In Memory of Autumn Lee

by Wine Press Staff

Willamette Valley Vineyards recently lost a beloved family member, Autumn Lee.

She passed away as a result of a tragic rafting accident on Sunday, Sept. 5 during a guided trip on the McKenzie River. Lee was thrown from the raft and trapped beneath it, wearing her life jacket. Lee was life-flighted from the McKenzie River to Riverbend Hospital in Springfield.

She is survived by her husband, Michael Lee, seven siblings and six children: Trevon, 12 years; Sierra, 11 years; Bayleigh, 9 years; Mikayla, 9 years; Kaydence, 6 years; Ryleigh, 5 years; as well as her mother, Cindy Smith of Salem, Ore.

“Autumn’s tragic passing has had a deep impact on her family, friends and co-workers here at the winery,” said Jim Bernau, WVV founder and president. “Autumn has been here for the past 11 years, and we had all grown close. We will honor her by helping her husband and children.”

In the days following this tragedy, the winery has had several opportunities to gather in small groups with family, friends and co-workers. Lee was considered by everyone to be a model of compassion, kindness and professionalism.

The words describing her: “mentor, guide, faith, mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, cousin” form an image of someone who has enriched so many lives on so many levels. Her family has set up a website devoted to her memories at:

Lee started at the winery in 1999 and quickly formed a large group of loyal customers who considered her a part of their families as well. She was the senior executive winery ambassador in the direct sales department and was a model and mentor for her fellow employees. Her 34th birthday was Friday, Sept. 10.

A celebration of Lee’s life was held at Willamette Valley Vineyards Sept. 22. Umpqua Bank has set up an account called “Donation Account for Autumn Lee’s Family” where donations can be made at any branch in support of Michael and their six children. 

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