Barte Starker 3 (copy)

Barte Starker, right, talks with Jeff Larson, executive director of the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation, in 2010. The hospital was one of many community causes Starker supported throughout his life.

Andy Cripe, Gazette-Times file

Successful communities need people who are willing to work hard but don't have much, if any, interest in grabbing the spotlight and talking about how hard they're working.

These are folks you usually find working quietly behind the scenes. They seem to have a knack for finding the places where they can make a big difference in improving the quality of life in their communities. They almost never ask for any recognition.

These people are essential to their communities.

All of which brings us to Barte Starker, who worked for decades helping to lead Starker Forests, the company founded by his grandfather T.J. Starker. Barte Starker died Tuesday from complications of Parkinson's disease. He was 67.

As news spread this week of Starker's death, people offered well-deserved praise for the work he and his brother Bond had done over the years to help build Starker Forests into one of the most respected private timber companies in the state. (Both Starkers also were instrumental in building a transition plan for when the family company would require some outside leadership; those transitions often are critical moments for family businesses.)

But another side of Barte Starker started to come into focus this week, and that involved the work he quietly did — again, over decades and without asking for recognition — on behalf of his industry and his community.

As Gazette-Times reporter Bennett Hall notes in today's news story detailing Starker's life, both Barte and Bond were thrust into leadership roles at Starker Forests much sooner than expected: In 1975, their father, Bruce Starker, who was running the company at the time, was killed in a plane crash.  

At the time, Barte Starker was just three years removed from earning his bachelor's degree in forest management. The two brothers rose to the challenge, in part by splitting the duties: Bond, as the company president, focused on the business side. Barte assumed a role as the company's executive vice president and secretary and focused on the company's forest operations on the ground.  

By all accounts, Starker loved to lead tours of Starker Forests properties, showing people what a working forest looked like — and possibly offering a gentle reminder to his guests that the timber industry remains a vital part of the mid-valley's economy.

He served on a long list of industry groups and associations. He helped shape timber policy as a member of the Oregon Board of Forestry. He served on the boards of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Oregon Natural Resources Education Fund, Keep Oregon Green, World Forestry Center and Western Forestry and Conservation Association (serving as president in 2005). In 1990, the Society of American Foresters named him its Forester of the Year. He and Bond worked to establish the Starker Lecture Series in forestry at Oregon State University, which from the beginning has tackled big issues in forest management.

And Barte always was deeply involved in his community, working (again, usually quietly) with organizations in Philomath, Corvallis and throughout Benton County. The list of community engagement is long as well, but it includes work with the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis, the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation, the Benton County Fair Foundation, the Philomath Youth Activities Club and many other organizations. 

Samaritan Health Services President and CEO Larry Mullins noted that Barte Starker was the third generation of his family to serve on the hospital foundation’s board.

“They’ve had such a huge impact on the hospital but an even greater impact on the community,” Mullins said.  “Barte especially just really felt very passionate about the work being done.”

Passion. A commitment to community. A willingness to let others grab the spotlight. Barte Starker's life offers a vivid example of what can happen when those ingredients combine. (mm)

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