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ER: Timber icon Rogan Coombs dies at 72
Tuesday 6 May 2008, 06:39
Filed under: Humboldt, THA

Another sad day for Humboldt County.

By NATHAN RUSHTON, The Eureka Reporter
Published: May 5 2008, 8:45 PM
Category: Local News
Topic: Community

Longtime timber rancher Rogan Coombs, who made a living from and left his mark on the North Coast timber industry, died Sunday night at St. Joseph Hospital from a heart attack.

Coombs, 72, of Ferndale, had been hospitalized for heart problems since April 26, according to St. Joseph Hospital.

Gerald Garvey, a friend and forestry manager for Redwood Empire Sawmills, said he first met Coombs in the 1970s when he was a client for the Eureka-based consulting firm Natural Resources Management.

“He is from the old school,” Garvey said of Coombs.

As part of a West Coast timber dynasty that spanned four generations, Coombs was featured as a “legendary logger” by the California Forest Products Commission in 1999:

“When Rogan Coombs speaks, his voice sounds like a thousand ball bearings thrown into a grinder. Hard work, hard play and the kicked habit of smoking 100 cigars a week have lent a smoky rasp to his richly booming voice. But there’s no mistaking the sound of pride in that voice when he discusses his family history.”

Originally from Maine, Coombs’ great-grandfather, Silas Coombs, settled in the Mendocino County area after making the trek to the North Coast during the Gold Rush era.

Silas struck it rich from California’s plentiful virgin timber stands and amassed his wealth through the operation of three sawmills.

Friend and forester Rich Munoz helps manage Coombs’ 12,000 acres of timberlands that straddle southern Humboldt and northern Mendocino counties.

“He was an intelligent businessman,” Munoz said. “He made good decisions and people liked him.”

Coombs worked in the timber industry throughout the state in a career that spanned many decades and included working with his father Mal at his sawmill in Piercy in the 1950s through the 1970s, when Coombs went into business for himself.

Along with the McMillan family, Coombs also helped develop the Arcata-area Woodland Heights subdivision.

Munoz said it was Coombs’ lifelong dream to see a timber history attraction on his property and supported the local timber heritage preservation efforts of Humboldt County’s Timber Heritage Association and a similar volunteer group in Mendocino County.

Chris Baldo, president of Roots of Motive Power located in Willits, said Coombs was the largest financial donor to his group, which began documenting and preserving timber industry history in the region in 1982.

Coombs donated several pieces of equipment, including two gas-powered railroad speeder cars — one from the Pacific Lumber Co. and the other from the Long Bell Lumber Co. — that were used to haul timber crews.

Baldo said Coombs had a longtime interest in timber history that started back in his college days when he attended Oregon State University during the 1950s, when there were still steam engine logging operations.

“He paid for some pretty astounding restoration projects,” Baldo said.

Among those were the restoration of two 14-foot-tall wooden wheels for horse-drawn timber equipment and a “straddle buggy” used to transport lumber at the Coombs Lumber Co. in Piercy.

And when the Pacific Lumber Co. shut down its railroad in Scotia, Baldo said Coombs obtained the Train Master’s Office and paid carpenters to restore it back to its former glory.

“Nobody else would have taken the initiative,” Baldo said.

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2 Comments

I knew Rogan for many years. He was one of those bigger than life people who would take the time to ansewer a letter from a stranger and make you feel as if you were his best friend. He will be dearly missed.

Comment by John A. Taubeneck

From John Rinkes Jewell Shake & Shingle Mill 84029 Wage Rd. Seaside, Or. 97138
I would like to hear from [anyone] who is with the Heritage association re: Rogan Coombs projects , or, from one of his heirs. 503- 755-2778 I am sorry Rogan had to leave all of us ,with so many plans he wanted to finish. Rogan will forever [in my mind] be sitting on that [small] D-8 he said ,that barely would wiggle that 10 ft. redwood! Wait Rogan, I will try to help by pushing it from behind with my [little] D-6 . Miss you Rogan, —I will Forever!! John Rinkes

Comment by John Rinkes




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