2018 Lumberman of the Year

Ted Freres

Our Lumberman of the Year was born in Salem, Oregon in 1950. As the youngest boy in a large family of 10 children, he was never alone, and grew up enjoying the company of others; and at the same time learning how to compromise in order to keep the peace… a skill that would always serve him well.

He was the son of a lumberman with humble beginnings on the North Fork of the Santiam River where his father started a small sawmill in 1922. During his early years, he was happiest going to work at the mill with his dad. His first job was cleaning chips and sawdust out of the bins and off of the chains. He was always fascinated with the process and the mechanics of how everything worked. He had the right DNA and was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps.

He attended Regis High School in Stayton, OR, where and played football and baseball. He was never the star athlete, but that wasn’t important to him. He just wanted to be part of a team, enjoying the camaraderie and being involved in something bigger than him. For him the team was like his extended family, and their success became his own.

After High School, he could have gone directly into the family business, but he was stubborn, determined to make a difference, and full of ideas for how to make improvements. So, he headed off to Oregon State, where he studied Forestry, Mechanical Engineering, and eventually focus on a Business Degree. His summers were spent working in the woods; a perfect job for a young man who liked to work hard and play hard…out on crews building roads, running heavy equipment and blowing up stumps. In later years, fond memories of those adventures would become his famous “Stump Stories”, to be retold while fishing or over a glass of red wine with good friends at one of the many gatherings he enjoyed so much.

He graduated with a degree in Business in 1973, but not before attending a few keggers along the way. One of which was where he met his future wife. The first of many parties, and traditions they would share together over the next 45 years…married 45 years is proof that he learned how to compromise. Six months after graduation they were married.

Soon there after he returned to join the family lumber company and brought with him ideas and innovation he was eager to implement. He purchased the companies first computer and worked evenings and weekends to prove it could work…today the company’s state of the art manufacturing processes are controlled by advanced computer technologies, a vision he had long ago.

He followed in his father’s footsteps, had an aptitude for engineering and took an interest in building improvements and process innovation. He was visionary, always open to new ideas, always looking for the next innovation. He enjoyed people, had a tactful way of getting things done, and knew when to compromise in order to see his ideas become reality.

A humble man, he avoided the spotlight, never seeking recognition. He preferred being out in the mill rather than in the office…he loved the feeling of community that the mill provided. The folks in the mill were like another part of his extended family. He treated everyone with dignity and respect… and in return, earned their respect as well.

Our lumberman was blessed with three boys, two of whom inherited the lumber gene, and are still involved with the mill today. When they were young boys he would load them into his El Camino, before the days of seatbelt laws, put them on his lap and let them drive to the mill as Waylon Jennings played on the radio... then he’d send them off to play in the Boneyard, and occasionally they’d sneak into the filing room to check out the “special calendar” hanging on the wall there.

The boys learned to love the mill and the people that made it special, the way their father did. He was proud of his boys.

After his father’s death in 1979, he assumed more of the daily responsibility for the veneer plants and plywood operation. His passion for progress led to continuous improvement though out the company, and the state-of-the -art processes in place today, have made it one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of plywood, veneer, and the only mass plywood panel manufacturer in North America. In 1992 he became the 4 th president in the company’s almost 100 year history.

Instead of becoming the face of the company, he focused his energy on personal relationships with his employees, providing family wage jobs, and bringing prosperity to Santiam Canyon.

Those who know him admire him… and describe him as a man with a heart of gold; a sentimental softy who is not afraid to share a hug, but avoids watching dog movies because he can’t help but tear up.

A kind man with a big heart, he was a life-long resident of Stayton, OR and an ardent supporter of the military, local schools, and children’s services. He and his wife helped bring the Family Building Blocks Program into the community and their generosity benefitted nearly every community program in Stayton… If there was a fundraiser, you could bet that he would sponsor a table and contribute to the cause.

He was a bit like Robin Hood; an unsung hero of the community, who worked quietly behind the scenes, preferring to let others have the spotlight. He didn’t need to prove himself to anyone. It was just the right thing to do. He lived by the basic belief that “It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he has taken out.” And he was always happy to give back to the community he loved.

This year’s Lumberman of the Year has worked in the forest products industry for over 45 years and made countless contributions to our industry, his company and his community. He has lived his life with honor and integrity; the kind of man we are proud to call our lumberman of the year.

Sadly, he passed away on June 3rd after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

His spirit will live on in his sons, and in the hearts of all those he helped along the way. He will be missed, but he made our industry a better place and improved the lives of all he touched.