Army Corps of Engineers honors late Tigard man
While Bernard "Bud" Ossey died in July at age 101, the Tigard resident left behind not only a legacy of being noted for being part of the "greatest generation of engineers that designed and built the great hydroelectric system of dams in the Northwest," but also as a respected friend and colleague.
To pay tribute to his long tenure — which left an indelible mark on how the Pacific Northwest produces and provides water to millions in the Northwest — Ossey was honored Aug. 17 at Tualatin Country Club. There, he was posthumously awarded the 2021 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Distinguished Civilian Award for the Portland District.
Col. Michael Helton, commander for the Corps' Portland District, said the honor of being nominated for the award requires more than 30 years of federal service with at least 20 years working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and 10 years in the Portland district office.
"Over those years, each of those civil servants has strengthened the district and pushed us toward progress, preparing us for the future," Helton said.
Graduating with a degree in civil engineering from Oregon State University in 1943, Ossey would go on to help design and analyze structural features for hydroelectric plants, focusing on the powerhouses at McNary, John Day and The Dalles and the Snake River dams. He was later inducted into the Oregon State University's Engineering Hall of Fame.
Steve Miles, director of the Corps' hydroelectric design center, called Ossey a "national treasure, a legend and a pioneer engineer of the Federal Columbia River Power System" and hailed his "distinguished career in public service, leadership, engineering and community service."
Ossey, Miles noted, was a member of the "Greatest Generation." Ossey served in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he worked with engineer combat and construction training units, building airfields, roads, bridges and more.
"It is with great sadness and sympathy that this nomination came just weeks late for Mr. Ossey to be here today and take part in this ceremony," said Miles. "He was a humble man. He loved humor. He loved life — very proud of his service, very proud of his country."
Miles said that Ossey was one of the founding fathers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' hydroelectric design specialty team, which dates to 1946.
"One place he loved dearly, was this beautiful club here in Tualatin," said Miles. "He's a rock star here. The staff loved him here because he treated the staff with respect."
Ossey was a Tualatin resident from 1975 to 2017. He lived along the sixth hole of the Tualatin Country Club.
A member of Tualatin Country Club for more than 50 years, Ossey golfed there until he was age 96.
He spent the last four years of his life at Bonaventure of Tigard, an assisted living facility.
Part of the Aug. 17 presentation included a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers video in which Ossey talked about his life and long career. One segment had Ossey recalling the 1937 dedication of the Bonneville Dam, which he attended with his father, who was the Bonneville Power Administration's chief of transmission design. Attending the ceremony was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
"We had a front-row seat, which was pretty enormous for me sitting there waiting for the president, and he waved back at me," recalled Bud Ossey. "Of course, I was in the crowd when he waved — but that was quite an experience."
Later in the ceremony, Ossey's son, Don, accepted his father's honor: a large, crystal-like representation of the Corps' familiar logo of a medieval castle. A larger-than-life portrait, which will hang at the Corps' Gallery of Distinguished Civilians at is district office, was unveiled as well.
Don Ossey said he didn't have a typical childhood, noting that while his friends took trips to Disneyland or camped with their families, "I went to dedications of dams and powerhouses."
Don Ossey said his father could do mathematical problems on a slide rule faster than he could on his calculator.
After the ceremony, Don Ossey said his father would have loved the event.
"These were all people that were near and dear to his life," he said.
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