Harry and Lorraine Lagestee came from humble beginnings. They married in Denver, Colorado on June 1, 1940. In 1941, their first son, Gerald, was born and their second son, Phillip, followed in 1943. They lived in Colorado, Utah and Texas before making a tour of the United States and settling with Lorraine’s extended family in Oregon in the late 1940s. They completed their family with three girls, Fern, Shirley and Nancy. In 1952, the couple and their first three children were living in Lebanon. Harry had been laid off from his job and the family was down to their last few dollars when Harry was hired by WOW Lumber in Eddyville—a lumber mill owned by Stan Ouderkirk and the Weinert family.
Eventually, Harry and Lorraine were able to make a down payment on a home on 11 acres in Blodgett. Harry became manager of the mill, and by 1967 the mortgage was paid in full. Through his connections at the mill, Harry bought 500 acres of timberland on the Little Elk River by Harlan. When the mill closed, he purchased BAMM Hardware in Philomath. For more than 20 years, the family owned and operated the store. Harry ran the business and Lorraine handled the accounts. As Harry was moving toward retirement, Gerald took over the store’s management.
In 1972, Harry sold all but five acres of the timber property and purchased Meadow Park Mobile Estates on Conifer Blvd. in Corvallis. In 1980, the Lagestees subdivided the Blodgett property, keeping about 10 acres. They purchased a parcel of land in Philomath on a hill with a view of Mary’s Peak, where they built their dream home. They also purchased a second home in Yuma, Ariz., and then another later in Rancho Mirage, California.
Harry died on December 22, 1993. Lorraine remained in Oregon until her health began to decline, and then she spent half the year in La Quinta, Calif., until her passing on October 25, 2006, at the age of 84.
During their lifetimes, Harry and Lorraine generously supported several Philomath and Corvallis organizations, such as the Philomath Baby Bank, Mary’s River Gleaners, Benton Hospice, and the Vina Moses Center. Lorraine volunteered for several years with the hospital auxiliary as the “Red Coffee Lady.” She was also an active member of Beta Sigma Phi in Corvallis for many years. Harry was a member and chair of the Philomath school board for many years. Harry and Lorraine were avid golfers and travelers. In their later years, they traveled to many places around the globe, including the Netherlands, Australia, Mexico, and Canada. In the states, they thoroughly enjoyed visiting their children and grandchildren.
Harry and Lorraine Lagestee’s children created endowments with Benton Community Foundation to continue their parents’ tradition of supporting youth and the local community. It was the largest gift ever made to the foundation and will have a positive impact on local organizations in perpetuity. The Lagestee family first gave serious consideration to forming their own foundation, but after doing some of the footwork and realizing how much detail was involved, they decided it made more sense to have their community foundation manage the fund. They looked at several other organizations before deciding to place their funds with BCF, where they are able to customize the endowment and target their support to specific local organizations.