Our firm mourns the loss of our longtime partner and friend Norman J. Wiener. Mr. Wiener passed away on May 26, 2017, at the age of 97. We found no better (brief) description of his extraordinary life than in Oregon Benchmarks, the U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Newsletter's Fall 2007 issue. Mr. Wiener was featured in that issue as the recipient of the 2007 Lifetime Service Award. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Wiener's loved ones.
Norman Joseph Wiener was born in 1919 in the St. Johns area of Portland on September 10, 1919, the first American-born son for his parents. His German-speaking Catholic parents immigrated to the United States in 1905, from an area that is now known as Romania. His father worked at manual labor all his life and his mother was an extremely capable manager of the family home with an unusual amount of common sense. He had an older brother and sister, Stephen and Betty. Betty graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1924 and “she was the first of my family to really mingle to any extent with people other than German immigrants. She was attractive, she had many beaus and she took an extreme interest in my development. In fact, I credit her with instilling in me a desire to obtain an education and eventually to become a lawyer.”
Wiener’s youth included public school rather than the Catholic school his siblings attended, a variety of after-school jobs, and some memorable events, including watching Charles Lindbergh land the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927, months after he made his trans-Atlantic flight, at the opening of Portland’s Swan Island Airport. When he was older, he got a job at the Collins Concrete Plant in Portland’s Albina neighborhood. That summer there was a major strike that affected transportation. He was asked to serve as a lookout on a truck being loaded with a concrete girder for installation at Bonneville Dam. He and the driver arrived at work at 4 a.m. the next day, both of them worried because there had been violence in the community. They proceeded out of Albina with no lights, eventually making their way to the Columbia River Highway, “and by daylight we delivered that girder without incident to the contractor building the Bonneville Dam.”
Although he was a child of the Depression, he didn’t recall being terribly affected by it. “From where I sat and lived, it was an event that was applicable to everybody....Nearly everybody I knew put cardboard in their shoes when they got holes in them; everybody wore hand-down clothes; no one spent money on luxuries, except perhaps for kids, penny candy.”