This year we lost both Dr. Forrest Bird and Dr. Pamela Bird, two amazing people who contributed greatly to our community. They supported the idea of the “Invention Convention,” a program that allowed kids from around the community to invent new ideas and contraptions with the great inventor, Dr. Forrest Bird. Forrest and Pamela Bird were both “excited to see kids, young inventors, trying new things and expanding their horizons,” according to Mary Jenson. Forrest would give advice to kids as they invented, allowing them to expand their inventing skills. He especially liked interacting with these young inventors, asking them why they did things to their inventions, probing them to think more about their inventions.
Dr. Forrest Bird invented the “Babybird” respirator, a respirator made for infants. He based this invention on a respirator he invented for fighter pilots, so that they could go higher into the atmosphere and still breathe. Because of the hundreds of thousands of lives he saved with the different sizes of respirators he invented and the kind of person he was, our school wanted to be named after him. When asked the first time, Bird declined the offer. The second time, a year later, he responded “I thought they only named schools after dead people!” according to Jenson. Eventually, he said yes, even though he still thought it was weird that we were naming our school after him while he was still alive.
He has been described as “a youth in an old man’s body.” Even when he was wheel-chair bound, ideas seemed to dance behind his eyes as he thought of new ways to look at things. When asked by the Sandpoint Magazine editor Billie Jean Plaster if he thought he was eccentric, he stated,
“Eccentricity. Well, I guess the definition of course is “out of the usual” or something by Webster. But no, I don’t think I’m really that. I have my own way of doing things, and I like my privacy. I like to remain alone. And I like certain friends. Certain people annoy me, others don’t. Same way with music, all the way through. I’m not anti-social, but I’m not a nightclubber either on that basis. And I think I’ve had the same friends just about all my life. As far as eccentricity goes, I think anybody that doesn’t probably conform to everything, every day might be called a little bit eccentric.”
Forrest M. Bird was a thinker, and he had a great heart.
Where Forrest was a great thinker, Pamela was the heart. She was dynamic, founding many foundations including Innovative Product Technologies Incorporated, Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center, and was the president of the Inventors Association of Idaho. She had a strong personality, taking an air of authority wherever she went. Yet she was also approachable, as Jenson describes. “For me, she also offered things to me like ‘Hey Mary, call me when you want some advice,’ and ‘if you need some help on something, just let me know.’ She was always very open, and that was awesome.”
Some people think that the Birds were giving money to the school, which is false. What they did do was the area around the flag, and the school sign in front of the High School. He was a great patriot, and believed in America and how fortunate we are to live here. He served our country in several wars, and wanted to make sure that we remembered to honor our country. They came to speak at graduations and gave a scholarship every year, but that was everything that they did monetarily for this school. According to Jenson, naming the school after Forrest Bird was about honoring these two amazing people, not about the money.