Portland newsman, Watford Reed, passes

Here, we mark the passing of a life-long Portlander, newsman and friend …

Watford Reed enjoyed an active life. This is a team photo from when he played on the Mt. Tabor baseball team. Family photo

A remembrance by David F. Ashton
Life-long Portland newsman Watford Reed died on July 5 at the age of 90.

Years ago, when I became editor of East County News, all of the part-time reporters who wrote for the publication decided to go their own way.

One writer stayed on – Watford Reed. He’d been an Oregon Journal reporter from 1959 until 1961. Watford went to work for the Oregonian that year – and stayed on as an education reporter, general reporter, and assistant City Desk editor until he retired in May, 1991.

Watford gave me his full support – sharing his “institutional knowledge” of Portland and his wisdom with me over the years.

After I left ECN, Watford kept writing for me at www.eastPDXnews.com. Together we covered the “business beat” of outer East Portland, detailing the activities of our local business associations. Sometimes we’d talk after the meeting, and he’d regale me with stories of old-time Portland.

Here’s Watford Reed at his Reed College 52nd Class Reunion taken in 2003. Reed College photo

But, Watford said little about his past. And, he all but refused to be photographed. When I asked him his age, he responded with the famous Satchel Page quote, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” After his passing, his daughter told me he’d somehow shaved a decade or more off his true age.

Over the past year, Watford’s health was clearly declining. “Congestive heart failure,” he said.

During May and June, he wasn’t able to drive to cover stories, so I picked him up and we still attended the meetings. The stories he turned in about June events were only a couple of lines long.

After the June Gateway Area Business Association meeting, he quietly said that he thought his stories weren’t much good. “I’m surprised you haven’t given up on me,” he said. I put my arm around him and told him, “Watford, I’ll never give up on you. Never.”  His daughter told me that it treating him like a valuable partner, until the end, meant a lot to him.

Watford holds his daughter, Stacy. Family photo

On Monday, July 6, I called and left a message for Watford that I’d pick him up to attend the GABA meeting as usual. There was no response. His daughter, Stacy, called and told me of Watford’s passing.

Because he had retired from the Oregonian long ago, I was able to locate few associates with whom he worked.

Long-time Portland sports writer Norm Maves recalled, “He was unfailingly pleasant. I wondered if he ever had a bad day. He was always smiling; he looked sure of himself and contented.”

Tom Whitehouse, director of Human Relations at the Oregonian, said that Watford would come by the office to visit from time to time. “Watford always had a smile; he was always engaging. He asked me how I remembered his name – one couldn’t easily forget a man like Watford.”

Watford Reed graduated from Reed College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1940. He joined the Mazamas, a nonprofit mountaineering education organization in Portland, in 1947, and was a member until the time of his passing. He is survived by his daughter, Stacy.

A memorial service will be held at Lincoln Street United Methodist Church, 5145 SE Lincoln Street on August 15 at 11:00 a.m. The church telephone number is (503) 231-1930.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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