There is a new tree growing in Brown’s Ferry Park, and it is anything but your typical fir tree.
While it is only a few feet high now, one day it will be a towering coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens, which is the sole living species of the genus Sequoia in the cypress family) that was planted in honor of a towering Tualatin figure, Jack Broome.
On the morning of July 22, amid all the activities of the Willowbrook Arts Camp, a small group, including members of the Broome family and the Tualatin Historical Society, gathered at the tree for a dedication ceremony and to remember Broome’s leadership in conservation, preserving Tualatin’s history, lending his architectural talent to various projects and promoting education.
Norm Parker, chair of the historical society’s Scholarship Committee and a good friend of Broome’s, talked about Broome’s modesty regarding his World War II military service as a Marine aviator/gunner/navigator in the South Pacific by noting that Broome said he shouldn’t receive any accolades because he wasn’t shot down.
“He wanted to (preserve history) for young people because they will be around in the future,” Parker said. “He helped start the historical society, practically funding it the first year.”
Parker recalled Broome’s sense of humor and driving around town in an orange Volvo that was later replaced by a brown model.
Esther Lev, the first paid director of the Wetlands Conservancy, followed Broome’s tenure after they co-founded the conservancy and worked to save Hedges Creek and marsh.
“Jack inspired land trusts around the state,” Lev said. “He was an amazing connector.”
Mayor Frank Bubenik recalled being a city councilor when he first met Broome and being inspired by his passion for various projects.
“No better tree could honor Jack Broome than a redwood, since Jack himself stood straight and tall, and his legacies have continued to thrive and will continue to grow into the future,” Bubenik said. “It’s fitting that we’re surrounded by Willowbrook Arts Camp founded by his wife Althea Pratt, a 38-year program that he supported from behind the scenes.”
Broome was responsible for the original design of the Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center as the lead architect, with Bubenik noting, “It opened in the early 1970s and has expanded several (times) since. Since that time, we have welcomed all the major health care systems to our city.”
Broome was later hired to create the city’s first urban renewal plan to improve the downtown core (and get rid of the smelly dog food plant), Bubenik said.
Broome was instrumental in preserving local landmarks, including the 1858 Sweek House, where Pratt lives today. It remains the only building in the city protected by the federal government as a national historic structure.
“Jack’s skills as an architect helped assure preservation of the structure,” Bubenik said.
Broome’s architectural skills also came in handy with the move of the 1926 Methodist Church from Boones Ferry Road to its present location near Sweek Pond and updating it to become the Heritage Center.
“Nearly to the end of his life, Jack remained active at the Tualatin Historical Society, where he served as president for two years,” Bubenik said. “We are privileged to recognize a living legacy of Jack’s commitment to education, which he himself was grateful for, thanks to the GI Bill as a World War II veteran.
“He urged the society’s board to create a new scholarship program for a deserving Tualatin High School student each year.”
Jack Broome Scholarship
The historical society’s 2021 scholarship winner, Alexei Burgos, was at the event, along with his mom and two sisters, to be recognized for his academic achievements. The Tualatin High School graduate plans to attend Oregon State University to study engineering in the fall.
Parker explained that the society’s annual scholarship, which started at $2,000 in 2011, is now called the Jack Broome Scholarship. It is funded by society members’ donations, “doesn’t come out of the budget” and is now worth $3,000 annually.
One of the criteria to receive the scholarship is to write an essay about the value of history and how it relates to people’s lives.
Burgos, whose family moved here from Puerto Rico, wrote in part, “History is arguably the most important topic to learn about in school. It teaches us the origins of our culture and traditions, while also showing us the roots of the world’s present-day issues… Especially in today’s divided political climate, it is essential to know the vulnerability of democracy, and the ways to preserve it by looking at history… By studying our society’s previous atrocities and failures, we can avoid repeating the past and work towards a better future.”
Burgos thanked the Tualatin Historical Society members for the scholarship and said he would put it to good use.
A plaque at the base of the redwood reads, “Celebrating Jack Broome, 1923-2020; Visionary architect/urban planner/Co-founder of the Wetlands Conservancy and advocate for preserving Tualatin history.”