Mount Tabor Park – Oregon’s 108-year-old WWI vet “would just have loved this”
Thursday, April 12, 2007
EDWARD HERSHEY The Oregonian
From the day Howard Ramsey bought a home on Southeast 59th Avenue in 1937 until he left for an assisted living facility 65 years later, the reservoirs in nearby Mount Tabor Park were part of his life, Ramsey’s daughter, Coral Falk said.
Now a veterans group wants to honor Ramsey — Oregon’s last World War I combat veteran, who died in February at 108 — by naming Reservoir 6 after him as a way of memorializing Oregonians who fought in the war. The idea will get a public airing Monday at Portland City
Tricia Knoll, a spokeswoman for the Water Bureau, said the session will address the ramifications of the reservoir’s being on the National Register of Historic Places. “You can’t just go to a meeting and say this is what we are going to do,” she said. “The Mount Tabor Reservoirs are not just a crown jewel of the water system, they are a crown jewel of the city.”
Knoll acknowledged that the event also would allow Commissioner Randy Leonard, who oversees the bureau, to test the water for possible opposition. Representatives of such groups as the Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association, Friends of Mount Tabor Park and Friends of the Reservoirs have been invited to weigh in. Dick Tobiason, a retired U S. Army colonel from Bend who has championed military veterans memorials in Oregon and other states, will make a formal presentation.
Dale Potts, past commander of the Tualatin VFW, is spearheading the proposal. “Our idea is that this is history,” he said. “We hope people who visit will look beyond the name and find out more about World War I and the lessons it should have taught us.”
According to family lore, Ramsey, a graduate of the old Washington High School in Portland, bulked up on bananas and water before his enlistment day to ensure he would meet the minimum weight for service. He spent much of his active duty as a driver near the bloody Argonne battlefield in France, trucking officers and supplies to the front and returning with the
bodies of dead GIs.
Perhaps anticipating concern about glorifying combat, Potts noted that the proposal seeks to honor war veterans, not war itself. “Howard was not a killer type,” he said, “but someone who was in service to others. In that regard, he really is a good role model.”
Although no opposition has materialized, members of the community groups say they plan to use the occasion to reiterate a call for the city to make paths to and around the reservoir handicapped-accessible, an idea Falk says sits well with her. Falk said that Ramsey and a neighbor often played sidewalk superintendents when workers renovated the reservoirs back in the 1930s, offering pointers and occasionally criticism.
“Dad would just have loved this,” she said. “I wish he was here to see it. I will be there with bells on.”
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