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Fred E. Palmer ’52

Born in Portland to Lowell (Elt) and Eugenia Palmer, Fred grew up in Sandy, Oregon, where his father taught at the two-room Cottrell School. In 1936, the family, including Fred’s two younger sisters, Patricia and Janis, moved to Baker City, where Elt taught in the high school and coached wrestling. It was the Great Depression, times were tough, and Fred long remembered enduring cold winters without adequate clothing. He graduated from Baker High School and joined the navy for two years with an eye on attending college on the G.I. Bill.

At Reed, he majored in sociology and wrote his thesis, “Family Solidarity as an Index of Social Disorganization,” with Prof. Howard Jolly [sociology 1949–70] advising.

Fred married his first wife, Ruth (Betty) Belsey, in 1950 and after graduation, moved to Tulare County, California, where both were social services caseworkers. Two years of this proved to be all they could tolerate, and after extensive shoestring travel in Europe, Fred entered Oregon State University as a microbiology major. He went on to earn a master’s in marine microbiology from Scripps Institute of Oceanography. In 1960, he left Scripps for a research position at the University of Washington, where he met his current wife, Linda Graves. Both were working at the university and they became friends while participating in many anti-Vietnam War protests. They married in 1976, became parents to their son Michael in 1983, and moved to Baker City in 1984. Fred considered this the happiest period of his life: raising a young son, building a log home with his wife, and living a rural life. He farmed alfalfa in the summers and did fieldwork for the University of Washington as a research scientist in the winter.

Family was the most important thing in Fred’s life, but he was a man of diverse interests who had an enduring curiosity about all things. Passionate about the outdoors, he spent eight college summers as a forest service fire lookout in the mountains around Bend. Five of those summers were spent on Mt. Ireland, for which he felt a spiritual attachment. Other interests included an enthusiasm for photography, flying small airplanes, and reading. He loved animals and considered his dogs, cats, and horses important family members. Fred is survived by his wife, Linda; his son, Michael; and his sisters, Patricia Carmony and Janis Taylor.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2018

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