This is a memorial page to a person who was especially significant in championing the annual celebration since its inception and was proud to serve as the original Bohemia City Marshal for 48 of those years before retiring and appointing Cottage Grove Mayor Gary Williams to be his successor in 2007.
Henry Isaacs, the original Bohemia City Marshal, Lemati Gang member and long-time promoter of the Bohemia Mining Days Festival died on July 18, 2009, from age related causes at the age of 89.
During BMD 2010 a bench in Coiner Park was dedicated in memory of the valuable contributions Henry made to our community's annual summer festival. He may be gone but he's not forgotten. Read on to learn more about his remarkable life story.
Henry was an original. He was born in 1920 on the Fourth of July. He loved his country and early in his life he served in the Civilian Conservation Corps and in the U.S. Army Air Force during WWII. He then spent the second half of his life keeping the American Old West alive for kids of all ages through his involvement in The Lemati Gang, Bohemia Mining Days, and participating in fast draw contests.
According to Sharon Jean, former BMD Festival Coordinator, Henry was eager to be a part of BMD’s 50th Celebration in 2009. Even as his health deteriorated, Henry still worked with Sharon to make preparations for his involvement in last year’s festival.
“I saw him the Monday before the festival began,” she recalled. “We went over where he wanted to be and what he wanted to be involved in. He especially wanted to be involved in handing out wooden nickels to the kids. Outreach to kids as part of the festival was what he enjoyed most. He was probably the greatest ambassador the festival ever had.”
Henry loved his family. He was born in Bragg City, Missouri, to William and Lilly (Fowler) Isaccs. Thee days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 10, 1941, he married Eleanor Barwick in Tallahassee, Florida, after realizing that Henry’s deployment into the Pacific Theater with the U.S. Army was inevitable. In 1946 they moved to Cottage Grove and raised their two boys here. Today their oldest son, Herman, lives in Springfield with his wife Conny. The youngest son, Jim, lives in Spokane, Washington. At the time of his death, Henry had six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Additional survivors include: his sister, Bea Lisenby of Springfield, OR and his brother, Jay Isaacs of Yucca Valley, CA.
Henry also knew the pain of losing loved ones, too. Henry’s wife Eleanor died in 1963. He lost three sisters: Evelynene, Marie and Ruby and his brother Frank. He also lost two great-grandsons: Joshua Isaacs and Ken Leisten. According to Henry’s youngest son, Jim, the year 1963 was the hardest year of his father’s life. Henry lost his beloved Eleanor and worried about the safety of his two boys caught up in the war in Southeast Asia.
Although he was born in the “Show Me State” and didn’t become a Grover until 1946, Henry always considered Cottage Grove his home and had a deep commitment to his community. Like many local men who lived in Cottage Grove in the mid-20th Century, Henry bore scars on his body from working at many area lumber mills. He retired from Weyerhaeuser in 1979. Henry was also a member of the Cottage Grove Masonic Lodge.
Henry’s eldest son, Herman, told The Sentinel that just before his father died he had the chance to say goodbye to the summer festival he loved so much. “I drove him down Main Street one last time Thursday morning [7/16/09]. He wanted another ride through town before we went up to Springfield.” Herman took him to the hospital on Saturday, July 18. Henry told a nurse he was tired and wanted to go to sleep and he never woke up.
It was a quiet and timely passing for the longtime Bohemia City Marshal who loved few things more than BMD. Herman said his father lived for Bohemia Mining Days in the last 10 years of his life. Prior to that Henry’s involvement with The Lemati Gang and as a fast draw champion was anything but quiet.
Henry’s youngest son, Jim, said it all started with a gunfight that first year. “There was a man named Jack Stalls who wanted to have a gunfight as part of Bohemia Mining Days, but nobody would take him up on it,” Jim recalled.
“He was told about my dad, who agreed to do it, but he had to borrow a Colt revolver first. There was a band in the Helena Saloon and when the band played a song about ‘take your fight outside,’ that was their cue. They came in the saloon and hollered indecencies and were asked to take it outside, which they did. When it was over Stalls ended up in the horse trough and my dad wound up laying in the street, where a car (that wasn’t involved) almost hit him. On Friday, they did the same thing, and a few more people were packing guns. By Saturday, everybody was packing a gun around,” Jim said.
Henry loved hunting and participating in fast draw pistol competitions. His passion for the shooting contests caused him to travel throughout the region and led to him winning a regional competition in 1976.
In 2007, Henry passed the duties of Bohemia City Marshal to Mayor Gary Williams. Mayor Williams told The Sentinel, “There’s something poetic about him going during a BMD weekend, I just can’t express it. I’m just speechless.”
Exactly one week after his last ride through the Downtown Historic District, a memorial service was held on Thursday, July 23, 2009, at Smith Lund Mills Funeral Chapel. The good marshal of Bohemia City was then laid to rest in the Fir Grove Cemetery.
During the opening ceremonies of BMD in 2010, members of the Isaacs Family, the Festival organizers and Cottage Grove Mayor Gary Williams gathered together to dedicate a bench in Coiner Park (just west of the gazebo) to honor and celebrate the memory and valuable contributions Henry made to our community and its annual festival.