Paul Thalhofer, much loved by Troutdale
Former mayor leaves legacy of compassion, dedication to citizens
Shay Berg was 9 years old the first time he met Paul Thalhofer. The former mayor of Troutdale had asked Bergs mother, who worked for the city, if her son would like to ride with him in the firetruck through the Corbett parade.
After that, the two became friends, and Thalhofer, Bergs mentor.
Their friendship lasted 25 years.
It evolved from the time Berg would mow the mayors lawn and Thalhofer would sit in on his basketball and football games. Then Shay moved in with Thalhofer when he turned 18, and became his caretaker later in life.
When Thalhofer recently fell ill, Berg sat at his friends bedside at a nursing home in Gresham.
Within 10 minutes after he and his mother walked out of his room, Thursday night, Feb. 13, Paul Thalhofer died. The 86-year-old had battled pneumonia in recent months.
Born on Christmas Day, 1927 (and proud of it), Paul Thalhofer was a lover of everything Troutdale, people, politics, youth, sports, cowboys, the Oregon Ducks and his hometown of Prineville. He was known for his unmatched enthusiasm, keen sense of humor and passionate advocacy for his city.
He was outgoing and gregarious, said Thalhofers younger sister, MaryAnn Myers of Portland.
Thalhofer graduated from Crook County High School and attended the University of Oregon, where he earned a law degree, played football and was nicknamed Tall-Hefer.
He joined the Navy at the end of WWII, and was stationed for two years in Honolulu.
He and his former wife, now deceased, raised their three boys in Pendleton, where Thalhofer worked as a judge, lawyer, insurance agent and beloved mayor.
Losing a mentor
Marion Berg said her son was devastated after Thalhofer died.
He lost his friend, she said.
Shay Berg, 33, and Thalhofer lived as roommates for 14 years.
He has been a longtime family friend and has been a highly valued mentor to me throughout my childhood and adult life, said Berg a civil engineering student at Portland State University.
The two recently lived together at a house on Southeast Beaver Creek Lane and shared a Lab/Rottweiler mix named Buddy.
Berg said Thalhofer enjoyed singing to Buddy and his companionship was therapeutic for him in recent months.
The men were Oregon Duck football fans and regularly attended home games in Eugene.
He followed the Ducks football team closely, cheered for the Blazers and rooted for the Seattle Mariners while watching nearly every game on TV, Berg said.
Thalhofer also enjoyed going to local basketball and football games, including Bergs when he was a kid, and was known for his support of the communitys youth.
He was very generous with his time, Berg said, and often volunteered for causes he believed in.
He was always happy to listen to people and counsel neighbors who knew they could approach him for guidance, Berg said.
When it was just the two of them, Thalhofer reminisced about summers he spent in his childhood working on a ranch in Central Oregon, driving a team of horses: Tarzan and Rony. He also liked to talk about his days as an athlete in Prineville, competing in football, basketball and track for Crook County as well as his time in the Navy while he was stationed in Pearl Harbor.
Paul was incredibly optimistic and had the ability to help people maximize their potential, Berg said.
He would make you feel like he was the president of your fan club, and it was genuine.
Berg said if Thalhofer has a legacy it is for his compassion and dedication while serving the citizens of Troutdale.
His political motivation always seemed to be to do what was the best for the community of Troutdale and East County, Berg said. He loved Troutdale and respected the citizens and the city employees tremendously.
Home away from home
Coming from a small town, Thalhofer found his place in Troutdale.
Leslie Daoust, former wife of Mayor Doug Daoust, met the mayor in the early 1990s.
As a new mom in Troutdale with two young daughters, Leslie wanted a much-needed community playground to be built.
But didnt know what she was getting into when she walked up to City Hall and announced her idea.
I went before City Council and they just fried me, Leslie said.
Who does this woman think she is, was the response she got.
I was mortified, but not discouraged, she recalls.
Soon after, Leslie got a phone call at home.
It was Mayor Thalhofer.
The two talked for three hours and by the end, Leslie had received her first lesson in local politics.
What you walked into was called politics, she recalls Thalhofer saying.
Leslie had no interest in politics. She just wanted to build the playground.
The mother and mayor found common ground.
I came from a small town too, Leslie said. We could really relate.
Both shared the mentality, If you dont do it, it doesnt get done, she said.
Thalhofer also had a personal belief that everybodys important, has value and a place, Leslie said.
Thalhofer, she said, gave her the confidence to move forward.
From then on, this guy had my back, she said.
In August 1994, Imagination Station was built and more than 2000 people showed up to support the playground.
Leslie and Thalhofer remained close friends ever since.
The two talked on the phone all the time. Mostly about politics, despite her original disinterest.
He had a fiery passion about things and Troutdale, she said.
The difference between Thalhofer and most politicians, Leslie said, is he valued your opinion and never took credit for what other people did. He would sing your praises and thats why we loved him.
Leslie said Thalhofer gave many people, including she and her former husband Doug Daoust (Troutdales current mayor), a huge education of the inner-workings of city politics.
He also had a great humor, great laughter and a great voice, she said. His favorite was the Irish song, Danny Boy.
The last time Leslie saw Thalhofer was the day of the University of Oregon and Oregon State civil war game, Nov. 29.
It was me, him and Quinci, she said. Her daughters are Quinci, 21, and Adriana, 24. He was bedridden.
It was quite the game, Leslie said.
An OSU alum, she was rooting for the Beavers, and Thalhofer for the Ducks.
He was so relieved when Oregon came through. I was very happy for him. He was taking it very hard and personal.
Leslie said Thalhofer had his hands in everything that happened in Troutdale.
He was full of passion and fire and getting things done, she said. He was very much loved.
At the time of his death,Thalhofer had a fiancee, Sally Burger of Prineville. He also is survived by his sister, MaryAnn Myers, of Portland; brother, Bob Thalhofer of Rockford, Ill.; three sons, Stephen and Mark of Denver, and Paul Terry of Canby; four grandchildren, Brian, Helena, Jeffrey and Emily and great-granddaughter, Abigail; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
He is preceded in death by his wife and brother, Judge Joseph Thalhofer of Bend.
It is the Thalhofer familys intention to set up a trust for people to contribute to Shay Bergs college tuition.
Donations can be made to the Shay Berg Tuition Trust Fund at Bank of America at 241st and Stark St.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT