William Wood Wessinger

William Wood Wessinger

Birth
Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, USA
Death 7 Feb 2014 (aged 96)
Oregon, USA
Burial Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, USA
Plot Sec 07, Lot 116, Grave 9
Memorial ID 125226542 · View Source
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William Wood Wessinger died Feb. 7, 2014. He was born Dec. 30, 1917, to Henry and Romayne Wessinger, at the family house on NW 16th Avenue between Davis and Everett streets in Portland. Named for his maternal-uncle William Wood, he was known as "Billy" by his mother, "Wos" by grade school and high school friends (and by his wife during their 65 years of marriage), "Bill" by his professional contacts, "Dad" by his five children and "Bapa" by his 14 grandchildren. He started school at nearby Couch Elementary School on NW Glisan Street. In the early 1920s, the family moved to the new suburban development of Dunthorpe where he attended and graduated from Riverdale Elementary School. He attended Lincoln High School (now Lincoln Hall on the Portland State University campus) graduating in 1936, and attended Cornell College where he was a member of the Chi Psi Fraternity and a member of the lacrosse team that journeyed to Bermuda in 1939 to play British teams. Enlisting in the U.S. Army in January 1941, he was stationed at Fort Stevens on the Oregon Coast before being sent to the Aleutian Islands in early 1942, where he spent three years working as a harbor master, spending time on Adak, Kiska, Attu and Amchitka Islands. Decommissioned from the Army in the fall of 1945, Bill worked as a freight forwarder in Pendleton before taking a job in late spring of 1946 with the Luckenbach Steamship Company in Portland, Oregon. In 1949, Bill took a job as assistant treasurer at the Blitz-Weinhard Company, the family brewing business founded by his great-grandfather Henry Weinhard. Taking night courses in accounting over the next two years, Bill earned his CPA in September of 1951 and took on additional administrative duties at the company. 1953 was a pivotal year for both Bill and the family business. Sales and profitability of the brewery had been declining since 1950. Fredrick Green Wessinger, Bill's younger brother, had been assistant brewmaster since completing brewer's school in the late 1940s. Together, Bill and Fred approached the company's corporate secretary and director, John A. Laing, about the company's critical condition. Working with Mr. Laing, a plan of organizational change was developed. In declining health, Mr. Laing recommended a new legal counsel to advise the brothers, Thomas B. Stoel. In early 1953, Laing presented a reorganization plan to the board that gave significantly greater responsibilities and powers to Bill and Fred Wessinger. In June, Bill was elected a director of the company, Thomas Stoel was elected secretary of the corporation and Frederick H. Thorp was named assistant secretary. In November, Dr. Max Zimmerman of Milwaukee, Wis., was hired as production chief of the company. In short order, significant improvements were made in the quality control of the company's products, and the company enjoyed a period of rapid growth and profitability. Bill and Fred enjoyed a successful partnership and working relationship until the sale of the business in 1979, when Bill was chairman of the board and Fred was president. Bill once said that when faced with a difficult decision, the bothers would rent a room at the Benson Hotel and stay until they could emerge with a jointly agreed upon decision. Following their retirement from the brewery, the brothers rented office space together until Fred's death in 1996; for nearly 50 years the brothers had worked just a few doors away from each other. In December 1945, Bill's parents hosted a holiday welcome home party in his honor at their Dunthorpe house. At the party, Bill met his future wife, the 22-year-old Patricia Lue Lesser. Although Patti was another man's date for the evening, family lore says that the two were "holed up alone in the library for the evening." An engagement ring was bought in Portland before Bill returned to work in Pendleton at the end of January, and he proposed by letter on February 1st. They were married May 10, 1946. Five children "quickly arrived" over the next seven and a half years, but Patti had fair warning prior to having children of what life with Wos would be like. She received a letter asking what she wanted for her 23rd birthday; the letter listed boots, ice axe, crampons and sleeping