Bernard Z. Agrons, soldier, commercial forester, business executive and legislator, died on Oct. 16, 2015, at the age of 93. He was born in Philadelphia, Pa., on July 13, 1922, to Russian immigrant parents. His mother, Rose, died when he was a young child and his father, Phillip, married Pauline, his step-mother, when "Bernie" (as many call him) was a child. When the stock market crashed in 1929, the family was ruined, financially. These were hard and scary times for Bernie and his half-brother, Leonard. As a child, Bernie would play around Independence Hall and would tap on the Liberty Bell for good luck. Bernie was considered to be a "rotten kid" while growing up because he cut school a lot. He found school to be boring, but when he cut school he rode the subway to go to the library to read. Bernie took an early liking to all things related to nature and the environment around him. The Great Depression was also a very formative experience for Bernie. For the rest of his life hard work, service to community and help for those in need were themes he returned to over and over again. Bernie served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II in the Pacific Theater, including the central Philippines campaign. He spent a brief period with the occupying forces in Kyoto, Japan, after the war ended. Bernie met the love of his life, Betty Jo, at an Army social event for soldiers in training in California. He married her as soon as World War II ended. After the war, Bernie joined his father in the insurance business for a few years. He was good at it, but miserable, so he decided that he needed to go to college. Bernie enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley School of Forestry after convincing the dean there that his poor academic record was worth Cal Berkeley taking a risk. His first major professional success after college was at Rockport Redwood Company. He became a vice president and did some pioneering work in forestry management. He published his findings in industry journals and gave speeches on the subject, attracting the attention of Weyerhaeuser executives, who recruited him in 1969 to join that company. Bernie worked for Weyerhaeuser in both Tacoma, Wash., and North Carolina briefly, but his heart was always in the northwestern pine region. He was quickly promoted to be Weyerhaeuser's regional vice president in Klamath Falls, Ore. He was in charge of timber lands management, the enormous mill in Klamath Falls and a facility at Bly, Ore. Those were the heady days of old growth pine and the mill was productive and very profitable. During Bernie's time there, he experimented with replanting of fast maturing pines and that work can be seen today in the timber holdings around Klamath County. These plantings proved his theories to be correct: that proper planting and planning could allow a timber company to be a profitable tree farm while returning good value to shareholders. Bernie also applied his theories to a 200-acre timber property he acquired in California, a bonus gratefully received from the Rockport Redwood Company for his years of service there. That property also proved out his timber growing and harvesting theories. During his 12 years with Weyerhaeuser in Klamath Falls, he became very involved with local interests. He was instrumental in numerous United Way campaigns and led the campaign in 1986 to put together the initial funding for Klamath Youth Development Center, now known as Klamath Basin Behavioral Health. He also served for 30 years on the board of directors of Klamath First Federal Savings & Loan, which was later acquired by a much larger bank holding company. Bernie was a problem solver, a builder and a cultivator by personality, and loved nature and its bounty. When Weyerhaeuser decided to curtail its Klamath Falls operations, he knew he was not the right person for that kind of role and retired early. Shortly after he retired from Weyerhaeuser, he was elected to the Oregon Legislature, serving from 1983 to 1991. As a legislator, he was pragmatic, but principled. Bernie was fiscally cautious and careful to try to protect individual rights and choices. He was a lifelong Democrat and profoundly influenced by the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the comfort that FDR brought to millions of Americans like Bernie. He believed FDR when he famously stated that "There is nothing to fear but fear itself." Bernie is survived by his daughter, Judy Bergstrom (Bruce); grandchildren Litonya and Skye Bergstrom, Shayna Agrons and Jake Mortenson; three great-grandchildren; nephews and nieces, Kay Timme, Jane Crofoot, Josh Agrons, Clayeo Arnold, Vogene Reiger, Terry Arnold, Greg Arnold, Lynn Scott and Bonita Melville; and his care provider, Carol Derosier, whom he considered a second daughter and her family. Bernie's wife, Betty Jo, and son, David, predeceased him. A memorial gathering will be at 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, at Klamath Basin Behavioral Health, 2210 Eldorado Ave.
Published by Herald And News on Nov. 6, 2015.