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Multnomah Falls Lodge operator Harold Buck dies


Son followed in footsteps of dad to run the historic gorge icon

by: ARCHIVE PHOTO - Rick Buck, left, and his father Harold Buck are shown in 1990 following Harold Bucks retirement from running the Multnomah Falls Lodge for many years. Harold Buck died last week at the age of 93.Troutdale lost one of its own last week with the death of 93-year-old Harold Buck, longtime owner-operator of the Multnomah Falls Lodge.

More importantly, his son Rick Buck, who now runs the lodge, lost a father.

Born in 1920, Harold Buck was part of an iconic generation: a child of the Great Depression, veteran of World War II, self-made man with a wry wit who loved his family over all else and who had a close relationship with hard work.

Rick Buck, one of four siblings, said his father always worked six days a week. He was in retail for many years, including owning his own business, before buying the business to run the lodge in the 1970s.

He worked hard at the lodge too, which he considered his dream job. But before he welcomed his first guest, Buck renovated the stone and timber building — built in 1925 — and brought it closer to the original.

But for the first two weeks, according to an Outlook article when he retired in 1990, Buck helped a crew to literally “scrub the lodge from the basement to the balcony.”

Then he got rid of out-of-place elements, like neon signs, aluminum windows and a stucco exterior. He replaced the wiring, repainted, expanded the kitchen and transformed the lunch counter to a 160-seat restaurant that still features Oregon foods and homemade soups and breads.

Architect A.E. Doyle, who designed many Portland landmarks, including the Central Library and Reed College, designed the timber-and-stone building.

The land for the lodge, which includes Multnomah Falls Park, was donated by lumber baron and philanthropist Simon Benson with the stipulation the city of Portland pay for construction of the lodge.

The lodge operates under a lease agreement with the owners, the U.S. Forest Service.

Gene Zimmerman, a Columbia Gorge ranger when Harold Buck ran the lodge, said Buck always “wanted to do the right thing” in fixing up the lodge and gave the same attention to his guests.

“Anyone who walks through that lodge is treated like someone who walks into a house,” Zimmerman said. “All business people should be like that.”

But he was also a dad, and Rick Buck recalled with fondness annual family vacations, for 10 years in a row, when his parents would rent a travel trailer and head for the coast — but make the kids sleep in tents.

Harold Buck had a great dry sense of dry humor and “was known for his one-liners,” Rick Buck said. He also like to tease his kids, and called them Issue 1, Issue 2, Issue 3, Issue 4, he said. “He’d say, come here, Issue 2.”

A service for Harold Buck will be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 9 at Gresham Memorial Chapel. His family suggests contributions to Kaiser Permanente Hospice Care instead of flowers.

Harold Buck also was an avowed patriot, said his son, who grew up hearing stories about how his father had survived a kamikaze attack on his ship during the war.

Every year since the 1990s, Harold took his entire family to a World War II veterans’ reunion, a tradition that is now their annual family reunion, Rick Buck said.

“We’ll keep going back, year after year, because it’s a family tradition,” he said. He said this year’s reunion will include a tribute to his father.

“They always treated him and others like him like the heroes they were,” he said.