Phil Jonsrud, Sandy's historian, dies at 93
The E.B. White children's novel 'Charlotte's Web' concludes, 'It is not often someone comes along that's a true friend and good writer.'
That's how City Manager Scott Lazenby would characterize Phil Jonsrud, the lifelong Sandy resident and historian who died Sunday at age 93.
'He was always positive and a strong encourager,' Lazenby said. 'I met him when I first started in Sandy. He kind of took me under his wing, and I could call on him for just about anything.'
Jonsrud was the grandson of pioneers who crossed the country from Minnesota to claim land in the Kelso area in 1877. The present-day Jonsrud Viewpoint on Bluff Road is where his parents moved in 1922, and his father graded the area so tourists could pull off the road and enjoy the view.
After attending Kelso Grade School, which his grandfather helped establish, Jonsrud attended Sandy Grade School and graduated from Sandy High School in 1935 at age 16.
His plans for college were put on hold during the Great Depression as he worked odd jobs to save money.
On Sept. 28, 1937, Jonsrud caught a glimpse of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt passing through town after the dedication of Timberline Lodge.
Once at the University of Oregon, Jonsrud paid his way through school, working as the head waiter for the dormitories and as a musician in dance bands on the weekends in Eugene, Corvallis, Salem and Portland. He received his bachelor's degree in business in 1942.
Jonsrud enlisted in the U.S. Navy in early 1942, shortly after the Pearl Harbor attacks, but was given a medical discharge during his naval training in Indiana.
Instead, he worked in the Portland shipyards before moving to New York City to work for an oil company. He returned to Sandy in late 1946 and soon after married Margaret 'Midge' Hendee, whom he had met in New York. The couple had three daughters: Judy Buck, Leslie Anderson and Laurie Godfrey.
'He was always a fabulous father and grandfather,' Judy Buck said. 'He was like the Rock of Gibraltar from the day we were born until the day he died. It was his other full-time job that he never, ever stepped away from.'
Jonsrud's father had patented a cable grip used in logging. Phil worked for his father before spending several years homebuilding and then obtaining his real estate and broker's licenses in 1959.
'That was his real love,' Buck said of her father's career in real estate.
Jerry Lawson worked as a business partner with Jonsrud and still has one of their old real estate signs at his house.
'He liked to work with me because I actually went to lunch,' Lawson said, jokingly. 'He was our expert on the history of the area and the people. He just knew everything and was really a fountain of information.
'He was a good friend, a good partner, and we'll miss him a lot.'
In 1972, Jonsrud became chairman of the Sandy Centennial Committee and led events that raised $6,000 for the Sandy Historical Society.
He was a Sandy City Council member from 1956-1964, and served on the planning commission. Since 1974, Jonsrud had been involved with the Sandy Historical Society board of directors as a treasurer, president, historian and eventually a board member emeritus.
'He had files and pictures on just about everything,' Lazenby said. 'He'd often come into City Hall to update his records and work just outside my office door.'
After Midge died from cancer and Jonsrud retired from the real estate business, he married Ellen McLaughlin in 1985.
Beyond editing the Historical Society's 'Buckboard Tales,' Jonsrud contributed to Sandy's history with two books, 'Whistle Punks and Misery Whips' and '80 Years in the Same Neighborhood.'
'He was a kind, gentle and well-loved man who loved his hometown of Sandy,' said Ann Marie Amstad, a retired educator and the secretary and archivist for the Sandy Historical Society. 'He was so proud of Sandy and all the things and people here.'
Jonsrud's third book, 'Hometown Sandy,' will come out within the next few months, featuring 50 stories about Sandy with a picture to go with each. The book is his last gift to the Historical Society, with all proceeds going toward the museum.
'The only thing we didn't get was an autographed copy from him,' Amstad said. 'Everything else he did. It was his final mission to get this project done.
'He's left a legacy with all the books he's written, all the people he has met, and all the history he's collected. He is our historian, and has been our historian for years.'
Jonsrud is survived by his wife Ellen, three daughters, six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and numerous friends.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, April 2, at Sandy Funeral Home, 39551 Pleasant St., Sandy.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to the Sandy Historical Society, P.O. Box 652, Sandy, 97055.
Sandy Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
Staff writer Jim Hart contributed to this story.