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Beloved Rambler Bartender Grady Lambert Has Died

Lambert was hit by a truck while participating in a cross-country run supporting frontline workers

A black-and-white portrait of Grady Lambert.
Grady Lambert
The Rambler
Janey Wong is Eater Portland's reporter.

Former Rambler bartender William Grady Lambert died on September 2 in Amarillo, Texas. He was 32. Lambert was struck by a truck while en route to Hilton Head, South Carolina on a cross-country run to support frontline workers in the COVID-19 pandemic. Lambert is survived by his parents Julie and Mark Lambert and his brothers Lee Van (Shelby) and Stone Lambert.

“Every person who’s been lucky enough to be greeted by him within the walls of the Rambler knows the sheer character he exuded,” says friend and former co-worker Ian Breeze. “The unbridled love and interest he gave so effortlessly.”

Lambert bartended at the Rambler for five years, previously working at the Living Room Theater and the Barn Light in Eugene. He would often volunteer to fix things at the Rambler, having worked in construction during his early adulthood.

“When you would have a conversation with him, he literally listened to every word,” says friend and Rambler co-worker Rachel Stolfe. “And every question that he asked you, he meant it. He didn’t believe in small talk. Every conversation was meaningful to him. I feel like that’s what he liked most about bartending — meeting people and talking with people.”

Many local businesses along Mississippi will remember Lambert as a fixture of the neighborhood; he could often be seen walking up and down Mississippi Avenue, frequenting nearby cafe Albina Press and the now-shuttered shop Santana General. In fact, he was a regular at the Rambler before he began to work there, often coming into the bar to sit at the same spot and read. Lambert also left a physical mark on the neighborhood, plastering stickers of his family’s multigenerational construction company, Lambert Construction, on random signs. Prior to embarking on his run, he took up the hobby of wood burning, and Stolfe says Lambert would set up “weirdly cryptic” signs with wood-burned messages around Mississippi. He affixed one to the side of the Rambler that read “run with me.”

Friends remember Lambert as an exuberant person who felt like a big brother to everyone he met. As an adolescent, he was a Boy Scout and an Eagle Scout. His enthusiasm for all sorts of outdoor activities continued into adulthood, as he enjoyed going camping and snowboarding. “He was a very poetic, romantic person,” Stolfe says. “He was always able to find a deeper meaning out of everything.” Lambert loved film and literature, gifting people books that he liked or sending folks film clips that reminded him of them. “Stay gold,” a quote from one of his favorite books, The Outsiders, became a lifelong mantra—one that he had tattooed on him.

At the end of 2021, Lambert moved back to his hometown of Stillwater, Oklahoma to prepare for his cross-country run. “Over the course of the last few years, I’ve witnessed a decline in compassion for our fellow man and the weakening of the family unit, both of which have been perpetuated by the COVID pandemic,” wrote Lambert on his Instagram page, which he used to document the project. “Due to this, I am inspired to help. It is my mission to promote compassion for our fellow man and our country.” Along his run, Lambert stopped at local hospitals to volunteer and extend his thanks and encouragement to frontline workers. His motto for the endeavor was “Because I can.”

Lambert’s parents have set up a scholarship in his name. The funds will support current and future students who want to pursue careers in healthcare at Lincoln Academy in Stillwater, Oklahoma, a school that Lambert helped build a library in as his final Eagle Scout project.

The Rambler will hold a memorial for Lambert on its back patio on Thursday, September 22 at 5 p.m. Lambert’s friends have also shared that another way to remember and honor him is to listen to “Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel” by Townes Van Zandt, one of his favorite musicians.