Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JUNE 2007
In Memoriam

Caroline P. Stoel, a longtime member of the Oregon State Bar and a widely known and respected educator, author and historian, died in Portland on March 29, 2007, after battling multiple myeloma for several years. She was 92.

She was born Caroline Mary Phillips on Sept. 27, 1914, in Lexington, N.C., the eldest of five children. Her father, an attorney, served as an Army officer on the Mexican border in the campaign against Pancho Villa, and in Europe during World War I. She earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Duke University and then a law degree from the Duke Law School. She ranked fourth in her law school class at graduation and served on the Law Review. After her first year, she ranked just ahead of her classmate, Richard Nixon, who has been quoted as saying: "I don’t mind being beaten, but I don’t like being beaten by a woman."

Caroline met her future husband, Thomas B. Stoel, in law school, where they were classmates. In 1938, after practicing law in North Carolina for a year with her father, she traveled to Oregon to marry Tom, who had joined the Portland law firm that later became Stoel Rives.

Tom and Caroline Stoel were partners in every sense of the word, sharing both intellectual and social interests during a marriage that lasted nearly 69 years. Caroline Stoel was the only woman who passed the Oregon bar exam in 1938, but she did not practice law in Portland, after being told by a member of the legal community that it would be "unwise" for a married couple to practice law within the same city. Instead, she became a secretary, chiefly to Richard Steiner, the minister of the First Unitarian Church in Portland, where she and her husband became and remained members.

Caroline Stoel was a lifelong Democrat. She had her own opinions, but expressed them tactfully. She could hold her own with anyone in conversation or debate. When President Nixon hosted a reunion dinner of their Duke Law School class at the White House, she didn’t hesitate to tell Nixon cabinet members of her strong opposition to the Vietnam War.

As her children grew older, Stoel increased her involvement in civic and cultural organizations. In the early 1950s, she was a leader in the successful effort by the League of Women Voters to reapportion the state of Oregon according to the principle of "one person, one vote." She later entered Portland State University as a student, and eventually obtained her master’s degree in history in 1973. She then joined the PSU faculty, teaching in the history department from 1974 to 2000, when she stopped teaching at the age of 86. Stoel was a strong supporter of Portland State. She was a founder of the Friends of History, a group of individuals who support the school’s department of history. In 1995, she received the PSU Outstanding Alumni Award. She served as a director of the PSU Foundation. Stoel was the author of Magna Carta: Liberty Under the Law, with co-author Ann B. Clarke. She wrote the opening chapter of the book The First Duty: A History of the U.S. District Court of Oregon and authored numerous articles. Her final illness prevented her from acting on her desire to write a book on the U.S. jury system.

Stoel was a leader in a wide variety of civic groups. She served as chair of the boards of the Oregon Council for the Humanities and of the Oregon Chapter of the Nature Conservancy; she was president of the World Affairs Council of Oregon and vice president of the Oregon Historical Society; and she served on the boards of the U.S. District Court Historical Society; the League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood of the Columbia-Willamette and the City Club. Tom and Caroline Stoel were honored recipients of the 2000 Aubrey Watzek Award from Lewis & Clark College given to individuals "who have pioneered in their fields and have enriched Oregon." They also received the 2004 Simon-Benson Award from Portland State University, which honors "the region’s contemporary pioneers of philanthropy," and the 2006 Lifetime Service Award from the United States District Court Historical Society.

A lifelong learner, Caroline Stoel was always eager to explore new experiences. She loved music and played the piano for recreation. Late in her life, she became an avid fan of the Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso. Veloso toured the United States in 2004, when Caroline was 90 years old, and she organized a family trip to hear him play at Carnegie Hall in New York City. She and Tom sat in the front row. She loved to dance, and was the holder of the 1959 Perpetual Trophy for the Dunthorpe Charleston Contest (the trophy is an old whiskey jug). She also studied and spoke French, and participated in a French club with friends and a paid instructor, "Les Dames de Lundi," until a few months before her death. She studied Spanish and endeavored to learn Portuguese in order to appreciate Brazilian music better. Caroline took up skiing when her youngest children (twins) were 5 years old, persevered after she broke her leg and skied regularly with her family, until she was in her 70s.

Caroline is survived by her husband, Thomas B. Stoel, a retired partner at Stoel Rives, a sister, two sons and two daughters, and seven grandchildren.

Portland attorney Rodney R. Mills passed away April 20, 2007, after a three-year battle with brain cancer. He was 49.

Mills was born Sept. 13, 1957, on a U.S. military base in Germany. He grew up in San Jose, Calif., but spent many treasured childhood summers "working" in the hardware store his grandparents owned in Cornelius. When Mills was 14, his family moved to Beaverton, making him a sixth generation Oregonian. In 1975, he graduated from Aloha High School, where he played football, ran track and met his future wife, Janice Hollister. Together they attended Oregon State University for two years and were graduated from the University of Oregon and married in 1979.

After completing UCLA School of Law in 1982, Mills joined the Portland firm of Kobin & Meyer, later Meyer, Seifer & Stewart. In 1986, he helped establish Seifer, Yeats, Whitney & Mills, now Seifer, Yeats, Mills & Zwierzynski.

Mills practiced commercial and construction law and litigation in the Pacific Northwest and the U.S. District Courts, Court of Federal Claims and Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for nearly 25 years. He was active in the OSB Construction Law Section and its executive committee, serving a term as its chair, and a contributor to the Construction Law handbook. Mills was admitted to the Washington State Bar Association in 1995, and was a member of its Construction and Litigation Sections. He was a member of the ABA Forum Committee on the Construction Industry and Litigation and Public Contract Law sections.

Mills’ passions were his family, reading history, golfing, traveling and music. He coached his children’s basketball teams, was active in several community efforts, and was an avid fan of Duck football and the San Francisco Giants.

Survivors include his wife and their two children, his mother and stepmother, and a sister.


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