A "Sad Day In Oregon"

 

A "SAD DAY IN OREGON"

A service with full firefighter honors for former Damascus Mayor, Firechief, &
Auto Icon, Dee Wescott, was held Saturday, February 7, 2009

Photos by Roger Brinkley

Dee Wescott bought his first car in 1939, when he was twelve years old. It was a Model T Ford pickup which, he said, he soon began to modify, rebuilding the motor in his bedroom. A few years later he was racing a Model T roadster through the orchards of his community, Damascus, Oregon. Dodging trees was a little rough on the cars, so Dee started a backyard repair shop with a homemade wooden hoist, a humble beginning for his future rod-building career.


December 6, 1941 the family took delivery of a new Ford Tractor, Dee remembered they were using it the first time the next day when his mother ran out with the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While in high school Dee not only played football but joined the Oregon Guard (mostly consisting of those too old or too young to serve in the active armed forces) and participated in searches for Japanese parachute bombs. Dee enlisted in the Navy on graduating high school, while 17. Dee was selected for advanced avionics training and became an radio and radar technician, and served two carrier tours in 1946-1947.

After discharge Dee entered vocational school for both auto mechanics and auto body repair, while working part time for an upholstery shop. Went into a partnership with his cousin in an auto related business. In 1953 the partnership ended, and Dee went into business as “Wescotts Auto Restyling”. The new business specialized in “Hot Rodding” and “customization” of cars, along with body and fender repair and painting.

By 1953, Dee was involved with the Motor Sports Association which held races at the Jantzen Beach raceway. When a fellow driver was badly burned Dee took on the promoters insisting that they provide and maintain adequate firefighting equipment to prevent further tragedy. At the same time, Dee was driving his 32 Ford Coupe in loosely organized street races around town. Numerous local “hot-rod clubs” would meet on little-used roads anytime of the day or night to race. Sheriff Terry Shrunk (later mayor of Portland) was sympathetic to the rodders' desire for speed, but concerned about the safety of the community, so he approached the street rodders to see if some sort of compromise could be reached. Having proved himself as a leader, Dee was the natural spokesman for the rodders. When the clubs organized the Multnomah Hot Rod Council in 1954, Dee became the first president.

The first order of business was to move the races off of city streets, so the council negotiated for permission to race on idle airstrips until a permanent racing facility could be found. In 1958, the council purchased the Woodburn Drag Strip, and the races became more official. In the meantime, the council organized car shows where the public was invited to share in the rodders love of cars. Dee showed the first known rod customized from a current model car: his 1953 Oldsmobile pickup. It had started out as a sedan, but had been rolled on a mountain road. Dee salvaged the chassis and some front end sheet metal, grafted on a Chevy bed, and hand built the fenders.

In 1955 Dee married his wife Kay (Lear).

The Portland Roadster Show was born in 1956, and has met every year since. This is the longest running annual car show in history. Early on, many of the cars shown were customized in Dee's business, Wescott's Auto Restyling.

In the 1950s Dee experimented with fiberglass repair in order to work on Corvettes. This became a significant part of his business with industrial, marine and Wescott's high-quality replacement street rod parts and reproduction Ford bodies. These are generally recognized as the best in the industry and form the basis of hundreds of prize winning street rods. In the 1980s the industrial, marine, paint, and repair parts of the business were phased out in favor of concentrating on the Early Ford Replacement Parts and Body business
.

 

Dee Wescott Passed Away Peacefully On
January 29, 2009

A Memorial service for Dee is scheduled for Saturday, February 7th at 1 pm at the Damascus Community Church, 14251 S.E. Rust Way, Damascus, OR.

Obituary From:Cruisers News

 

Dee Wescott was born in Portland Oregon August, 13 1927 to Mabel (Elliott) and Jay A Wescott. While in grade school the family lost everything in the depression and moved to the Damascus Oregon area where family could help out. Dee had started grade school in Portland, and graduated from the Damascus Grade School.

Dee Wescott bought his first car in 1939, when he was twelve years old. It was a Model T Ford pickup which, he said, he soon began to modify, rebuilding the motor in his bedroom. A few years later he was racing a Model T roadster through the orchards of his community, Damascus, Oregon. Dodging trees was a little rough on the cars, so Dee started a backyard repair shop with a homemade wooden hoist, a humble beginning for his future rod-building career.

December 6, 1941 the family took delivery of a new Ford Tractor, Dee remembered they were using it the first time the next day when his mother ran out with the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While in high school Dee not only played football but joined the Oregon Guard (mostly consisting of those too old or too young to serve in the active armed forces) and participated in searches for Japanese parachute bombs. Dee enlisted in the Navy on graduating high school, while 17. Dee was selected for advanced avionics training and became an radio and radar technician, and served two carrier tours in 1946-1947.


