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Tom Wildish, Eugene business leader and philanthropist, dies.

Byline: Joe Mosley The Register-Guard

Prominent Eugene businessman Tom Wildish - equally well-known for his philanthropy and patronage of the arts - died at his home Sunday after apparently suffering heart failure. He was 91.

Wildish was named 1995 First Citizen by the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, and was a past board president of the Oregon Bach Festival, the Oregon Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the Town Club of Eugene.

He had not yet been notified that he was selected earlier this month to become the third recipient of the Bach Festival's Royce Saltzman award - the organization's highest honor.

"He clearly was one of the stalwarts behind the Oregon Bach Festival," said Bob Fraser, the Bach Festival's board chairman.

Wildish, a second-generation leader of what is now a four-generation gravel mining and construction company, remained active until the time of his death, brother Jim Wildish said Monday.

Tom Wildish was injured last year in an automobile accident, but had recovered enough to visit family in the Chicago area during the Christmas season and then spend two weeks in Cancun, Mexico, this year with his two daughters and their children, his brother said.

But he had been having headaches, and underwent surgery last Tuesday to repair a cracked vertebra, Jim Wildish said.

"Then they gave him the green light and he went home on Saturday," he said. "Sunday morning, we assume he had a heart attack because he just quit breathing."

Tom Wildish was born in Elsbury, N.D., and moved with his family to Eugene in 1932. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 1936, and worked for Union Carbide - in locations including Chicago, New York and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - from 1937 to 1974.

"Then it was just a matter of finding a place for him here, when he took early retirement," said Jim Wildish, whose brother became the company's most visible face in the community.

The Wildish family's original sand and gravel company was founded in 1934 by T.C. Wildish, then moved from the Glenwood area to property north of Mount Pisgah. Wildish Land Co. expanded into concrete and asphalt operations, general contracting, highway paving and bridge building.

The company's local projects include hundreds of miles of roads, much of the Eugene Airport, the Lane Transit District's Downtown Station and the Autzen Stadium expansion.

Tom Wildish - one of the founder's 11 children - not only helped run his family's business upon his return to Eugene, but became involved in politics as well as lobbying groups such as Associated Oregon Industries.

He helped guide several arts and charitable organizations, was an active UO alumnus and had memberships at the Eugene Country Club, the Arlington Club in Portland and the Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

"He was always willing to lend a hand, and always involved in a lot of volunteerism and helping nonprofit organizations over the years," Jim Wildish said.

Royce Saltzman, executive director of the Oregon Bach Festival, said that both he and festival co-founder and artistic director Helmuth Rilling have considered Tom Wildish to be a father figure, for themselves and their festival.

"If I can use the term, he was the patriarch of the organization," Saltzman said. "It was not just his age, but his time and commitment."

Wildish traveled to New York a year ago to see Rilling direct Mozart's Mass in C Minor, and later underwrote Rilling's recording of the Mass in Germany.

The piece will be played at this year's opening on June 30, and will be dedicated to Wildish by Rilling and the festival, Saltzman said.

Wildish is survived by daughters Pamela Bosworth of Lake Oswego and Dee Jay Heger of New York City. He also is survived by two brothers, Norman and James, both of Eugene; five sisters, Alberta Steadman, Edith Pattee, Rebecca Dickinson, and Mary Helen Mickel, all of Eugene, and Jean Jensvold of Camas, Wash., three grandchildren and six great-grand- children.

Funeral arrangements are pending with Musgrove Family Mortuaries in Eugene.
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Title Annotation:Vitals
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Feb 28, 2006
Words:667
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