Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Tigard landowner Fred Fields dies at 88

by: Submitted Fred Fields, 88, died in California on Tuesday. Fields was the former owner of Coe Manufacturing in Tigard and was spearheading several controversial land-use projects, including plans to construct a bridge over Fanno Creek.

Tigard landowner Fred Fields, who ran Coe Manufacturing in Tigard for years and was the subject of a series of controversial land-use projects, died Tuesday at the age of 88.

Fields' health had been declining over the last few weeks, said Richard Canaday, a lawyer for Miller Nash LLP, which represented Fields. He died at about 5 a.m., in a hospital in Palm Desert, Calif.

'He was a great guy,' said Canaday, who knew Fields about 15 years. 'Everybody who knows him thinks highly of him.'

Fields had a long history in Tigard as the owner of Coe Manufacturing, a leading producer of machinery for the wood products industry, but he is best known recently for a string of controversial projects involving land he owned around the Coe building off Hunziker Street.

In August, Fields removed about 2,300 trees from property he owned along Hunziker Street, upsetting many environmental activists and neighbors who said that the forested land has been home to deer, frogs and other animals for years.

Fields was also working to build a bridge over Fanno Creek near the Tigard Public Library to access land he owned across a large, marshy area.

Fields submitted two separate, if slightly different, applications for the bridge to the city.

That plan had also drawn criticism from neighbors and environmental activists, including the advocacy group the Tualatin Riverkeepers, who said the bridge would impact the sensitive wetland.

The bridge was approved by the city's hearing officer in July, and Fields was working to meet a series of requirements before he could begin construction.

Plans to build continue

A successor was chosen to take over Fields' property investments, which were in a special trust, Canaday said.

'Those properties had been in Fields' trust for some time, and there is no change in our plans to move foward, satisfying all the conditions for approval,'

Canaday would not comment on who the successor was, but said that he is 'a very capable businessman in the Portland area. He understands all the things that Fred understood.'

Canaday said that both bridge applications will continue to move forward despite Fields' death.

'Fred had looked at the future and he knew that this (bridge) might not be finished by the time he died,' he said. 'This is what he planned for it.'

Plans for the Hunziker property will remain in place as well, Canaday said. Fields had said he cut the trees to raise the land's property value so he could eventually sell it when the economy improves.

A farm boy from Indiana

Fields was born in 1923 near Alexandria, Ind., and was drafted into the Air Force during World War II teaching instrument flying and navigation.

He started working at Coe Manufacturing in 1947 as a junior engineer, eventually working up the ranks and buying the company.

He married Suzanne Schoenfeldt in 1958, and the two were well known for their philanthropy throughout the Portland area, particularly in education.

The couple donated to the University of Portland, OMSI, the Portland Art Museum, Oregon Health and Science University and Lewis and Clark College.

Fields retired in 2000 and served on the Board of Trustees for Lewis and Clark College from 1985 until 2006. The college's center for the visual arts is named for him.

'He was an absolutely wonderful man,' said Jane Atkinson, Provost of Lewis and Clark, who had known Fields for more than 20 years. 'He had a very strong spirit, and I think even though he was in failing health remained very active and involved in the community until just before his death.'

A memorial service is being planned for January at Lewis and Clark.