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Man dies after 30-foot fall from trail

West Linn man remembered for his years of volunteer service


A West Linn man fell to his death on Father's Day while on a hike in Washington.

Thomas Bennett, 65, and his wife, Susan Bennett, were hiking on the Falls Creek Trail in Gifford Pinchot National Forest when he stumbled and fell about 30 feet over a nearly vertical cliff.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - These are the falls along the Falls Creek Trail in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, near where Tom Bennett of West Linn fell.  Another hiker, Michael Nelson, of Lake Oswego, came upon Susan Bennett on the trail and drove her to Carson to report the accident. At 6:30 p.m., Skamania County Sheriff's Office deputies, Skamania County EMS, Skamania County Fire District No. 1 and the Skamania County Sheriff's Office dive team responded.

When rescuers arrived, they located Bennett submerged in 3 feet of water in Falls Creek.

According to investigators, he suffered head trauma in the fall.

The Falls Creek Trail climbs from Falls Creek to a waterfall at Falls Creek Horse Camp. The trail is located about 15 miles north of Carson, Wash.

Bennett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease eight years ago, was an avid volunteer, outdoorsman and basketball fan.

When his two sons, Daniel, 34, and Drew, 32, were young, he was an assistant coach for their basketball teams. Then, about 15 years ago, he started refereeing for Portland Basketball Officials Association (PBOA).

'He loved basketball,' Susan Bennett said. 'He just loved basketball and he loved to make the calls. He loved that he got to control the game. It was his way of participating and being part of the fun.'

Bennett and his wife were also active in two churches, Willamette Christian Church in West Linn and Village Baptist Church in Beaverton. He liked the people in both churches so much that they attended both, Susan Bennett said.

His love of people led him to a lot of volunteer work.

He had been a volunteer at the Lake Oswego Public Library since 2006, according to Cyndie Glazer, coordinator of programs and volunteers services.

'He helped in circulation and also volunteered at the information desk at city hall every week. Most recently he was picking up the books at the Luscher Farm book drop every Friday,' Glazer said. 'He was always smiling and sharing stories about the places that he liked to hike and about his family. He also recruited his wonderful wife to volunteer at the library. What a loss! The library staff will really miss seeing him every week and his outstanding volunteer work.

Bill Baars, the library director emailed the library staff after learning of Bennett's death: 'This is terrible news,' he wrote. 'Tom was a terrific guy and I loved talking with him. What a loss.'

Similarly, Diana Smith-Bouwer, citizen information project specialist for public affairs department of the city of Lake Oswego, said, 'This is very, very sad news. He was such a funny guy, and I really enjoyed him at the volunteer desk. (He was) very proud of his kids and so very active. I will miss him!'

Bennett also served those less fortunate than him. He delivered food for Meals on Wheels in Southeast Portland, served breakfast at the Portland Rescue Mission and helped out at Blanchet House.

'He wanted to help people. He just loved talking to them,' Susan Bennett said.

His love of the outdoors led the Bennetts on trips to Mt. Hood and through the Columbia River Gorge, exploring the state. 'We loved taking hikes,' Susan Bennett said.

Bennett also enjoyed playing golf at a variety of courses and being active with his four grandchildren.

Bennett worked with Franz Bakery for 29 years selling and delivering bread.

An open casket viewing will be held Sunday, June 24, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at River View Abbey, located at 319 S.W. Taylors Ferry Road in Portland.

A memorial service will be held Tuesday, June 26, at 3 p.m. with a reception to follow at Village Baptist Church, located at 330 S.W. Murray Blvd. in Beaverton.

Memorials may be made to Trout Creek Bible Camp, 38105 S.E. Gordon Creek Road, Corbett, OR 97019.