by Shawn Levy
If you attended a Timbers or Thorns match between 1975 and 2019, and particularly if you attended any Timbers Army or 107ist event in that time, chances are pretty fair that you came across Roger Anthony.
And chances are you didn’t know it.
Not because Roger wasn’t active, engaged, committed, or essential. As a soccer fan, as a community member, and as a professional journalist, which he was for more than 40 years, Roger was up to his elbows in everything he did, whether that meant organizing, supporting, reporting, or simply being present, almost always with a notebook in his jacket pocket, never ever missing — or, more crucially, forgetting — a jot of what was going on.
Rather, you may not have noticed Roger because that was Roger’s style: Be prepared, do hard work, show up on the day, see the thing through to the end, and then go have a beer and share stories about how it almost all went wrong.
A native Portlander who was as dedicated to the city’s newspapers, hockey teams, and outer-eastside neighborhoods as he was to its professional and collegiate soccer teams, Roger was a founding board member of the 107ist and a board member of ROSE Community Development, a not-for-profit dedicated to building affordable housing. He passed away at age 65 in late November after a brief illness. He is survived by his wife, Lisa, two sons, a daughter-in-law, two grandsons, and people all over the city whose lives he touched.
Before I knew Roger as a fellow Timbers fan, I knew Roger as a boss and colleague. Roger spent his entire professional life at The Oregon Journal, The Oregonian, and the Portland Tribune as a reporter, editor, columnist, and jack-of-all-trades. We worked together on the Arts desk of The Oregonian, where he was my editor, on and off, between 1992 and 2001 or so, making the last pass on millions of my words before they got to print. He saved my bacon from publishing errors and vaguenesses and just plain stupidities scores of times. And — more essentially to a writer of opinion pieces — even when he disagreed with a take, he helped find the best way to present it. He believed in the final product, and he took quiet pride in getting it just so.
Unlike other editors, Roger always seemed to do his job with a laugh or a gentle suggestion. Once, in the days when submitting stories via e-mail was a new thing at the paper, I filed a piece and followed up with a call to Roger to make sure he’d received it. “I’m editing it right now,” he told me. “I just got to the first ‘however.’ ” (Note to self, I immediately thought: Use fewer “howevers.”) And even in the pressure-cooker environment of a newsroom, I never saw him lose his cool. When somebody on our staff had made a truly egregious mistake that was going to take a whole ’nother article to correct, I watched Roger read the offending article (which he hadn’t worked on originally, ahem) with a keen eye and a busy pencil and then mutter, with a sigh and a quiet deadpan, “The Oregonian regrets the error.” Yup.
Although I met him at a time when he was working with arts critics, Roger wasn’t really an arts guy. He liked sports: soccer, hockey, basketball, and baseball. And he particularly liked the inside baseball of city politics, business, and crime. He seemed to have known, witnessed, reported on, or heard about everything that happened in Portland during his professional years and well before: the private lives of public figures, the scuttlebutt about who greased whose palm, the hidden history behind every business transaction or political machination. Roger was like a walking, talking vault of behind-the-curtain knowledge about Portland, and he relished the opportunity to illuminate a story or situation by fetching a bit of deep background from his prodigious memory.
He brought all of that to bear on his work with the Timbers Army. When the MLS to PDX campaign began, Roger was there. When the first conversations about forming the 107ist were held, Roger was there. When city commissioners spent an entire day discussing whether to turn the stadium then known as PGE Park into a soccer-specific venue, Roger took the day off work and was there. And when the 107ist was formed and started doing all the things that it still does today, Roger was there, again and again and again, writing press releases and blog posts, attending meetings with the front office, taking notes, remembering details that could help us all steer through a thicket, making us better. He was invaluable.
Bottom line: Roger Anthony showed up for team, town, TA, and family, always.
He gave far, far more to his community than he ever took from it, always.
He was one of us, always.
And we are diminished by his loss, and will be, always.
RIP, old chum, and thank you.