PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers mourn the loss of John Gilbertson, a founding partner of the North American Soccer League (NASL) Timbers franchise and the team’s first president in 1975, who passed away on June 12 at the age of 85.
“John was instrumental in bringing together the initial group of investors and, consequently, can be looked upon as the catalyst for professional soccer in Portland,” said NASL Timbers player Mick Hoban. “He didn’t refer to himself this way but he was very proud of his group’s initiative in bringing the professional game to Portland.”
The Timbers will honor Gilbertson on July 10 with a moment of silence prior to the match against the Puerto Rico Islanders at PGE Park.
Born John Raymond Gilbertson on Feb. 2, 1923, he grew up in Livingston, Mont. He served in the Army during World War II in Europe and received two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for valor. Gilbertson later served in the Air Force during the Korean War. Following his time in the service, he received a bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Oregon. He married his wife, Janice, in 1948 before moving to Portland in 1950 to practice law where he later became a partner in the Gilbertson, Brownstein, Sweeney and Kerr law firm.
He played an instrumental role in constructing the 1975 NASL Timbers team that reached Soccer Bowl 75 - league's championship match - in its first season.
Gilbertson was one of several members of the Timbers’ NASL franchise who were honored during a match on Aug. 20, 2005, at PGE Park as the modern-franchise celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Timbers as a professional club. They were honored at halftime for their contribution in laying the groundwork for the USL First Division club and the city of Portland earning the title of “Soccer City USA.”
“He was a good, friendly guy who fell in love with the game,” said Hoban. “John took on the franchise in 1975 with zeal; he was very generous and served as the heart and spirit of the club for many years. He, and the initial group of investors, built upon the amateur game in Oregon and laid a great foundation for professional soccer in Portland. The Timbers momentum in the mid-1970s acted as the inspiration for the growth of youth, high school and college soccer in the state. This will be the legacy for which John and his founding partners will be remembered.”