Camas industrialist Bob Tidland might be as well known for being the co-founder of Tidland Corp., as he is for his love of simply riding his tractor and tending to his farmland.
“He was a giant of a community leader and a business leader,” said recently retired Camas City Administrator Lloyd Halverson. “I think he was a patron of the whole community.”
Charles Robert “Bob” Tidland, a third generation Camas resident, died peacefully at home Feb. 5, 2013. He was 89.
A public memorial service will be held Saturday, at 11 a.m., at Grace Foursquare Church, 717 S.E. Everett Road, Camas.
He was born Oct. 21, 1923, in the Forest Home residence of his parents, Bessie and Ed Tidland.
According to Bob’s son Dale Tidland, as a teenager his father’s determined work ethic was already evident as he studied at the machine shop at Clark College in the afternoons, worked in the paper mill on swing shift, and attended Camas High School in the mornings. He went on to earn his GED while in the Navy in the early 1940s.
He served three years in the South Pacific and the remainder of his six-year service as a machinist mate, running the engine room on a Navy sea-going tug in San Francisco harbor.
He married Roberta Wilson in June 1946, and they lived in San Francisco until the late 1940s when they moved back to Camas — the place where they wanted to make their home and raise their three sons.
Camas resident Virginia Warren, a lifelong friend, described Bob as honest, responsible and well-liked.
“He was always happy; he had a nice sense of humor,” she said of her friend who was a water boy for the CHS football team. “He was always very respectful of adults and his friends.”
Those qualities, combined with a strong drive to succeed, would carry him through the rest of his life.
“His whole life was about projects and lists,” Dale said. “He didn’t like to do anything that wasn’t productive. If you weren’t doing something on a Saturday, he would put you to work. It has to do with having a vision of how something could happen then make it possible with work ethic, with perfection.”
Bob Tidland and his father, Edward “Ed” Harrison Tidland, opened Tidland Machine Company in 1951, six years after Ed patented a pneumatic shaft — a collapsible metal core upon which large rolls of heavy paper could be wound without damage to the center paper.
In 1954, the Tidlands bought out Camas Machine Shop and took one of the company’s owners, Art Williams, in as a partner, to become Tidland Machine Company, Inc. Williams was named president after Ed Tidland died in 1956 at the age of 68.
It was prosperous post-war times.
“By then they had 30 people in the workforce, and things really escalated,” Dale said.
In 1969, Bob became president after purchasing the remaining interest in the company from Williams. He changed the company name to Tidland Corporation and added sales and manufacturing plants in New Hampshire, Brazil, England, Germany and Japan. Bob purchased the condemned Oak Park School, located on Southeast Seventh Avenue, and converted it to enlarge their office space while new buildings were being built.
By 1990, Tidland Corporation had grown from that one Camas plant to seven plants internationally, employing nearly 200 at the Camas plant alone. Bob sold the company in 1995.
Bob’s vision was not limited to business. With his roots firmly planted in Camas, He had big dreams for his community, too.
According to former Camas Mayor Nan Henriksen, in the 1980s she was championing the need for a community center, but at the time there was no money in the city’s budget for such a facility.
“Bob called me and generously offered to sell the city the old Oak Park School for almost nothing so we could open it as a trial community center,” she said. “Little did I know that the old school would still be our only community center. Bob was always supportive of worthwhile community projects and lived his Christian values.”
He went on to donate several parcels of land to the city, including 6.5 acres off of Forest Home Road, property in the Ostenson Canyon area, and land on top of Prune Hill that will eventually become a park.
Halverson remembers fondly the day when Bob took him out for a ride on his tractor, and Bob described what he envisioned for future of that Northwest Camas property.
“It was a gorgeous afternoon,” Halverson said. “It was one of those special moments. It was magical.”
On a personal level, Dale said his dad enjoyed spending time outdoors camping and hunting, working on his property, and caring for his animals including miniature donkeys, alpacas, beef cattle and dogs.
At the age of 13, Camas resident Dave Sarchet began working for Bob on his small farm on 10th Avenue, mowing lawns and doing odd jobs. Sarchet went on to work at Tidland Corp. as a draftsman during his senior year in high school, and he returned to the position during breaks from his studies at Clark College and the University of Portland.
“He taught me a lot of life lessons,” he said. “If you paid attention to him, and really listened to what he had to say, he had great advice.”
Sarchet said he initially considered just continuing his work as a draftsman, but Bob encouraged him to do more.
“There are bigger and better things,” Sarchet remembers being told. He took that sentiment to heart and went on to complete his schooling and embark on a career as a mechanical engineer.
“He was a great person and a great teacher,” Sarchet explained. “His character and the quality of person he was was amazing. I can’t think of anyone I respect more in the last 40 years than him.”
Bob Tidland’s family, friends, co-workers and employees experienced first hand his many facets. He was a caring and generous friend and also fiercely dedicated to his work. He had a sly sense of humor and a great appreciation for his community and the nature that surrounded him.
“Even though Bob was a very successful business man, he was humble and down to earth,” Henriksen said. “He seemed to be happiest when he was in his old clothes riding his tractor or enjoying his miniature donkeys.”