Harold Wyatt, founder of Flavorland Foods, dies at 101
Harold A. Wyatt, a fourth generation Oregonian, was born in Wyatt’s Gulch near Richland (Baker County) Oregon on March 27, 1913. He died March 31, 2014, at age 101.
His great-grandparents came to eastern Oregon by covered wagon in 1864.
He moved to Halfway in 1920, where his parents owned and operated the Gray Gables Hotel. He attended the Halfway schools, graduating from high school in 1931. Earning funds for further education, he worked locally at Pine-Eagle Co-op, Mehlhorn’s sawmill, and the Union mine in Cornucopia. Later, he related his early experiences in Pine Valley in a series of articles in the Hells Canyon Journal, the local newspaper.
He graduated from Reed College, Portland, in 1938, after completing a study of the city manager form of local government in Hillsboro, Ore. He was employed thereafter by the Bureau of Municipal Research and Service at the University of Oregon, and the League of Oregon Cities, becoming acting head of both organizations in 1941. For his supervision of the codification of Portland’s ordinances he was complimented by a city council resolution for “a very beneficial service of lasting benefit to the City of Portland.”
In 1940 he married Julia Blake, cataloger for Reed College.
In October, 1942, he was called by the army for active duty at Fort Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming where he was company commander of a special training company. In October 1943 he enrolled in the first civil affairs training program at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He was sent to England in 1944, and attached temporarily to a British military government unit. After seven months in France and Luxembourg he entered the Saar-Rhineland-Pfalz area of Germany in March, 1945, as a member of an advance Displaced Persons unit of military government to direct the assembly, feeding and housing of foreign nationals until UNRA, an international relief agency, took over the responsibility. Later, he wrote a book about his experiences entitled “The DP Question.”
Subsequently, he served as military government commander for several city and county units of German government until 1946, when he accepted the position of Chief, Civil Affairs Branch, Office of Military Government Wuerttemberg-Baden, in Stuttgart, Germany. In August 1946 in Heidelberg, he was discharged from the Army with the rank of captain. He had participated in the campaigns of Central Europe, the Rhineland, Northern France and the Ardennes.
His wife, Julia, and daughter, Linda, joined him in September 1946 and his son, Douglas, was born in Stuttgart. Mr. Wyatt worked in Stuttgart until September, 1951, a total of almost eight years overseas. During this period he traveled extensively, reporting on national and international conferences of interest to military government. In 1949 he escorted the first group of German local government officials on a two-month tour of the United States. In later years he wrote a book entitled “An Experiment in Reorientation by Military Government in Wuerttemberg-Baden, Germany.”
Upon his return to the United States in 1951, Mr. Wyatt formed a partnership with Gribner Bros. in Banks to process frozen fruits. In 1953 he incorporated Banks Frozen Foods, and with local growers purchased the Gribner Bros. operation and subsequently, Sunset Packing Co. in Banks, the Chandler Co. in Tigard, and Pacific Packers in Salem. After building new facilities in Forest Grove, he changed the name of his company to Flavorland Foods, and added corn and other fruit items. During the 1970s, Flavorland Foods was the largest employer in Forest Grove and the No. 1 processor of frozen strawberries in the country. Also, the company established the first national brand for IQF (individually quick frozen) fruits and berries under the Flavorland label.
In 1980, Mr. Wyatt sold the company to a large Canadian food processor and distributor and retired, after 29 years in the frozen food industry. Later he wrote a book entitled “Experiences of a Frozen Food Processor and some Agricultural Issues in Washington County 1952-1980.”
He was active in community affairs, serving as president of the Sunset Chamber of Commerce, Director of the Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce, director and officer of the Oregon Strawberry Council, and was appointed by Gov. Tom McCall to two terms on the Oregon Strawberry Commission. He was a director of the Northwest Food Processors Association and a member of the Washington County Planning Commission during the development of the comprehensive plan.
In 1990 he donated his brother Billy’s 2300 cabochen collection of Oregon minerals to the Oregon Trail Regional Museum in Baker City as a memorial to the Wyatt family, Baker County pioneers. In 1993 he established the Harold Alfred Wyatt Scholarship Fund, administered by the Oregon Community Foundation, for Baker County high school graduates interested in further education. Later he funded a similar program for western Washington County students interested in agriculture. Hundreds of students have received financial assistance through these scholarship programs. The Oregon State Scholarship Commission honored Mr. Wyatt in 1999 as scholarship donor of the year.
Mr. Wyatt was an avid outdoorsman, enjoying hunting, fishing, and drifting the wild rivers of Oregon in his drift boat. He also raised registered quarter horses on his farm in the Kansas City District for riding and packing in the Wallowa Mountains. Other interests were rock hunting and family genealogy. In recent years he spent the winters fishing in Cabo San Lucas in Baja California, Mexico.
Mr. Wyatt regarded his most important contribution to be the employment of so many young people during their summer vacations, giving them work experience and the opportunity to save enough money to start them on the road to a higher education.
Mr. Wyatt had a personal philosophy of optimism, and always tried to achieve his objectives by confidence and direction. For him, the glass was always half full, not half empty.
Arrangements are pending through Fuiten, Rose & Hoyt Funeral Home in Forest Grove. For more information call (503) 357-3126 or visit www.fuitenrosehoyt.com.