Living Legends: John (Jack) W. Broome

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Living Legends, living legends in Tualatin,
Jack W. Broome (right).

I so enjoy telling stories of my great hometown of Tualatin, Oregon and the citizens who helped build it. They have made a difference in our lives. So when another Tualatin Living Legend, Dr. Scott Burns, highly recommended I tell about the lifetime of public services of Jack Broome, I did not think about the challenge to condense so many years of making things better for his fellow citizens into one article. You see, Jack is 97. He has set an example for all of us wishing to do more for our country and citizens.

Jack was born and raised in Connecticut. He was just out of high school when, on Dec. 7, 1941, Japan declared war against the United States and bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii as a preventive action to keep the United States Pacific Fleet from interfering with its planned military actions in Southeast Asia. Jack, like thousands of young men, enlisted and risked his life to defend his country. He became a Marine Corps Bombardier Navigator. He flew 59 missions in the South Pacific. His job was to fly alongside planes watching for intercepts, not to bomb people. Once, on the east side of the Third Fleet, as it moved north of the eastern border of the Philippine conflict, he saw dozens and dozens of American Navy ships such as destroyers, troopships, as they headed to intercept enemy ships. He served until after the war ended in the Pacific in 1945.

Jack came to Oregon and worked on the Ben Bizby 6th generation Hood River Apple Ranch, and enrolled in the University of Oregon in architecture. He became a member of Phi Kappa Psi along with other war veterans. He was in the graduating class of 1948. Upon graduation, he became a Senior Partner in a Portland architectural firm known as Broome, Selig and Oringdulph, later known as Broome, Oringdulph, O’Toole and Rudolph (BOOR).   

This is how I met Jack Broome in the late 1960s. Tualatin was in the next ring of growth of Portland, and the federal I-5 freeway on the east side of the town had opened in the late 1950s. I was the first City Manager of Tualatin, population 350; water wells were dry, sewage overflowing and there was only one industry- Hervin’s Blue Mountain Dog Food Company in downtown Tualatin. Required by State Law to have an acceptable and approved future plan, the City Council became very busy with leading engineers and architects, planners and financial consultants to build a city to support 20,000 in the year 2000 as predicted by state and local governments. By mid-1970s, we had a water system connection to Portland’s Bull Run water; the latest science tertiary treatment of wastewater system built only in Las Vegas at the time; new roads to serve a rapidly growing population and preservation of lands for parks and open spaces.

Living Legends, living legends in Tualatin,
Jack Broome and Althea Pratt.

As a Senior Partner of BOOR, Jack Broome became Architect-Partner in Charge of building a new hospital near Tualatin. Two Portland Hospitals, Physicians and Surgeons Hospital, and Emanual Hospital formed a new partnership called Southwest Hospitals and sought to build a new hospital later called Meridian Park Hospital, at the intersection of Meridian Road and Borland Road, Clackamas County. It was not yet in the city. Some citizens near the planned site did not want a hospital to replace agriculture lands. However, the prospect of many new jobs and professional services resulted in the hospital seeking and receiving the support of the Tualatin City Council and Clackamas County for annexation and provision of municipal services. The process took about three years until the hospital was started and opened in 1974, 45 years ago.

In the meantime, I recommended to the City Council, a city Urban Renewal Plan to remove slums and blight from the downtown area. The area was pretty blighted. The City called for and received the services of professionals including engineers, planners, architects (Jack Broome) and financial planners to work with City officials and a Citizen’s Committee for a city of 20,000 by the year 2000. At the time, Portland, Beaverton, Salem and Clackamas Town Center had been successful in raising significant sums of money for improvements without raising taxes. With their help, Tualatin did just that too. In order to explain to the citizens committee what was being proposed, I arranged for a bus to transport the Council and Citizen’s Committee to observe the completion of the Salem Downtown Urban Renewal projects.

What I did not know until later is that I gained the title of “Matchmaker!” Jack sat on the bus with Citizen’s committee member Althea Pratt, and formed a lasting personal relationship as well as partnerships in more Tualatin community service projects that still exist today.

Living Legends, living legends in Tualatin,
Sweek House.

Althea Pratt had moved to Tualatin in the 1950s and lived with her three daughters in the huge historic John and Maria Sweek house built in 1858. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and still located at the corner of Boones Ferry Road and Tualatin Road. Althea had a master’s degree in teaching, very close to a Doctor’s degree. She formed in 1978, Willowbrook Summer Arts Program, a summertime children’s art program which was operated by daughter Rebecca Pratt in the city’s Brown’s Ferry Park. It was expanded in 1991 to include fine arts, world cultural arts and crafts, Native American art, music, dance and more. Enrollment has now exceeded 1600 each summer.

The Wetlands Conservancy is a leader in Oregon wetland conservation.

Althea and Jack married in 1980. When industrial growth started infringing on the city’s wetland areas, both were very concerned enough to mobilize other residents to set aside 57 acres of Hedges Creek Marsh for education and wildlife protection. It was well supported by the community, and with their leadership, Althea and Jack formed the Wetlands Conservancy, which was incorporated in 1981 and still operates. The Conservancy has led to the preservation of more than 1500 acres of wetlands in 32 preserves all around Oregon in partnership with landowners, businesses and other nonprofit organizations. Starting in 1978, under the banner of the Center for Development of Human Potential, Althea offered summer coursework at Sweek House for students at Portland State University.

Jack also served as President of the Tualatin Historical Society and arranged the move and new foundation of the former 1925 Tualatin Methodist Church to comply with new requirements of a Heritage Center, which was saved and moved to the present site next to the Police Department off Tualatin Road and Sweek Drive. For years you could see Jack drive an older orange Volvo around town. One day about four years ago, I took my four visiting cousins from Norway to see the Heritage Center and saw him in the parking lot. Jack’s only child Bertram grew up in Norway, so I introduced them to him in English. Imagine the look on our faces when Jack started conversing with them totally in Norwegian. I was the only one who could not participate with my hometown stories but couldn’t stop grinning because of another Jack Broome surprise.