“Assume Positive Intent”

Dr. Henry W. Coe

I spent yesterday reading newspaper articles from nearly one-hundred years ago. Looking at photos. Their subject is Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, longtime citizen, entrepreneur and subsequently, wealthy admirer of Portland, Oregon, where he lived and had a medical practice.
Dr. Coe was born in Waupon, Wisconsin in 1857, and buried in Portland on Feb 21, 1927, following his death in Glendale, CA. Pretty sure he’s a relative, though none of his listed survivors match names of mine that I have; my non-exhaustive list. If he’s not a relative, he needs to report his eyes and eyebrows as stolen, because I’ve got the same set.
I’d moved to “PDX,” as the West Coast version of Portland ID’s, following its airport’s TLA – on a whim; escaping SoCal’s 2008’s collapse by moving to a smaller town. Poor logic aside, I drove my new city, enchanted by Fall leaves brightened by rain and laced with fog. My new home bustled with construction, orange mesh walling off in-progress parts. So many areas, decorated with statues! I’d slow mid-commute to admire a graceful stag on his pedestal.
Only after returning to LA did I learn of Dr. Coe; then, his gifts to his city of four statues. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln stand alone. Jeanne D’Arc and Teddy Roosevelt each ride horseback. The bronze female warrior was further gilded. She decorates Coe Circle, the roundabout center to Glisan and NE 39th in the Laurelhurst neighborhood.

The April 7, 1927, issue of the Oregonian queries, “And these statues of the great, do they not serve us as he [Coe] truly intended? …(D)o they not teach us history and romance as we go about our ways?” Concluding, “Good craftsmanship of this sort is something more than the semblance of mortals done in stone or bronze. It is perennial inspiration, grateful to the eye, and challenging to the spirit.”
“Generations will react to the very commendable purpose of a most public-spirited citizen.”
Perhaps that was true for decades – until sentiments shifted, inspiring weaponized new leaders to pull the artworks/symbols of oppression – down, and defile them.
Related or no, I feel for Dr. Coe. Unlike modern-day Richie Rich’s, Dr. Coe used his status and wealth to put artworks in public spaces, and to elevate other’s legacies. The only statue to him that’s mentioned, is that creating a bronze bust was proposed by boosters, after the Dr.’s death. No followups that this was implemented. Other than some giggling by tourists on Yelp, Dr. Coe and Coe Circle are unrecognized today.

Dr. Coe and sculptures donated to Portland, Oregon’s public

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