Longtime La Grande Businessman Dies At 84 La Grande has lost one of its brightest, a man who will forever be linked to the economic development of this community.
Bob Fallow, 84, died Nov. 2 in Tualatin. A service will start at 11 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church. Private burial will be at the Grandview Cemetery.
Fallow was born in Imbler April 2, 1922, and lived in Union County most of his life. He graduated from La Grande High School in 1940 and later attended what is now Eastern Oregon University. He served in the Air Force during World War II and then returned to La Grande where he started a memorable career in business and economic development.
“He had a real commitment to the community. He was one of those visionary people who had quite a bit of foresight. He worked to make those visions come to fruition,” said Steve Anderson, a La Grande engineer formerly of the engineering and design firm Anderson Perry and Associates Inc. Bill Hermann of La Grande has a similar sentiment.
“Union County and La Grande owe a major debt of gratitude to Bob Fallow,” Hermann said. Fallow’s legacy is everywhere on Union County’s economic landscape. He played a major role in getting the Union County Economic Development Corporation founded, Anderson said. The corporation went on to do things such as help start the Union County Airport Industrial Park, which contributed to bringing Terry Industries and Barreto Manufacturing Inc. to La Grande. Fallow was also a founding member of the La Grande Industrial Development Board, which, along with the UCEDC, helped lead efforts to bring Terry Industries, a trailer manufacturing firm, to La Grande in the late 1960s.
Fallow was not one who brought his accomplishments to the attention of others. “He made all kinds of things happen, but he was not one to stand up and take credit,” Anderson said.
Still, Fallow’s accomplishments were not overlooked. For example, he was named the Union County Chamber of Commerce’s man of the year in 1969.
Later Fallow was honored for his efforts to restore La Grande’s historic Foley Building, a structure some wanted torn down. Fallow and Anderson worked as partners to restore the building. The Oregon Downtown Development Association saluted Fallow and Anderson for their efforts in 1988, giving them its Downtown Development Project of the Year award.
The Joseph Building is another structure Fallow helped preserve. The building was in danger of being torn down after it closed as St. Joseph Hospital around 1970. Enter Fallow, who purchased the building with a group of partners. The group rented the building to Union County, which later purchased it, said Peter Fallow, one of Bob’s three sons.
The businesses Fallow owned included La Grande Amusement Company, La Grande Coin Operated Cleaners and the Contemporary Shop. The Contemporary Shop carried such things items as records that customers could take off the wall and listen to before purchasing.
Fallow became a member of the Oregon Amusement Music Operators Association after purchasing La Grande Amusement Company. He was once named the association’s Coin Operator of the Year. In the 1980s Fallow was chairman of the the Oregon Music Operators Association’s legislative committee. He led efforts to get legislation passed that allowed the Oregon State Lottery to begin using the video lottery system it has in place today.
Fallow worked hard to establish political contacts that benefited not only his industry but also Union County.
“He was very influential politically. If the governor came to town, the governor knew who Bob was,” Anderson said. “One time (former governor) Vic Atiyeh was here, and he said hello to Bob like he was his best friend.”
Fallow ran La Grande Amusement Company with the help of his son, Peter, who worked with him for 29 years.
“He was my father, my boss and became my best friend,” Peter Fallow said. “He taught me so much about business and life, more than I ever learned in school.”
Some of his most lasting lessons focused on the importance of reaching out. “He always talked to me about the importance of being a giver in the community and not a taker,” Peter Fallow said.
Hermann noted that Bob Fallow worked closely with his wife, Cay, to bring attention to Northeast Oregon. “Bob and Cay Fallow caused La Grande to be viewed as a bright light in the eyes of those on the western side of La Grande.”
Fallow loved fishing and hunting. He and others in the business community started a group of fishing buddies, the Purple Gang, which still exists today. Fallow also enjoyed golf and once made a hole in one at the La Grande Country Club.
Regardless of what he did, Fallow’s mind was never idle. “His head was always full of ideas,” Anderson said.
Fallow, like everyone, faced many challenges in life, but he never let them divert them from his mission, said Dick Montgomery, who served as publisher of The Observer from 1972 to 1975 and now lives in Portland.
“Through the storms of his life he never lost sight of the betterment of La Grande.”
The Observer, La Grande, Oregon – Published: November 6, 2006, Written by Dick Mason