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Herbert Kyle Beals ’55

A picture of Herbert Beals

Herbert Kyle Beals ’55, November 2, 2013, in Gladstone, Oregon. A celebrated author and educational advocate, Herb will be remembered as one of Oregon’s most notable native historians. In addition to his unsurpassed histories of Gladstone and Oregon City, he contributed to national biographical publications, including the Who’s Who series, the Oxford Companion to World Exploration, and Coins Magazine, which drew from his own extensive collection of ancient Roman currency.

Herb was born in Portland to Jim and Mae Beals, owners of Beals Grocery in southeast Portland. Herb delivered groceries, sometimes by the streetcar trolleys. He was valedictorian at Jefferson High School at age 16 and then came to Reed, playing on the football team, which maintained a spotless record until an accidental victory ended its losing streak. (After the game, he joined the campuswide lamentations.)

Herb continued his education at Portland State, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and where a plaque recognizes his achievements. As part of his military service in the mid-’50s, he helped spy on Russia and Cuba for the federal organization that later became the National Security Administration. Working for Clackamas County and Metro in the planning department, he drew up maps when they were still done by hand. In 1965, he took a planning position with the University of Oregon. Five years later, he went to work as a planner with the Columbia Region Association of Governments. Throughout most of his life, he was active in the Mazamas and the Geological Society of the Oregon Country. He helped the U.S. Forest Service produce On the Mountain’s Brink, a book on the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. For his skill in uncovering important documents, in particular “Juan Pérez on the Northwest Coast: Six Documents of His Expedition in 1774,” he received the North American Society for Oceanic History’s John Lyman Award in 1990. As one of his many hobbies, he made masks for various purposes—one remains on display at Timberline Lodge. Herb joined the Oregon Archeological Society in 1970 and was twice elected president of the organization. As a member of the Oregon Historical Society, he made it his personal duty to seek out the answer to any question he was asked. Many considered him a “great living encyclopedia.” Fellow members of Oregon City’s Atkinson Memorial Church, where Herb wrote the nine-part Definitive History of the Unitarian Universalist congregation, said that Herb was the reason that they were members. At the Gladstone Chautauqua Festival, his favorite event of the year, Herb participated in the parade and set up a booth for the Gladstone Historical Society. He gave tours of local historical homes during the festival and knew all the facts about the city from writing a three-volume history of Gladstone. Herb was a passionate volunteer at schools, historical societies, coffee shops, and churches and freely shared his knowledge. Even when riding the bus, he would often share his research with interested passengers. Survivors include his wife, Barbara Brown Beals; two daughters, a son, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Our thanks to Raymond Rendleman ’06 for writing a memorial for Herb, “Reedie Leaves behind Historical Legacy.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2014

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