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Wade Cornwell ’36

October 13, 2018, in Portland, at the age of 104.

It was the Great Depression and Wade could only scrape together enough money to attend Reed for one year. Nonetheless, that year remained one of his fondest memories, making him feel like he’d gotten a higher education.

“After one year at Reed, I went to mine gold near Prairie City in eastern Oregon,” Wade recalled. “My parents were partners. The government pegged the price of gold at $35 an ounce, and there was no profit in it after a lot of hard work. After luckily escaping a mine blast, some other way of life seemed desirable.”

Returning to Portland, he attended Northwestern School of Commerce and worked for five years as an office manager at the Hoody Peanut Company. In 1941, Wade went to work at Bonneville Power Administration in the materials testing laboratory at Ross Substation. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Union Carbide Corporation opened a plant in St. Johns, Oregon, to make carbide and alloys for the steel industry. Wade was employed as purchasing agent and later as its office manager. He left in 1963 after 21 years.

In 1955, five men who met at the Rose City Yacht Club—Tom Green, Merle Starr ’33, Jarvis Gould, Henry Morton, and Wade—contracted to build five boats using a new material called fiberglass. A sample of the new material was tested by shooting bullets at it from a 10-foot range. A wooden plug was made and a fiberglass mold was completed in early September. The group selected “Chinook” as the name of the class for this new type of hull. They produced five 34-foot fiberglass sailboats, one for each of the partners. Two years later, all five boats were sailing and the yachting community began to take notice. The new boats began winning many races, and a three-page spread about them in Yachting magazine brought a lot of inquiries.  Other people wanted hulls from the mold, and three of the partners continued the business as a sideline for six years until setting up Yacht Constructors, Inc. Over the years they produced 23, 27, 29, 36, 42, and 43 models under the Cascade brand. Wade retired in 2005 after having made nearly 800 world-cruising-class fiberglass sailboats.

While skiing on Mt. Hood, Wade met his wife, Katy. They married in 1951 and had a daughter, Mary. Katy died in 1977.

In addition to sailing, Wade’s passions included skiing and anything related to the mountains. He climbed Mt. Hood many times, bragging that he once climbed it in his tennis shoes. He traveled extensively after retiring at the age of 91, including a sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands.

Wade is survived by his daughter, Mary Cornwell Jacob.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2018

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