Creswell, Obituaries & Tributes

Logging legend: Wilbur Heath’s claim to fame

Wilbur Heath, 91, stands in front of the centerfold photo of himself for Time Life Magazine’s ”Year of Photos 1990,” as part of the story, ”Endangered Species: An Owl and a Logger Symbolize the Nation’s Touch Choice – Jobs or the Environment.” Aliya Hall/The Chronicle

COTTAGE GROVE – Wilbur Heath’s photo has been seen in magazines all over the world.
In 1991 he graced the centerfold of Time Life Magazine’s ”Year of Photos 1990,” where he was posed with a spotted owl on his shoulder as part of the story titled ”Endangered Species: An Owl and a Logger Symbolize the Nation’s Touch Choice – Jobs or the Environment.”
”I felt good that something had taken place,” Heath said. ”It made me very proud to get that honor. It’s my only claim to fame.”
Now the framed photo and story hangs in his room at Magnolia Gardens in Cottage Grove. At 91 years old, Heath has lived in Cottage Grove his whole life and has been a logger since he was 12 years old.
”I just grew up doing it,” he said.
After Heath graduated from high school in 1946, he enrolled in forest engineering at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry. He didn’t graduate because in 1950 he went back to work for the family business. That year he also married his high school sweetheart, Catherine. She died two years ago from dementia
In 1951, Heath spent two years in South Korea during the Korean War, surveying. He joked that he ”never stopped” logging, because even overseas he was putting his forestry training to use.
In 1953, he came home and said that he was on the boat back when the countries signed the armistice agreement.
”The nice thing is, I didn’t shoot anyone and no one shot at me,” he said.
Back in Oregon, he went back to logging. Eventually he took over the company, Heath Logging. He served as president of Associated Oregon Loggers twice, president of the Pacific Logging Congress and president of the 56th annual Oregon Logging Conference. In 1985 he received the ”Logger of the Year” award. He retired in 1999.
He joked that the injuries he receives nowadays from a fall are ”nothing like what happened back in the day” when he logged.
Beyond logging, Heath has a passion for aviation. In the 1940s he told his wife that he needed a hobby to take his mind off work and that he’d like to learn to fly. He got his pilot’s license in 1948 and eventually bought a 1948 Aeronca Sedan, which he sold seven months ago. The plane was dubbed ”The Mistress,” and whenever he’s been asked about the secret to his 67-year-old marriage he would respond that his wife let him have a mistress.
Anna Epperson, Heath’s medical technician at Magnolia Gardens, describes Heath as a charming and charismatic man, ”with a wink I think he stole from Joe Cool himself.” She said he is a generous patron of the arts and has been a lifelong member of the community.
”He’s just so easy to talk to,” Epperson said. ”He’s very entertaining, very witty and he’s wise. He’s kind of a man of few words, but if you get him to talk he enjoys it and he has a lot of important things to say.”



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