One week after his death, Forrest Soth lauded for tireless service to the city

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle presents a plaque to Forrest Soth's son, Phil, during a tribute to the longtime city leader.What was originally intended as a tribute for the honoree himself to enjoy at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting turned into a memorial to a dedicated former city councilor and beloved civic historian.

At the outset of the first meeting of 2013, Mayor Denny Doyle declared Jan. 8 “Forrest Soth Day,” to honor a man who devoted himself to the betterment of the city from the mid-1970s until he died last week, on the morning of Jan. 2, at age 93. by: TIMES FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A memorial service for Forrest Soth will be held Saturday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m. at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Beaverton.

Doyle decided in early December to honor Soth, in the wake of his retirement as longtime chairman of the Regional Water Consortium’s Board of Directors. What might have been an interlude in which Doyle and the council members directly thanked and honored Soth for his decades of public service — including a run on the City Council from 1981 to 2004 — was instead transformed into a heartfelt tribute to a recently departed citizen and leader.

As a slide show featuring Soth in action through various stages of his civic career played in the background, Doyle shared his memories of the man and invited councilors and others to do the same.

“We are honoring our late friend and loyal Beaverton resident for his tireless efforts to make his community better,” Doyle said, offering his “deepest condolences” to Soth’s sons, Phil and Brian, and Phil’s wife, Pam, who were seated in the front row. “We’re glad you could make it.”

“He was really one-of-a-kind,” Doyle continued. “And his relentless efforts — and I underscore relentless — within the community have helped shape Beaverton into the vibrant city it is today.”

Cate Arnold was among the councilors who marveled at Soth’s passion and detailed knowledge of the topics he tackled, with water policy near the top of the list.

“I learned so much from him,” she said, recalling the time they volunteered together at the former Taste of Beaverton event. “He filled me in on 20 years of water policy during that period of time. Actually, it was really quite fascinating.”

Councilor Marc San Soucie reflected on Soth’s breadth of experience as the civic mentor and younger protégé toured the Barney Reservoir together years ago. Soth described to San Soucie how he used a crosscut saw to “top” trees in the forests near the reservoir west of Yamhill.

“I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, is there anything this guy hasn’t done?’” San Soucie said to warm laughter from the audience. “We were in a beautiful place, and he was telling this story from the ’50s or something — that he remembered as if it was yesterday. It was wonderful.”

Councilor Betty Bode shared her own tale about a tour of the water system and Soth’s obvious pride in its efficiency and inner workings.

“I remember he was saying, ‘You know, it’s funny. The citizens don’t know we’re doing this, but we’re taking care of ’em,’” she recalled. “It always went back to the citizens and the community.”

Mentioning her last visit with Soth just before Christmas Day, Bode addressed Soth’s sons in the front row.

“There’s a pretty big hole right now,” Bode said. “You were so lucky to have him for so long. You are so lucky. And we’re lucky too.”

Noting Soth’s devotion to recycling, Doyle, before opening the floor to comments from others, pointed out how he “did the ultimate recycling” by donating his body to Oregon Health and Science University for research.

Kathryn Harrington, a Metro regional government District 4 councilor, called Soth’s passing a “tremendous loss.”

“(Forrest) mentored us along to be the best kind of elected officials we could be,” she said. “I don’t feel a total loss because he has passed that knowledge, compassion and experience to many of us in the committee. Thank you very much for sharing him with us because we’ve all gained a lot.”

Reading his official proclamation of “Forrest Soth Day,” Doyle recounted Soth’s arrival in Beaverton after World War II in 1950, his appointment to the city Planning Commission in 1977, and his 24 years on the council — encompassing some 840 attended meetings. Doyle recognized Soth’s “tireless” service on boards, committees, commissions and task forces, including the 15 years on the Regional Water Providers Consortium he concluded last year.

Reaching the final item, recognizing Soth for his “historical perspective, institutional memory, integrity and leadership style,” the mayor struggled to maintain his composure as he fought back tears.

“Whereas Forrest was a beloved pillar in Beaverton and will be truly missed,” Doyle read, his voice trembling, “I, Denny Doyle, of the city of Beaverton, Oregon, do hereby proclaim Tuesday, January 8, 2013, as ‘Forrest Soth Day.’ ”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington acknowledges Forrest Soth's family during Tuesday night's City Council meeting, which paid tribute to longtime former councilor and city historian Forrest Soth.

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