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A memorial service for Alfred William “Bill” Sweet, 98, of North Bend, will be held at 1:00 pm, Sunday, Aug. 5 at the Southwestern Oregon Community College Hales Center for the Performing Arts, 1988 Newmark Avenue in Coos Bay, with Reverend Christy Close Erskine, officiating . A reception will follow the service. A private interment will be held at Sunset Memorial Park in Coos Bay.
Alfred “Bill” was born Nov. 15, 1919 in Langlois, the third of five children born to William J. Sweet and Theresa (Hanly) Sweet. He passed away July 22, 2018 at his home in North Bend.
Other than time spent at college, Bill was a lifelong resident of Coos and Curry Counties. He was well known on the South Coast for his many years working at Western Bank and for his community involvement.
As a boy, Bill’s family operated the “Queen Anne Cottages” for people vacationing in Bandon. Their home and the cottages were located on the ocean side of Beach Loop, between Face Rock and Coquille Point. The tennis court at the Queen Anne is where Bill’s lifelong love of tennis began. Their home and the cottages burned in the 1936 Bandon Fire, along with much of southern Coos County and northern Curry County. After the Bandon Fire, his family moved to their ranch on Elk River north of Port Orford. He graduated from Port Orford High School and then attended Ventura Junior College and Oregon State University.
After college, Bill moved back to the dairy at Elk River and began a coveted job as a cow tester. Cow testers regularly visited all the dairies in their territory to test the quality of the milk produced by each herd. At that time there were many dairies in the area, one of which was operated by Hillis Perkins at New Lake north of Langlois. It was there that Bill came to know his future wife, Evelyn. They married in 1941 and were happily married for 69 years until her passing in 2010 at the age of 90. She was truly the love of Bill’s life and he cared for her with patience and kindness as her health declined the last nine years of her life. He became an excellent cook, learned how to take care of all the household duties and doted on Evelyn, often bringing her flowers and breakfast in bed.
When Bill and Evelyn married they moved to the Elk River Ranch. There Bill began to build an award winning herd of registered Jersey dairy cattle culminating with a bull named Tristram Lord Basil, whose name is still carried on in the names of registered Jerseys today. Bill’s cattle were highly sought after and were sold to dairies across the US, Canada and one bull was sold to a dairy in Costa Rica. Bill was active in the American Jersey Cattle Association and in 1959 was named the Association’s Master Breeder, an annual award given to one individual who has most improved the Jersey cattle breed.
In 1960, Bill became President of Western Bank. Previously the bank had been known as the Bank of Bandon, founded by Bill’s grandfather and four others in 1904. When a second branch was opened in Coos Bay in 1960, the name was changed to Western Bank. Under Bill’s leadership, the bank grew from two branches to 41 located across Oregon. He was well known as a banker who cared about customers and tried to help them in any way he could.
Bill served on many boards of directors, often as an officer. These included Pacific Power and Light, Pacific Telecom, Bohemia Corporation, Byers Industries, Lewis and Clark College, Northwestern School of Law, Oregon Transportation Commission, Oregon State Parks Committee, Oregon Parks Foundation, Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Oregon Banking Board, Oregon Historical Society, AAA of Oregon and Idaho, Oregon State Police Foundation, NERCO and the Friends of Cape Blanco. He was a member of the Arlington Club and the Multnomah Club in Portland, and the BPOE Elks. As a founding member of the Oregon Health Sciences University Foundation, Bill was instrumental in fundraising for the Oregon Health Sciences University and the building of the Casey Eye Institute located adjacent to OHSU in Portland.
Bill’s awards included Coos Bay Citizen of the Year in 1980, the Aubrey R. Watzik Award from Lewis and Clark College, the Glenn L. Jackson Leadership Award from Willamette University, the Oregon Health Sciences University Distinguished Service Award, an honorary doctorate from Lewis and Clark College, induction into the Oregon Bankers Association Hall of Fame, and he was given the honor of making the commencement speech to the MBA graduates of Willamette University when he was 90 years old.
In 1965, Bill and Evelyn moved from Sixes to the home in North Bend where they lived the remainder of their lives. Bill began playing tennis regularly with a group who called themselves the “Crooked Brook Squash Club.” There were no indoor facilities in the area at that time so during the winter months they often played in the gym at Marshfield High School at 5 a.m. Bill played in senior tournaments around the northwest until his late 80s often beating players many years younger than he. He was instrumental in the building of the William J. Sweet Tennis Center in Coos Bay which was named after Bill’s father. He played tennis there five days a week until he began to have balance problems at age 94.
