Kermit Eugene Roth was born February 24, 1919, in Hubbard, Oregon, the son of Florence Stoddard Roth and Fred M. Roth, both educators. Kermit graduated from Monmouth High School in June 1937. As a student he was active in Boy Scouts and 4-H programs and was also a member of the high school football team. He served in the Civilian Conservation Corps as an education advisor in 1938 and 1939 in Oakridge, Oregon. In the fall of 1938 he enrolled at the University of Oregon, but his college education was interrupted by World War II. In September of 1942, Kermit enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as a sergeant with the 359th Bomber Wing in the Western Pacific until March 3, 1946. While with the Air Force he was decorated with the American Theater Service Medal, the Asiatic Theater Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Victory Medal. Upon release from the Air Force, Kermit resumed his studies at Oregon State College, where he received his degree in Industrial Engineering in June 1948. While at OSC, he was active in ROTC, fencing, and with his social fraternity, Theta Xi. At graduation he was awarded with one of two Tomlinson Commissions for an officer appointment to the U.S. Air Force.
Jean Starker was born February 17, 1920, in Portland, Oregon, the daughter of T.J. and Margaret Starker. She had one brother, Bruce, who was killed in a plane crash in 1975. Jean attended Harding and Franklin elementary schools, and she graduated with the first class to go all the way through the new Corvallis High School. It was the class of 1938 that contributed the bronze plaque in Central Park, the school’s original location. In her early school years, Jean became interested in the 4-H program and was an active participant. She credits her 4-H work with leading her toward a professional career in home economics. She entered Oregon State College in the fall of 1938 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in June of 1942. While at Oregon State she also became interested in journalism and served as a day editor on The Daily Barometer, the student newspaper, and assistant editor of The Summer Session News. She was elected to Theta Sigma Phi, professional fraternity for women in journalism.
Her first job after graduation was at McKenzie High School at Vida, Oregon, where she taught home economics and supervised the school lunch program during the 1942 to 1944 school years. In the summer of 1943 she worked in the menu department at Camp Adair, north of Corvallis. From September of 1944 until July 1945, she served as an Emergency War Food Assistant at Astoria. For the next three years she worked as a home demonstration agent for the Oregon State College Extension Service, the first such agent in Clatsop County. She spent these years teaching people how to use ration points and get along on what was available. In the summer of 1945 she attended the University of California at Berkeley, where she did special work in distributive education.
Kermit and Jean married on June 7, 1948. The couple had four children: Kenneth Joel, born May 15, 1949; Kreg Thurman, born March 27, 1951; Kathryn Jean Roth Clifford, born September 9, 1953; and Kimberly Kay Roth Griffiths, born January 11, 1959. Jean and Kermit’s first home was in Portland, where Kermit started his professional career with the Hyster Company. The family moved back to Corvallis in 1952 when Kermit became a partner and manager of the Peak Plywood Company. In 1956 he became a co-owner and plant manager of Larson Lumber Company, and in 1967 he assumed sole ownership. From 1969 until the time of his death February 1, 1979, he was manager of Roth Properties. He also as president of Fomat Foods Board in 1977 and 1978.
Kermit was active in community affairs throughout his professional career. He served as finance chairman for the Oregon Trail Council of the Boy Scouts and was a Century Club member for that organization in addition to his support of the Girl Scouts. Always a strong backer of Oregon State University sports, he was a member of the Round Table and the President’s Club. A longtime member of the Corvallis Rotary, he was a Paul Harris Fellow. Kermit gave freely of his time and talents to both the Congregational Church and the Good Samaritan Hospital, serving on the board of trustees for both organizations.
For recreation and relaxation, both Kermit and Jean liked to travel. In 1970 they toured Hong Kong, Japan, and Macau. An extended tour in 1974 took them to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Their favorite spot, however, was Hawaii, where they owned a condominium on the island of Kauai and made frequent visits to that area. In Hawaii, Kermit could pursue one of his favorite hobbies, scuba diving. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing, spending many pleasant days fishing on the McKenzie, where the Roths owned a home.
Once married, Jean turned her considerable energy to homemaking and community projects. She chaired the College of Home Economics Development Council for six years and remained on the board another three years. During these years, the Bates Family Study Center was built on the Oregon State University campus. This was the first educational building on campus to be built with private funds on state lands. She served as treasurer of the state 4-H Foundation and as a member of the advisory council to the Center for Economic Education. She has served as president and held every other office in the Mid Valley Home Economics Club. She was also on the board of the E.E. Wilson Foundation, interviewing students for scholarships from the philanthropic foundation. Jean has long been active in the OSU community, serving on the real property committee for the OSU Foundation. She has served as trustee of the Foundation, and contributed to the library renovation project and the new OSU Alumni Center. A room in the Valley Football Sport Center building is named for Jean and Kermit.
Jean is a life member of the Good Samaritan Hospital Auxiliary, which she served as the secretary for many years. She is an honorary trustee of the hospital. More recently, Jean decided she wanted to contribute in a major way to the creation of a cancer center at the hospital. She had seen what a hardship traveling to Portland was for friends who had cancer or were caring for loved ones. She wanted to help eliminate that problem for the community. She made significant personal contributions and helped the hospital foundation raise more than $1.3 million to make this dream a reality. The cancer center’s reception area is named for Kermit Roth, who served as a hospital board member for ten years.
Following Kermit’s death, Jean took over the management responsibilities of Roth Properties, which includes real estate, stocks, bonds and some timber land in Benton County. She loved building projects, and oversaw the construction of a mini-storage facility in Albany, a new business venture she established with her son Kreg. In 1994, she built a home in Newport, where she enjoyed a view of the Bay Bridge and entertained family and friends. Jean passed away in March 2015.
The first fund established by Kermit and Jean Starker Roth was established with a bequest from Kermit’s will. Annual distributions from the first fund, entitled the Kermit & Jean Starker Roth Aquatic Fund, are paid to Osborn Aquatic Center to provide swimming lessons. “We live so much around water in the Northwest,” Jean said. “Kermit and I both felt that everyone needs to learn to swim.
In 2003, Jean established a second fund, called the Kermit E. Roth Park Fund, to ensure that the City of Corvallis always has sufficient funds for colorful shrubs, perennials, and annuals to beautify the park named in memory of her husband.