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William Tebeau

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William Tebeau Obituary
William Henry Tebeau

"An Engineer and A Pioneer"

November 23, 1925 - July 5, 2013

William "Bill" Tebeau passed away on July 5, 2013 surrounded by his loving family. Bill was born November 23, 1925 in Baker, Oregon to Henry and Frances Tebeau. He is preceded in death by his father Henry William Tebeau, his mother Frances Binor, and his brother Edwin Tebeau. Bill is survived by his loving wife of 62 years, Genevieve, and seven adoring children, Nancy, Camille, Cherilyn, Deni (William), Janine (Roland), Gale (Michael), and David (Diane). He had 13 grandchildren, Randy, Charlotte, David, Kimberly, Stacie, Janie, Mya, David Jr., Kahreen, Morgan, Aaron, Genevieve and Josiah. He also had 12 great grandchildren and 8 great, great grandchildren. Bill was a history maker. He exuded both humility and pride when reminiscing about his life and achievements. At 12, he joined the Boy Scouts and worked his way up to Eagle Scout and the Order of the Arrow. In 1943, Bill graduated from Baker High School, and was admitted to Oregon State College, later named Oregon State University (OSU). In June, 1948 he became the first African American male student to graduate from OSU, receiving his BS in Chemical Engineering. He talked of a normal college experience in the 1940's, except for the less than warm welcome when he checked in for his campus housing assignment. He had not indicated his race on his application, and his arrival created quite a stir. This was nearly a decade before Oregon's first fair-housing law. Bill was told by Dean of Men that the school could not accommodate him, suggesting he would be better off at the University of Oregon. Bill was not about to budge. A wonderful woman who ran a boarding house for many of the foreign college students found him a job with a fraternity where Bill tended furnace in exchange for a room in the basement. He earned his meals by helping in the kitchen. It was not easy attending school during a time of racial unrest, but Bill had nothing negative to say about his experience. Bill was a member of Pi Mu Epsilon that promoted math proficiency and Alpha Phi Omega, the national college fraternity for those involved in Boy Scouts. After college, Bill returned to Baker, and studied for his license as a Civil Engineer, during which time he met his lovely wife, Genevieve. He was hired by the State Highway Department in Baker, presently the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) in 1948. He received his Civil Engineering license, was promoted, and moved the family to Salem in 1956. Bill did everything from construction, surveying, planning, hydraulics, and highway/bridge design in his 36 year career, retiring in 1984, leaving an exceptional impact on the Department. In a 1988 article the Director of ODOT said that Bill was a cornerstone for the planning and research of Oregon's highway construction/improvement programs, was responsible for mapping Oregon's cities, counties and urban areas and had more influence on the education, personal development, and mentorship of ODOT employees than any other individual he could think of. Deputy Director at ODOT is quoted in a 2008 article that Bill was a great resource for any type of question you had, an endless volume of information, a tremendous engineering knowledge. Bill was also a part-time instructor at Chemeketa Community College beginning in 1958 and continuing after retirement from ODOT. He taught math, economics, thermal dynamics, physics, chemistry, surveying and engineering to many ODOT employees who were studying for engineering degrees. Bill worked with the Association of Engineering Employees to write a study guide for state exams for engineering positions. In 1970, he was named Teacher of the Year at Chemeketa, Employee of the Year by the Oregon State Employee's Association in 1971 and during that same period, he received a Communication and Leadership award from Toastmasters, based on his community achievements. His commitment to education did not stop at ODOT or Chemeketa. He was involved in a program at Jefferson High School in Portland that recruited high school seniors and prepared them to pass the engineering aide exam. Bill's interests ranged beyond the technical. The product of a musical family, he played violin in his early years and trumpet in high school. He also played trumpet for the Oregon State Band and for a studio band at the college's radio station, KOAC. He and friends in Baker formed a dance band that toured eastern Oregon, and during World War II, he and a friend played taps for fallen soldiers. While working in Baker at the Highway Department, he helped set up the Boy Scout Drum and Bugle Corps. Later, he worked with the Flamingo Drum and Bugle Corps in Salem. On January 30, 2008, Bill was honored by the Oregon Northwest Black Pioneers in an exhibit which highlighted the lives of six Black men who made their marks in Oregon history. In addition, he became the first recipient of the Oregon Northwest Black Pioneers Trailblazer Award that honors people of African American heritage who have blazed a trail for others being a pioneering first by excelling in their field, and an example of courage, determination, resilience and service. Bill was also featured in a book written and published by the Oregon Northwest Black Pioneers, entitled "Perserverance". This book chronicles African American citizens of Oregon's Marion and Polk counties that have moved the communities in which they lived ever forward toward full acceptance and recognition of their contributions. Bill's most recent honor was being inducted into OSU's Engineering Hall of Fame. He received the College of Engineering Oregon Stater Award on February 26, 2010. This award honors OSU graduates who have made sustained and meritorious engineering and/or managerial contributions throughout their careers. Bill is loved and adored beyond belief by his wonderful family and will be remembered by his soft-spoken voice and quiet, but huge presence. Pride overflows from his family for his trailblazing and positive example of living a life with humility and courage. Whenever anyone left his home after visiting, he would always say to them "Make it a great day". Bill loved to watch TV Land, loved Star Trek and all John Wayne movies, Sister Act 2, Snowdogs, the Wizard of Oz and the Wiz. You could find him watching movies Friday and Saturday nights with family. The family welcomes all in celebrating Bill's life on Saturday, July 20, 2013 from 2-5 pm at Center 50+ located at 2615 Portland Rd NE, Salem, OR 97301. "A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again" - Maya Angelou. Bill's family would like to thank the Oregon Health Sciences University for the care they gave to our daddy and the support they gave to us. Arrangements made by Howell Edwards Doerksen.
Published in StatesmanJournal on July 14, 2013
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