After discharge Dee entered vocational school for both auto mechanics and auto body repair, while working part time for an upholstery shop. Went into a partnership with his cousin in an auto related business. In 1953 the partnership ended, and Dee went into business as “Wescotts Auto Restyling”. The new business specialized in “Hot Rodding” and “customization” of cars, along with body and fender repair and painting.

By 1953, Dee was involved with the Motor Sports Association which held races at the Jantzen Beach raceway. When a fellow driver was badly burned Dee took on the promoters insisting that they provide and maintain adequate firefighting equipment to prevent further tragedy. At the same time, Dee was driving his 32 Ford Coupe in loosely organized street races around town. Numerous local “hot-rod clubs” would meet on little-used roads anytime of the day or night to race. Sheriff Terry Shrunk (later mayor of Portland) was sympathetic to the rodders' desire for speed, but concerned about the safety of the community, so he approached the street rodders to see if some sort of compromise could be reached. Having proved himself as a leader, Dee was the natural spokesman for the rodders. When the clubs organized the Multnomah Hot Rod Council in 1954, Dee became the first president.

The first order of business was to move the races off of city streets, so the council negotiated for permission to race on idle airstrips until a permanent racing facility could be found. In 1958, the council purchased the Woodburn Drag Strip, and the races became more official. In the meantime, the council organized car shows where the public was invited to share in the rodders love of cars. Dee showed the first known rod customized from a current model car: his 1953 Oldsmobile pickup. It had started out as a sedan, but had been rolled on a mountain road. Dee salvaged the chassis and some front end sheet metal, grafted on a Chevy bed, and hand built the fenders.

In 1955 Dee married his wife Kay (Lear).

The Portland Roadster Show was born in 1956, and has met every year since. This is the longest running annual car show in history. Early on, many of the cars shown were customized in Dee's business, Wescott's Auto Restyling.

In the 1950s Dee experimented with fiberglass repair in order to work on Corvettes. This became a significant part of his business with industrial, marine and Wescott's high-quality replacement street rod parts and reproduction Ford bodies. These are generally recognized as the best in the industry and form the basis of hundreds of prize winning street rods. In the 1980s the industrial, marine, paint, and repair parts of the business were phased out in favor of concentrating on the Early Ford Replacement Parts and Body business.

Dee joined the Boring Fire District as a volunteer firefighter. In 1958, Dee became volunteer Chief . He remained active as a volunteer until 1997, at age 70. He was elected to the Fire District Board of Directors in 1968 and served as Chairman for many years. He loaned the fire district a small lot for a station, and for many years the air horn that summoned firefighters was kept on top of his building.

1959 was the 100th anniversary of Oregon's Statehood. When official celebration plans fell apart the community of Damascus came together and decided to do one themselves. 100 days of gunfights, covered wagons, bear feeds, buffalo feeds and a 40 foot tall wax candle... Dee was a major part of the organization and played a gunfighter. All men in the community were asked to wear beads for the celebration, to honor the pioneering spirit. When members serving in the national guard were threatened with court martial Dee, along with two others, telegraphed President Eisenhower requesting special dispensation. It was given. With money left over from the celebration the Damascus Civic Club was founded and purchased land for a community park. Dee was part of it from the beginning.

Dee was active in the formation of the Damascus Water District. Shortly after it was formed he was elected to the Board of Directors and served many years, several as Chairman.

In 1979 the fiberglass industry was being threatened by unreasonable OSHA requirements. He helped form the Oregon Reinforced Plastics Association to educate industry on safe practices, and regulators on what are and are not the specific hazards and challenges for the industry. This led to the adoption of a special and workable Oregon OSHA standard for the fiberglass industry. He served as President for several years.

In 2005, after spearheading an effort to incorporate his childhood community of Damascus, Oregon, Dee became the first mayor of the new city. He was re-elected in 2007 for a second two-year term and served through 2008.

In May 2007 Dee was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He retired from day to day work in his business. Despite chemotherapy and other complications Dee continued to keep active working through December 2008 on a customized 1933 coupe, the Fire District Board, and as Mayor of Damascus.

Dee was preceded in death by his parents, his older brother Jay Alonzo Jr, and his younger brother Coe. He is survived by his wife Kay, his children Karl Wescott, Julie Meyer, Amy Hutchins, and Tim Wescott and 6 grandchildren

 

Remember the memorial service for Dee is scheduled for Saturday, February 7th at 1 pm at the Damascus Community Church, 14251 S.E. Rust Way, Damascus, OR.

 

 

 

 

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