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Farewell, Mr. American Legion

Friends and admirers honor active WWII veteran for his tenacity, salesmanship for city memorial
by: Jaime Valdez, Arthur Rigg salutes Bob Caufman’s wife Marilyn after presenting her with an American Flag during a funeral for Caufman. Members of the Beaverton American Legion Post 124 Honor Guard saluted their late post commander and good friend during the ceremony.

Beaverton veteran Bob Caufman left his mark on the community.

Friends of the charismatic 81-year-old said his legacy to Beaverton is the creation of the Veterans Memorial and other military displays at Memorial Park.

He will be remembered for his vision, inspiration and tenacity.

Caufman, who was the post commander for Beaverton American Legion Post 124, died Nov. 30 of cancer.

He spent years working with a dedicated group of Beaverton veterans to build a memorial worthy of the men and women who served their nation in the armed forces.

'I'm so damn proud of that park,' Caufman said just weeks before his death.

His eyes would fill with tears when he talked about the park and pointed to the words 'Some Gave All, All Gave Some' that grace the walls of the Beaverton Veterans Memorial.

His smile would stretch from ear to ear and his eyes would light up when he'd show you any new addition in the park.

'Bob was among the finest Beaverton had to offer and his spirit will always be present at Memorial Park,' said Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake. 'He was such a fine man with a strong spirit and such a positive outlook.

'He always looked for the best in people and situations. I'm really going to miss Bob. He's one of those people you could always rely on to tell it to you straight. He meant what he said, and he said what he meant.'

Caufman was relentless when it came to pitching ideas for the park and new ways to honor veterans.

'He was good at asking for things,' said Orville Nilsen, Caufman's dear friend. 'He was the most gentle arm-twister I've ever known in my life.'

Bob's memorial

Nilsen and others shared stories during a service Tuesday about how Caufman talked them into getting involved with the American Legion, annual Veterans Day and Memorial Day programs and efforts to build the Veterans Memorial and other memorial additions in the park.

'This guy was a smooth operator and a man of action,' said Arthur Rigg, a Legion member who served as chaplain for two years. 'He had 20/20 vision with anything he put his mind to do.'

Caufman was known for pulling into his buddies' driveways in his white pickup and dialing their number on his cell phone to ask them if they could 'come out and play.'

That usually meant a long conversation in the cab of Caufman's truck, a quick trip to Memorial Park or a mission to acquire an anchor, boulder, slab of granite or some other addition for the park.

'He used his cell phone as if it was reveille in World War II,' Rigg said.

Marv Doty, another Legion member, can remember accompanying Caufman on several of his scouting missions and excursions to talk to a man about an anchor in St. Johns.

'Bob was dedicated in his effort to build the memorial,' Doty said. 'He had a tenacity and did a real good job in his service to the community and the Legion.'

'He got people excited'

Caufman had a gift for getting people to buy into his ideas and enlist their aid for his community efforts.

'The first time I met him, he came in to talk about making improvements to Memorial Park,' said Ron Willoughby, former general manager of the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District.

'I could tell right away that he was a salesman. He was one of the most persuasive men I've ever met. He was one of those people that you want to say 'yes' to. The thing I liked most about him was that he always followed through. He knew how to get out and get it done.'

Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten agreed.

'He was very persistent in finding pieces and asking for donations,' Schouten said. 'He really got people excited.'

From politicians to business leaders to high school students and families with loved ones in the service, Caufman was a role model.

'Bob was a real inspiration,' said State Rep. Mark Hass. 'He put his life on the line for his country and his heart on the line for the community he loved. He embodied what public service is all about.'

'As far as I'm concerned Bob was Mr. American Legion,' said Kenji Yaguchi, a former Beaverton post commander. 'He was a tremendous leader who always gave 110 percent.'