The City recently announced that “Tualatin’s 2,400 volunteers truly help our city grow and thrive.” What isn’t well known is how long volunteers have worked to build the community. By now, most people know that I grew up and worked in Tualatin, starting when the population was about 300. In 1920, my Finnish immigrant grandparents located on a farm on Avery Street (not then in the little city), where my family and I grew up and raised my family too (where McDonald’s is now located). There was no I-5 freeway. Volunteering was the only way to keep the city livable, and all of us kids were expected to help Dad and Mom with volunteering for activities like building the Tualatin Fire Department or developing the 5-acre central park.
While training at U.S. Bank in Portland in the 1960s, I was asked to volunteer as Tualatin’s Treasurer. City Hall had never opened. At the time, the city wells were dry and septic tanks overflowed. The Tualatin River was known as the most polluted stream in America. There was only one major employer, the Blue Mountain Dog and Cat Food Company. The City Council then obtained Portland’s Bull Run water by connecting to the Lake Grove Water District. They would only allow connections to the system if a property were annexed to the City and in accordance with a plan of development they created. Tualatin was in the next ring of development from Portland.
Who would have guessed in the 1970s that the city of 750 people would grow to be home to 26,054 people today with over 2400 volunteers and known as one of the most livable communities in the state?
That is why volunteers like John and Sharon Bergstrom plus sons Christopher (born and raised in Tualatin in 1979) and Adam (born and raised in Tualatin in 1982) should be remembered and honored for significant contributions. John and Sharon moved from Seattle Washington to Tualatin’s Indian Meadows in 1976. John and Sharon started their family and immediately became involved in the community through volunteerism. Sharon created the Tualatin Youth Football Association. John created the City logo still used today, and Christopher served on various advisory boards and became a Tualatin City Councilman at age 18!
Sharon was working in real estate but wanted the Tualatin community to retain the feeling and spirit of the northwest. She shared her feelings with many other community residents who said she inspired them to get fully involved, especially with the youth of Tualatin.
She created the Tualatin Youth Football Association with neighbor Mike Givens in the early 1980s. She indicated that they had a lot of rambunctious boys in the neighborhood at the time. The small league was originally called the Tualatin Panthers. Today TYFA exists but is now known as the Timberwolves! There was no money for the league at the time. So, Sharon asked families for their time. The many volunteers and businesses she recruited were called “Sharon’s Army.”
In 1978, John Bergstrom created the Tualatin logo, which is still seen on most city streets, city stationery and other important documents. A 1978 article in the Lake Oswego Review explains that John, who started drawing on the walls when he was two years old, was still drawing 31 years later when he designed the first Tualatin City logo that year. John had long been inspired by the northwest’s Native American arts and culture.
John was a graduate of Burnley School of Professional Art and Trade in Seattle and was a graphic artist for Pacific Northwest Bell. After transferring to Portland office and locating in Tualatin, he volunteered to teach commercial art classes to nearly a dozen 10-12-year-old youngsters at the Tualatin Community Center.
The new logo was requested by the City Council and Joe Kelleher (then the Van Raden Center director), who suggested that Tualatin needed a logo for many purposes.
John was told by Tualatin officials the symbol should depict the Native American heritage and community growth. He indicated that he had been inspired for years by Native American totems and logos that told a story such as the Weyerhaeuser Tree logo. John graphically symbolized the Tualatin Native American concept using a “T” with the totem. “It could be an arrow pointing upward or used subtly as a tree, signifying growth,” Bergstrom said. He designed the symbol in black and white, and the city added two earth tone colors to complement the Native American motif. Last year, Paul Hennon, retired Tualatin Park Director, honored the Bergstroms and shared numerous ways his logo has been used, including the Tualatin Centennial geo-coin and keychain that had the Tualatin logo on them. John and Sharon now again live in Vancouver, Washington, and they both still love the town of Tualatin they helped build. Son Adam currently works as head of the fabrication shop for ChemWest in nearby Tigard.
The most notable contributions by the Bergstrom family were those of their son Christopher Bergstrom, born and raised in Tualatin in 1979, who in 1998 became a Tualatin City Councilman at the age of 18, youngest ever in the State of Oregon! He served two terms while in college and law school.
Chris caught the enthusiasm and caring for his hometown of Tualatin from his parents John and Sharon. In January 1998, Paul Hennon, now retired Tualatin Parks Director, wrote a letter of recommendation for Chris to the American Red Cross regarding a Breakfast of Champions award BEFORE he was elected to the Tualatin City Council.
According to Hennon, the letter describes Chris as an exceptional young person who was 13 when he became a regular member of the Tualatin Park Advisory Committee. The Council encouraged students to serve on its advisory committees. Chris served a one-year term on TPARK and then a one-year term on the Tualatin Urban Renewal Advisory Committee. He was then reappointed to TPARK and served another one-year term.
Hennon wrote, “While on the committees, Chris has actively participated in the committee’s public involvement process, bringing a young person’s perspective to important policy issues, land acquisition and park development projects. Additionally, Chris has served on the Residential Landscape Award Committee, Arbor Week Celebration Committee and he has chaired the Heritage Tree Committee. The City of Tualatin has an award-winning urban forestry program. It has been recognized as a Tree City USA for the past ten years. Chris has made a valuable contribution to these programs, especially the Arbor Week Celebration, which is designed to educate the public and local businesses of the important values that trees bring to our community. Over the past year, Chris has been the driving force behind a youth-initiated movement to build a skate park for skateboarding and in-line skating in Tualatin. He organized young people at Tualatin High School and Hazelbrook Middle School to participate in the design, fund-raising, construction and maintenance of the skate park.” Hennon also explained his leadership in raising the needed $165,000 to build the skate park even though he was not a skate-boarder but wanted to support the community’s desires.
Hennon then urged the American Red Cross Breakfast of Champions to recognize Chris Bergstrom, who played such a valuable role model of good citizenship for both youth and adults in Tualatin. The Red Cross did honor Chris with appropriate recognition. He also served on the Washington County Cooperative Library Services and Washington County Commission on Children and Families during his time on the Tualatin City Council.
While serving the two terms on Tualatin City Council, he also attended Portland State University, where he graduated with a degree in political science with honors and earned his law degree from Willamette University College of Law. He continued his pursuit in public policy and law and worked as a law clerk in Governor Kulongoski’s Office of General Counsel and later with Marion County Office of Legal Counsel. He was named a Super Lawyer by his peers in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. He has served in the Oregon State Bar’s House of Delegates, Portland Women’s Crisis Line Board Member and many other legal and volunteer associations.
Chris and Jill Harriman, a middle school teacher in McMinnville, and their three kids – Simon, Elsa and Fiona, reside in the Multnomah Village area.
Chris is an attorney with the Portland law firm of Furniss, Shearer & Leineweber. Chris’s practice consists of domestic relations matters and civil litigation. However, he continues to advocate for how much young people can contribute to their communities when they start young and how much they gain from the experience. With this in mind, Chris volunteers to represent minor children in contested domestic relations cases by court appointment.
His teenage years in Tualatin as a City Councilman and various other city accomplishments fit the image of a Tualatin Living Legend very well.