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Walter Nasmyth dies at age 81

Troutdale native published stories of his youth

Walter R. Nasmyth, 81, photo historian of the Troutdale Historical Society and author of reminiscences about growing up in Troutdale, died Wednesday April 18, in Clackamas of liver cancer.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 29, in Glenn Otto Community Park in Troutdale. (An Outlook death notice last Wednesday had an incorrect date for the service.) Among the speakers will be Scott Cunningham, his grade school classmate and president of the Troutdale Historical Society, historian Len Otto and Ken Deacon of Reedsport, an officer with Nasmyth in the LST Association.

Nasmyth's remains will be interred at Willamette National Cemetery at 11 a.m. Monday, April 30.

Three years ago, Nasmyth took on the task of scanning and archiving the society's photo collection, convincing his wife, Viola, to do the filing. The two, who filed more than 1,300 photos, were named members of the year of the society in 2006 and rode in last July's Troutdale Summerfest parade.

In addition, Nasmyth wrote hundreds of reminiscences about growing up in Troutdale as the last of eight Nasmyth children, self-publishing a book of his stories.

'When my cousin, who grew up with him, read his book about his childhood, she commented that 'he was the orneriest kid I ever saw,' ' said Mary Bryson, Troutdale Historical Society curator and board member. Nasmyth captured the Troutdale of his youth. More of his stories are included in the upcoming book, 'It Could Have Been Carpdale, A Centennial History of Troutdale, Oregon.' Though Nasmyth did not live to see the book published, he saw his stories on the proof pages the week before his death.

'Walt was a character,' said Len Otto, Troutdale. 'And, underneath a somewhat crusty exterior there was a gentleman.'

Walter Nasmyth was born in Portland on Feb. 8, 1926, to John and Bertha (Messinger) Nasmyth. His father worked for the Union Pacific railroad and the family lived in a small railroad house adjacent to the tracks.

In November 1942, at age16, Walter and his mother lied about his age, and he joined the U.S. Coast Guard, initially deployed to a beach patrol station in Waldport. He completed seamanship and signal school and in 1944 was assigned to USS LST (Landing Ship Tank) 19, and he took part in the first wave assault campaigns at Saipan, Tinian, Peleliu and Faes. He served as president of the U.S. LST association and returned to his battlefield.

Not all his memories were good ones. In an interview with The Outlook in 2006, he said after his last visit to Peleliu in the West Carolines, 'I finally quit having nightmares about that place.'

While he was home on leave from the Pacific, Walt married Viola Norton on May 10, 1945. World War II ended as he and his brothers, John and Herb, were preparing for the final assault in the South Pacific Theater, and he was discharged Oct. 1, 1945.

He worked as a carpenter and in construction jobs before joining the Portland Fire Bureau in January 1952, where he served for 14 years until injuries forced him from active duty in 1966. He then earned a college degree, continuing in construction work and worked 18 years for the U.S. Department of Agricultural as an inspector before retiring in 1988.

In retirement he took care of his vacation property in Central Oregon, volunteered for the historical society and the LST association and enjoyed his rose garden at their Southeast Portland home. He and Viola celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2005 at a party with family and friends.

His son Scott, of Milwaukie, describes his father as 'a craftsman, he was funny ornery, strong-willed and a real character who touched the lives of many, many people.'

He is survived by his wife; his son; daughters, Claudia Haggerty, of Bend, and Christie Lamb, of Springfield; 12 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Jacqueline Nasmyth Green in 2005.