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Soth was an original to the end

Forrest Soth remembered as devoted father, tireless leader at memorial service


by: TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTINA LENT  - Forrest Soth planned his own memorial, but his family assembled the setting in front of the church pulpit: His vintage wooden chair, a metal typing table topped with a black Underwood manual typewriter, complete with a memo related to the city's urban renewal program. A fishing pole, an American flag and mementos of his military and private-sector careers further enhanced the set, which was surrounded by crates of Oregon-grown vegetables.Decades before suburban residents embraced recycling as routine, Forrest Soth collected tons of cardboard and other used materials, meticulously packed them up and hauled them to the nearest processing center he could find.

“He’s always been a grand recycler,” Soth’s son, Phil, shared at his father’s memorial service on Saturday afternoon. “He was now in his glory. Everyone was on the same page. He just didn’t know he was 50 years ahead of his time.”

As most of the family, friends and former associates who gathered at St. Matthew Lutheran Church on Southwest Canyon Road knew, a penchant for preservation was but one item on an exhaustive list of honorable traits, wide-ranging interests and community-minded passions associated with one of Beaverton’s most respected and beloved public figures.

Forrest Clifford Soth, who served on Beaverton City Council from 1980 until he retired in 2004, died on Wednesday, Jan. 2, from complications related to congestive heart failure and liver cancer. He was 93 years old.by: TIMES FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Family and friends gathered Saturday afternoon to remember Forrest Soth.

As he did in most of his life’s endeavors, Soth had painstakingly planned out his own memorial. His family members, however, arranged the setting in front of the church pulpit: His vintage wooden chair, a metal typing table topped with a black Underwood manual typewriter, complete with a memo related to the city’s urban renewal program. A fishing pole, an American flag folded military style and mementos of his military and private-sector careers further enhanced the set, which was surrounded by wooden crates of Oregon-grown vegetables.

St. Matthew’s Pastor Jim Doherty, who knew Soth affectionately as “Forrie,” officiated the service. He noted the departed’s insistence on “proper decorum, but with an emphasis on joy.”

“I have never been upstaged by one who has passed before,” Doherty confessed, drawing chuckles from the guests. “But this is an opportunity to celebrate Forrie’s life.”

Soth’s instructions extended to the chosen speakers — including sons Brian and Phil, and former Beaverton mayor Rob Drake — to the hymns, which included “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” and “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place.” Julie Mohr sang “Close to Thee” as a solo piece, and a video montage traced Soth from boyhood through his highly active golden years.

Drake, who called Soth an “informal member of my family,” shed light on the honorary city historian’s legendary attention to detail and deep stores of sometimes-arcane knowledge.

“To his dying day, Forrest was always better prepared than most others and could recall the smallest of points from many years back. You could seldom ‘out-fact’ Forrest,” Drake said. “He had a zeal for detail. If there had ever been an Olympic sport that involved remembering the past, Forrest would have earned a gold medal from multiple Olympics.”

Drake recalled Soth’s sense of fairness and interest in hearing a cross section of opinions on topics during his long tenure on the City Council as well as the Beaverton Planning Commission, the Regional Water Providers Consortium and numerous other committees and groups.

“He had a great delivery with sharing thoughts at public meetings,” the former mayor said. “He could disagree with people testifying at a public meeting and yet they didn’t feel slighted. Many of the rest of us never could develop that knack. Forrest never tired of listening to people who testified, even if they were the 31st person saying basically the same thing.”

Brian Soth, the youngest of Soth’s three sons, which included Phil and the late Alan Soth, recalled his father’s thoughtfulness — a trait that came in handy on chilly mornings during family camping trips.

“We would be in a pup tent in the morning,” he recounted. “Dad would hold our jackets to warm them over the campfire and carry them over to our tent. It was hard for us just to get out of the sleeping bags. That was a wonderful example of how dad was.”

At home on the verge of his honeymoon, Brian recalled being startled to see a man lurking in the backyard. Upon closer inspection, he realized it was his father, who, as it turned out, was quietly trying to eradicate a potential danger he noticed earlier.

“He had seen some poison oak out there,” Brian recalled. “It was a small thing, but (an example of) how he saw a problem and took care of it without fuss. He didn’t expect any recognition.”

Saturday’s service was the second public remembrance for Soth, for whom Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and the City Council declared Jan. 8 as “Forrest Soth Day,” at this year’s inaugural council meeting.

Despite his gradually failing health, Phil recalled his father’s last year on earth the “most profoundly satisfying.”

“My dad was an amazing man,” he said. “He didn’t want the spotlight. He just wanted to contribute.”

Phil bid farewell to his “Pa” with one of his father’s favorite Bible verses, from the Book of Matthew.

“Well done, good and faithful servant,” he said.by: TIMES PHOTO: CHRISTINA LENT - Tables in St. Matthew Lutheran Church’s Courtyard Fellowship Hall were graced with mementos marking milestones in Forrest Soth’s life during a memorial service Saturday.




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