Bill also loved to play duplicate bridge, becoming a life master of the American Contract Bridge League in the 1960s. He played in tournaments in many cities including San Francisco and Seattle. He continued to play bridge three times a week in Coos Bay, North Bend and Bandon until he was 95.
His other favorite hobbies were playing cribbage, fishing and razor clam digging. He fished in many places for various kinds of fish, including marlin in Mexico, but his favorites were fishing for Chinook and Steelhead on the Elk and Sixes Rivers and fishing for Spring Chinook Salmon on the Umpqua River and the Rogue River, sitting in a boat, waiting for fish to bite, while playing cribbage, laughing and telling stories with friends and family. He and Evelyn built a house on the Umpqua River at Wells Creek in the 1970s. He chose the particular spot mostly because it was located at an excellent Chinook fishing hole. The dock was in the exact right place that they could actually leave the boat tied to the dock and still catch fish.
Bill had a very kind heart and he always believed things would work out for the best no matter the circumstances. He was very humble and did not talk about his many accomplishments. He loved all animals, especially his cows. He also was very interested in the history of Oregon and of course lived a lot of it himself.
Bill’s family was a huge part of his life. He and Evelyn had four children, three sons and one daughter all of whom live in Coos and Curry Counties. He enjoyed all his three generations of grandchildren, many of whom he taught to drive on the ranch when they were really much too young to be driving. He was one of 22 first cousins on his father’s side. They often had large Sweet family picnics and were close friends for their lifetimes. Bill was always outgoing and had many, many friends. He will certainly be missed by many.
His belief in God was very strong. He was a member of the Episcopal Church from boyhood, faithfully attending Emmanuel Parish in Coos Bay until his health would no longer allow. Until the last two weeks of his life, he got down on his knees at his bedside every night to pray, turning over his problems and worries to the Lord, which he firmly believed was an integral part of his living a long healthy life. He did not smoke or drink, drank big glasses of milk at every meal, and ate lots of honey and wholesome food, often grown by Evelyn in her lovely gardens. With his constant exercise his health was amazing until his body finally decided it was ready to rest, so that he could join his beloved Evelyn.
Bill is survived by his children, William P. and Kimberlee Sweet, Robert K. and Michelle “Shelly” Sweet, Steven H. and Karen Sweet, and Mary Anne and Ronald Puhl; grandchildren, William L. Sweet, Joel and Christie Sweet, Kaley and Matt Goucher, Jordan and Amanda Sweet, Royce Long, Stephanie and Ryan DeMars, Evelyn K. Sweet, Shannon and Joe Litzinger, Sarah Sweet, Karis and Greg Frohmann, Nicholas Puhl, and Greg Puhl; step grandchildren, IB Williams, Keith Bohannon, and Barrett and Nicole Williams; great-grandchildren, Justin Sweet, Jaycob and Whitney Sweet, Jason Sweet, Samantha Lucero, Ethan Goucher, Declan Goucher, Bandon Sweet, Quinn Dash, Victoria Saxton, Cole Hakki, Zack Litzinger, Kase Frohmann and Bryce Frohmann; step great-grandchildren, Audrey Williams, Charlotte Williams and Ivan Williams; great-great grandchildren, Jay Sweet and Kara Sweet; daughters in-law, Lenore Sweet and Patricia Sweet; brother, Donald and Beth Sweet; numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and many great friends.
Bill was preceded in death by his wife, Evelyn Sweet in 2010; sisters, Helen Mayes and Anne Felsheim; brother, Piercy Sweet, and his grandsons Ryan Sweet, Sean Sweet and Stanley Sweet.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Bill may be made to the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) Foundation, Mail Stop 45, PO Box 4000, Portland, OR 97208-9852, the Oregon State Police Foundation, PO Box 2074, Salem, OR 97308-3085, or South Coast Hospice, 1620 Thompson Road, Coos Bay, OR 97420.
Arrangements are under the care of Coos Bay Chapel, 541-267-3131.
Friends and family are encouraged to sign the online guestbook at www.coosbayareafunerals.com