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Forrest Soth, beloved civic historian, dies

Father of three served on Beaverton City Council from 1981 to 2004


Forrest Soth, a longtime Beaverton city councilor and tireless advocate for the city, died on Wednesday morning.

In a phone call around noon, Soth’s eldest son, Phil, shared the news that his father, who was 93, passed away at Canfield Place, an assisted living facility for seniors on Southwest Hart Road he’d just moved to in November.by: TIMES FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Beloved civic leader and Beaverton historian, Forrest Soth died Wednesday morning.

“It was a combination of congestive heart failure and liver cancer,” Phil Soth said. “We’re not sure which, but the combination of the two was probably more than his body could handle.”

Named the city’s honorary historian in 2010, Soth served on the council for six terms from 1981 to 2004. In 1999, the City Hall council chamber at 4755 S.W. Griffith Drive was named in his honor. Before Soth’s passing, Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle announced he would dedicate Tuesday, Jan. 8, as “Forrest Soth Day.”

“Forrest has accomplished many wonderful things for our city,” Doyle said in December. “His enduring advocacy for Beaverton is astounding. He is a role model to all generations.”

Carrying water

A Beaverton resident since the 1940s, Soth’s community involvement goes back to 1977, when he was appointed to the city’s Planning Commission and Board of Design Review. Representing Beaverton as a board member, Soth had served on the Regional Water Providers Consortium since its 1997 inception. From February 2008 to June 2011, he served as chairman of the consortium, and served on its Executive Committee until September 2011.

He concluded his most recent leadership position in 2012, when he retired after 15 years of service as chairman of the Regional Water Providers Consortium’s Board of Directors.

Starting in 1987, Soth served as one of three city of Beaverton commissioners to the Joint Water Commission. In 1994, he joined the Barney Reservoir Joint Ownership Commission as one of three Beaverton commissioners and was a leader on both commissions, serving as chairman for four separate years from 1999 to 2012.

The two commissions’ major accomplishments included raising the dam at Barney Reservoir to increase its storage capacity from 4,000 to 20,000 acre-feet, a project completed in 1999; expanding the Joint Water Commission’s capabilities through construction of a new, 12-mile, 72-inch diameter North Transmission Line; expanding the commission’s water treatment and construction of a 20-million gallon finished water reservoir in 2006; and developing and implementing plans to improve resiliency of the water treatment plant against vulnerabilities such as earthquakes, equipment failures and security issues.

Problem solver

Many city staff and consortium members recognize Soth as a visionary leader, describing him as diplomatic, professional and a loyal representative to the city.

“Forrest had a solution-oriented approach to challenges,” said Kevin Hanway, general manager of the commission. “He applied his experience from his professional career and from his City Council service to carefully evaluate proposals that came before the commissions. That perspective, and his thoughtful questions, made Forrest a persuasive commissioner. His contributions have been appreciated, and his presence will be missed.”

Cate Arnold, a city councilor since 2005, praised Soth for his intellectual curiosity and investment of time and energy in making the city a better place to live.

“He was a guy who has a really good memory and really looked deeply into things,” she said on Monday. “He is always an interesting person to talk to. He always researched things. When you talk to him, you talk about real information, not conspiracy theory stuff.”

When she ran for the Beaverton City Council in 2004, Arnold recalled Soth publicly backing her opponent, while also making an in-kind contribution to Arnold’s campaign.

“It didn’t create any rift at all in our relationship,” Arnold said. “He didn’t take things personally. One thing he said to me was, ‘Politics is the art of compromise.’”

Given the strained negotiations in the U.S. Congress to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” as 2012 drew to a close, Arnold recognized Soth’s emphasis on compromise as more prescient than ever.

“Boy, I wish that was something we were taking more to heart these days,” she said.

One last game

Even after he whittled down his regular commitments, Soth continued to volunteer and spent his time helping the St. Matthew Lutheran Church Food Bank in Beaverton.

Until his move to Canfield Place, Soth lived independently at Beaverton Lodge since his wife, Colleen “Connie” Soth, died in 2006, at age 83.

“He called early last November and wanted to go into the hospital. He was retaining fluid,” Phil Soth said. “When he came back out, we realized he was going to need some assisted care.”

Phil last spoke with his father on Tuesday, which he said was “pretty rough. He wasn’t experiencing a lot of pain. It was probably more lack of dignity and control than anything.”

Despite his discomfort, the elder Soth was able to engage in one of his favorite leisure pursuits, taking in the Oregon State Beavers on the gridiron, one last time. He caught the No. 15 ranked Beavers in their loss to the University of Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl on Saturday.

“In one of his last requests, he wanted to make sure he didn’t miss the Oregon State game,” Phil says. “My brother (Brian) flew in from Spokane, and we made a point to watch the game on Saturday. He was awake for some of it, but it was the three of us watching his beloved Oregon State Beavers.”

Phil and Brian Soth are planning a memorial service for their father at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, with the day and time yet to be determined. Because of their father’s thorough, meticulous nature, those are about the only details left to confirm.

“Like everything else in his life, he has arranged and scripted his own memorial service,” Phil said. “He was an amazing man.”