bag as Bill's gift suggestions. In elementary school, Bill had been a Boy Scout and had enjoyed camping trips to the coast and the mountains. In the early 1930s, he met Martin Vinyard, a railroad welder and blacksmith who had been laid off due to The Depression. Martin and his wife, Florence, had been unable to have children of their own, but they gathered a group of boys that Martin made ice axes and crampons for and took climbing. Bill became an avid alpine climber, camper, hiker and skier, and his first birthday list to Patti reflected how they would spend their life together. An early member of the Mazamas, Bill was especially proud of Patti for their successful climb of Mt. Rainier in the early 1960s. With their children, Labor Days would often be found on "forced marches" circumnavigating Mt. Adams or the South Sister; and Christmas and Spring Break skiing at Timberline, Sun Valley or Mt. Bachelor. "Wos in his orange parka" was a legendary image on the ski slopes from the 1950s until the 1980s. Introduced to the Canadian Rockies by Aubrey Watzek, Bill and Patti grew to love the Lake O'Hara area, and Bill was especially proud when he became a member of the Alpine Club of Canada. However, the north side of Mt. Hood was always a special place for him, and he cherished the time spent there as a member of the Snow Shoe Club. Patti brought her love of wild flowers into the mix of Bill's interests, and later a common interest in birding took them to the higher northern and southern latitudes. In the late 1950s, as the dangers of cigarette smoking became known, Bill quit smoking and started an early morning biking routine with his friend and neighbor, Lenox Dick. Later, he became a member of a Wednesday bike riding club, and continued riding into his late 80s. He played tennis as a child and continued as a member at Oregon Indoor Tennis Club and The Racquet Club. Bill loved his city and state, and had a deep belief in serving the community. Board membership and leadership included High Desert Museum, Portland Opera, City Club of Portland, Boys Club of Portland, River View Cemetery, The Nature Conservancy of Oregon, United Way, Portland Chamber of Commerce, Portland Planning Commission, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Center Stage, U.S. Bancorp, Portland General Electric, Wessinger Foundation, Tri-Met and Reed College. He served on a variety of commissions and committees under Oregon Governors Robert D. Holmes, Mark O. Hatfield, Tom McCall, Victor Atiyeh and Neil Goldschmidt, including the position of chairman of the Environmental Quality Commission for the State of Oregon in the early 1990s. He was an early supporter of Oregon's landmark bottle bill and SB100 regarding land use planning. Within the City of Portland, he especially enjoyed his work with Portland State students, helping to create the first student housing for PSU. Bill financially supported the organizations that he served, but he preferred quiet philanthropy, such as land purchases to add to Forest Park and covering an opera payroll when there was no money in the bank; never public acts and discovered only after the fact. After Patti passed in June 2011, life became quieter and revolved around family visits, reading his newspapers, lunches at the Dockside restaurant and walking up his beloved hill with his Humane Society rescue dog, "Cowboy." Bill passed away quietly and within a few hours of suffering a cerebral bleed. He was preceded in death by his wife, Patricia; and brothers, Paul Wessinger SSJE of Cambridge, Mass., and Fredrick Green Wessinger of Portland. Bill is survived by his children and their spouses, Nancy Kline (Wayne), Charlie Wessinger, Barbara Newton, Katie Withers (Gary) and Henry Wessinger (Amy); grandchildren, Jessie, Philip (Christi na), Anna (Matt), Carolyn, Paul, Kathryn, Maxwell (Katie), Taber, Kelsey (Luke), Patrick (Lauren), Kristen (Matt), Joseph, Bill and Simeon; and great-grandchildren, Wyatt, Sage, Reed and Cooper. All will remember his love for his family, his joy in alpine meadows and cascade vistas and the benefits of clean snow to cool a drink after a long day hiking.


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  • Created by: William Taber
  • Added: 16 Feb 2014
  • Find A Grave Memorial 125226542
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Wood Wessinger (30 Dec 1917–7 Feb 2014), Find A Grave Memorial no. 125226542, citing River View Cemetery, Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, USA ; Maintained by William Taber (contributor 46480146) .