When pioneering means business — and mushroom-hunting

By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly

Bill Dickey. Photo by Greg Maguire

Not all of our pioneers, as we know, are purely political activists — though even most business owners, in one way or another, inevitably dabble in that realm. Trailblazers can be and are influential simply through the way they conduct themselves, run their companies, and support nonprofits. We talked to one of those men — Bill Dickey, owner of Morel Ink — about his passion for progressive causes, the ACLU, and mushroom hunting.

You’ve seen Dickey all over the nonprofit circuit, from Planned Parenthood luncheons to Q Center galas, seemingly spending as much time giving as he does running a printing empire.

“Giving back is what it’s all about,” Dickey said. “I always have and always will find the act of giving to be one of the most rewarding things a person can do. Giving doesn’t have to be all about money, either. Sometimes I am fortunate to have a lot to be able to share — other times, not so much. But everyone has time, energy, and unique skill sets they can use to help others.”

Dickey was quick to point out the cycle of giving — the give and take — everyone should pay heed to.

“That said, the community does need to understand their role in the giving process; I can’t give away money if I’m not making any. For that to happen, I need the support back from the community — as do all LGBT [companies], as well — and all other small business owners, period,” he said. “Business people have a responsibility to give back to their communities — but it’s not a one-way street. I also have an obligation to my 35-plus employees to be able to pay them fairly and squarely; keeping good people in good jobs is another way of giving back.”

And paired with that vision of community-wide responsibility, of give and take, is a passion for progressive politics.

“I especially get hooked on some organizations because I respect their leadership,” Dickey said. “For example, I think Dave Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU-OR, is one of the smartest men in the state. He does so much for Oregon and the country through his efforts in protecting our civil rights. David has a gay son, and he fully expects his son to one day be able to get legally married in Oregon — and he’s a hard worker for all of us in that fight.”

Gay rights have taken a big leap ahead of late — the repeal of DADT, President Obama’s call for marriage equality — despite what is undoubtedly still a long road ahead. We asked Dickey to daydream for a moment, and imagine where we might be in five years.

“I think it would be great if gay service members were getting married,” he said. “And leading the way for all citizens to get the same full rights as any of our married heterosexual counterparts.”

Dickey and his partner, David Wagner, recently become the proud, adoptive parents of Ruby, a black lab.
“We’re what you call a blended household,” he said. “We have cats, too.”

As for family excursions: “Mushroom hunting is one of my favorite things to do. I’m not telling you any of my secret locations, though,” he says. “I’m also a big, big fan of the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus.”