Eric StewartOur Stories - People
“A gentle man and a scholar” is how Eric Stewart is remembered by those who knew him. His name came to our attention recently in two separate instances. First, as our treasurer has been reorganizing the book-keeping, he came across the Eric G. Stewart Fund — more on that later. Second, Eric was a founding member of this organization. As we’re celebrating our 30th Anniversary in 2019, our president/historian found list of charter members and we are planning to feature some of them in our communications this year.
Born May 30, 1914 in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Eric graduated from Bucknell University in Lewisburg in 1936. He won a fellowship with the Nation Institute of Public Affairs in Washington, DC. which led to a 34-year career in various departments of the federal government including the General Accounting Office, War Department, Federal Communications Commission, Bureau of the Budget, and Department of State. During WWII, he served as a management engineer in the Navy.
Upon retiring in 1973, Eric returned to Lewisburg where he served on the boards of the county historical society and three historical museums.
Eric and his wife Thalia moved to Forest Grove in 1982, where Eric served as photographer for the Washington County Museum, as well as the FG Historic Landmarks Board, Friends of Old College Hall at Pacific University, and as president of FHFG where he was a charter member.
In the approximately 12 years he spent in Oregon, Eric amassed a collection of thousands of photos, extensive biographical data on area residents, obituary and cemetery records, numerous title abstracts, maps and newspaper references. He wrote articles and gave presentations on local historical topics to “standing-room-only” crowds.
Former FHFG president Megan Havens recalls, “I first met Eric when I was trying to find information on a Signature Quilt that turned up at the Methodist Church during a garage sale. He cheerfully helped me learn how to research Forest Grove history by making suggestions, but letting me do the work. I came to respect him and his work. His insights into how local history and local historians work were delightful and respectful. Eric and Thalia were two of my favorite people in Forest Grove.”
Eric Stewart Fund
Upon his death in December 1995, the News-Times obituary cites, “Remembrances may be sent to Mr. Stewart’s favorite organization, The Friends of Historic Forest Grove…” This was the beginning of the Eric Stewart Fund, to help preserve and maintain his collection. The collection was eventually donated to the FG City Library and is now housed in the Eric Stewart History Room which was dedicated in 2003. With the donated funds, FHFG had a table made by FG artisan Greg Kriebel out of local oak.
Since the “care and keeping” of the Eric Stewart collection is not in the purview of FHFG, FHFG recently transferred $3479, the remainder of the fund, to Friends of the FG Library for management.
Eric G. Stewart Award
In May 1996, to commemorate Historic Preservation Week in Forest Grove, the Historic Landmarks Board, in conjunction with the City of Forest Grove, established the Eric G. Stewart Award to honor individuals who have shown outstanding achievement in historic preservation in Forest Grove. The first recipient was the late Eric Stewart. The Spring 1996 HLB newsletter cites, “No one better exemplifies the intent behind thc award than he. Eric devoted years of effort in researching and collecting old photographs, land deeds, and cemetery records. Anyone who ever went to one of his slide shows always came away with a renewed interest in historic Forest Grove. Eric was a gift to our town.”
FHFG received award in May 1999 for “researching, documenting and preserving the historic landmarks and cultural heritage of the City of Forest Grove.” Two other Steart award certificates hang in the OTS office … awarded to the Committee to Preserve the Alvin T Smith Property in 2004 and the AT Smith Property in 2010.
Eric raised the awareness and interest in local history in Washington County and enhanced the climate for preservation activities. Joan Smith, who was Executive Director of Washington County Museum at the time, commented, “Everyone who cares about and works to preserve our heritage here is indebted to Eric Stewart.” A fitting tribute.
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