Robert DeArmond (third from right, next to Allan Price, former UO vice president for advancement and former UO President Dave Frohnmayer) at a retirement party for Herb Yamanaka at the McMorran House in 2002.
Every Monday, week in and week out, Associate Athletic Director Herb Yamanaka calls Leona DeArmond. It’s usually just small talk—how the week went, what’s up with relatives, where they went to lunch. After all, old friends can chat about anything, and Herb’s friendship with Leona and her husband, Bob, spans more than five decades.
“They have been wonderful, close, personal friends,” says Herb, a UO fundraiser who graduated from the university in 1956, learned philanthropy from the legendary Len Casanova, and worked with the UO Department of Intercollegiate Athletics ever since.
The DeArmonds first met Herb during the 1966 fundraising campaign to build Autzen Stadium. Bob, who graduated from the UO four years ahead of Herb, had ownership in an Alaskan barge company. Herb had a passion for fishing the Yukon River.
“We could talk Alaska,” says Herb. “We knew every port, and we soon became fast friends.” Over the years, they shared many fly-fishing adventures in Oregon and Alaska—and, of course, some fishing stories.
Like the time Bob just couldn’t follow directions. “The guide kept telling us to cast along the edge of the river,” recalls Herb. “Because of an old hand injury, Bob couldn’t do it. He was casting into the middle of the river. The guide kept saying ‘The biggest trout are over there at the edge.’ Well, wouldn’t you know it, Bob ended up catching the biggest trout!”
Over the years, Herb has given the DeArmonds a number of his signature handmade wooden bowls—gifts he makes for friends, UO donors, and to sell at charity auctions. The DeArmonds have so many, he can’t recall the exact number.
“Leona said to me, ‘If I get any more of your bowls, I’m going to have to ask Bob to build me a new shelf. Or a new house.’ So Bob says, ‘Don’t send any more bowls. I can’t afford a new shelf!’”
During their last trip to Alaska, Bob gave Herb his favorite Orvis fly reel. Bob can’t make it out to fish anymore, but Herb visits him and Leona from time to time in Medford. Recently, Leona presented Herb with Bob’s Rose Bowl watch.
A handmade wooden bowl. A fly reel. A watch. Treasured keepsakes that are symbols of a friendship with deep roots. But none is more important than the simple gift of time—a weekly phone call from a dependable friend who listens. It’s a standing appointment Herb plans to keep for years to come.