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Local 'great living encyclopedia' dies

Herb Beals shared a love of Gladstone, OC with community


Herbert K. Beals of Gladstone, a celebrated author and educational advocate, died Nov. 2 at the age of 79.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: BEALS FAMILY - Herb Beals spent the last several decades of his life as Gladstone's tireless advocate and resident professional historian.Beals will be remembered as one of Oregon’s most notable native historians. In addition to his unsurpassed histories in Gladstone and Oregon City, he contributed to national biographical publications: the Who's Who series, the "Oxford Companion to World Exploration" and Coins magazine, which drew from his own extensive collection of ancient Roman currency.

His family owned Beals Grocery in Southeast Portland until the 1970s, and he would help deliver groceries, sometimes by the streetcar trolleys that used to travel along 42nd Avenue and Gladstone Street.

After Beals became valedictorian in two years at Jefferson High School at age 16, he attended Reed College from 1951-53 and Portland State University from ’56 to ’58 to obtain his bachelor’s degree in history. A lifelong learner, Beals returned to PSU from 1980 to ’83 to obtain his master’s degree in history, where a plaque recognizes him for academic achievements.

As part of his military service in the mid-1950s, Beals helped spy on Russia and Cuba for the federal organization that later became the National Security Administration. Working for Clackamas County and Metro in the Planning Department, he drew up maps when they were still made by hand.

In 1965, Beals took a planning position with the University of Oregon’s Bureau of Governmental Research and Service. Five years later, he went to work as a planner with the Columbia Region Association of Governments.

Gladstone/OC community 'extended family'

Beals was active in the Mazamas mountain climbing club and the Geological Society of the Oregon Country throughout most of his life.

He helped the U.S. Forest Service produce “On the Mountain’s Brink,” a book on the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. For his skill in uncovering important documents, he received the North American Society for Oceanic History’s John Lyman Award in 1990 for his "Juan Pérez on the Northwest Coast: Six Documents of His Expedition in 1774."

As one of his many hobbies, he made masks for various purposes, one of which is displayed at Timberline Lodge. Beals joined the Oregon Archaeological Society in 1970 and was twice elected president of the organization.

As a member of the Oregon Historical Society, he made it his personal duty to seek out the answer to any question he was asked. Beals will be missed by many who considered him to be a “great living encyclopedia.”

Fellow members of Oregon City’s Atkinson Memorial Church, where Beals wrote his nine-part “Definitive History” of the Unitarian Universalist congregation, said “he is the reason we belong to this church.”

At the city’s Chautauqua Festival, Beals' favorite event of the year, he would participate in the parade and set up a booth for the Gladstone Historical Society. During the festival, he gave tours of the local historical homes, and knew all the facts about the city from writing a three-volume history of Gladstone.

His son, Steve, was born in 1964, two years after Beals moved to Gladstone with his wife, Barbara, and their two daughters, Patricia and Cherie. His love of writing, genealogy and community drew him to Gladstone history. He considered Gladstone to be his extended family.

He was a passionate volunteer at schools, historical societies, coffee shops and churches to share his knowledge. Even when riding the bus, he would often share his facts with interested fellow passengers.



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