful chief garbologist at Cart'M Recycling in Manzanita, died Saturday in Portland of complications from lung cancer diagnosed eight months ago. He was 53.

"He was fiercely loyal to his family and friends," recalled his daughters, Nancy Kenaston and Karen Wheeler, and their mother, Kay Hintz, in a statement they prepared together Thursday. "He was always willing to stop and help someone out with a broken down car, or most anything else broken down, whether it was a farm tracker, a flat tire, a Harley Davidson, or a broken heart.

"He consistently respected others as valuable and worthwhile," they added. "He silently taught others how to be good people."

Born Aug. 29, 1949 to Ralph and Helen Hintz of Portland, he lived in Portland, St. Johns, Beaverton and Aloha, as well as Cannon Beach and Nehalem.

Family members and friends described him as a jack of all trades, an often jovial man who made a living working largely as a mechanic and conducting odds-and-ends repair work. He encouraged others to be self-sufficient and resourceful.

Hintz helped to found the Cart'M Recycling Center in 1998 and worked there several years as the chief garbologist. He guided regular "trash art" workshops, teaching people how to see discarded materials in a new light and weld or otherwise combine the objects and transform them into something new and useful, or whimsical.

"That job was the perfect job for him - he loved it, making things out of nothing," Wheeler said.

"Ron was a really special guy," said Lane deMoll, a longtime friend and fellow founder of the recycling center with Hintz and John Rippey. "His work with the trash art and his love of being a garbologist was a huge chunk of the spirit that infused the place."

Consumate tinkerer

A photograph of Hintz and his "Iron Man" sculpture graced the cover of the 1999 Oregon Arts Commission magazine for a story called, "Arts Build Communities." He later built a companion piece called the "Iron Woman," and his family has donated the pair of sculptures to the center.

Hintz always set aside items from the trash brought to Cart'M, planning long-term projects, said Belinda Spegel, the center's re-sale store manager. He saved a hydraulic jack for potential use in inventing an appliance crusher, for example.

"He probably would have needed five normal lifetimes to do all he wanted to do," she said.

But he loved the process of tinkering and rebuilding - the end result was not as important, she said. Even recently he was still tracking down parts for his 1949 Harley after more than 20 years of working on it, at his Nehalem home.

Crazy conventioneer

Frequently accompanied by his retriever-mix dog, Kiki, at work and walking on the north beach of Manzanita, he also loved his cats, Garfield and Kung Fu, and enjoyed feeding sea gulls.

To many, he was known by his nickname, "Three-Fingered Ron," for an accident as a 15-year-old in which he lost his right thumb, middle finger and part of his index finger. He was unabashed about it and never let it limit him from shaking hands, playing piano, tying his shoes or other activities.

In the early 1970s, his four-day birthday celebration on Labor Day Weekend turned into what came to be known as the "Crazy Man's Convention," an annual reunion for hundreds of relatives and friends. They came from Tillamook to Astoria as well as the Portland area to share in the love of spending time with people that Hintz exuded.

After working at the Nehalem Bay Winery years ago, he began experimenting with homemade wines of pear, blackberry, apple and a variety of combinations.

His daughters said he instilled a sense of self-sufficiency as well as love of the land and imagination. For years the family did not have a telephone or a television, and after chores, such as collecting wood for the stove, they learned to entertain themselves, often building secret forts.

With his two grandchildren, "he was always on the lookout for things for them to do," such as dismantling a sewing machine to explore how it worked, Wheeler said. He seemed to connect to children on their open-minded level.

"He kept his childhood intact his whole life, and loved to have fun."

As well as his daughters, wife, parents and grandchildren, he is survived by a sister, Audrey Bush, and a brother, Richard Hintz. Remembrance contributions may be directed to the American Lung Association of Oregon.

A memorial service is planned at 6 p.m. today in Portland's Cedar Mill Bible Church, and a gathering is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday at the north beach of Manzanita.

Kenaston said her father would have wanted people to try to gather not in a sense of mourning but of cheer. "We're focusing on a celebration of his life."

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