Obituaries for April 25, 2012

By Baker City Herald April 25, 2012 09:37 am

Ned Steele

Ned Molitor Steele, 89, of Baker City, died April 19, 2012, at St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City.

The family is planning a memorial service. Details will be announced later.

Born at Live Oak, Calif., on Nov. 2, 1922, Ned was the youngest of four sons of Ned Clarkson Steele and Almeta Carrie Molitor. Ned Clarkson “Pop” Steele moved to California from Nebraska in 1913, to work for the telephone company. 

He went on to become manager of the Colusa County Telephone Co., mayor of Colusa, and the owner of a chain of movie theatres. Almeta was the daughter of German immigrant farmers; she helped raise her eight younger siblings and taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the woods of northern Michigan.

Ned Jr. spent his childhood and early adulthood at Colusa. The family spent their summers at Mill Creek, near Lassen National Park, where they built a cabin in early 1928. Ned had a lifelong attachment to the mountains and the forest, where he spent many a happy day trout fishing, deer hunting, or chopping trees for firewood. 

Beginning in 1937, the family also spent weekends working hard on a ranch at Stony Ford, where the four boys — George, Henry, Frank and Ned — would beat the flowerbeds for rattlesnakes so their mother could pick fruit for pies and canning.

Ned was a star quarterback on the Colusa football team and a pitcher on the baseball team. In 2011 the 1937 Colusa Redskins Football Team, which had the first undefeated season in school history, was inducted into the Colusa County Sports Hall of Fame. Ned went on to play football in junior college.

His college career was cut short, though, by the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The next day, 19-year-old Ned joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served bravely for the duration of the war in the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Division, in the Pacific Theater.

His service included the Battles of Guadalcanal and Peleilu. Guadalcanal was a devastating and exhausting campaign that lasted 150 days but felt like 1,500 days, according to Ned. It was the first major offensive by the Allied Forces against Japan.

The battle to take the airstrip in Peleilu (now Palau) was supposed to last four days but dragged on for more than two bloody months. Because of the island’s questionable strategic value and the high mortality rate, it remains a controversial campaign that has been described as the Marines’ bitterest battle in World War II. Ned cherished fond memories of his shore time in Australia and New Zealand, after which he continued to serve the Marines as a code breaker.

On Guadalcanal, Ned was among members of his unit to win a collective Navy Cross for their part in a battle on Guadalcanal. As the Seattle Times wrote Nov. 24, 1991, “Steele and 11 others in his unit were told to climb and occupy a steep 150-foot hill. Steele operated a radio. His orders were to dig in just below the summit and note Japanese troop movements and buildup.

“The Japanese spotted Steele’s unit the first day and around sundown, an enemy artillery barrage blew 10 feet off the top of the hill and part of the antenna off Steele’s radio. Shelling, sniper fire and nighttime infantry attacks continued each of the 10 days his unit occupied the hill. Only four men survived.”

The survivors were recommended for the Navy Cross, but Ned never received his medal.

In 2003, the Veterans History Project collected Ned’s oral history of his experiences in the Pacific War. It is available at this website:

In 1946, Ned came home from war to manage the Colusa Theatre with his father and his brother, Frank. There he met high-school senior Frances “Lorraine” Heard, who working as an usher.

They fell in love, had four children, and were happily married for 47 years, until Lorraine’s death in 1993. They lived at Colusa, Williams, and Yuba City, in California’s Sacramento Valley, from 1946 to 1959.

Ned owned the newly built Sundown Drive-In Theatre and then the Lyric Theatre at Marysville. In 1959, they moved to Orland, where Ned owned the Orland Theater, and he and his friend Jack Thomas founded the Reel Express, a trucking company that continues to deliver motion picture film to independent theatres throughout Northern California.

In 1972, Ned, Lorraine and their youngest daughter, Janet, moved to Baker County where Ned’s brother, Henry, and his wife, Della, had a ranch. Ned taught himself real estate and worked as an appraiser and owner of D&S Realty for 40 years. He also served proudly on the Baker County Planning Commission.

In 1993, Lorraine died suddenly. Ned married Gayle Marie Kirby on April 14, 1994.

An avid outdoorsman and “man’s man,” Ned had a strapping physique and a booming voice that masked his gentle, loving nature, family members said.

“Ned was an easy-going, charming man who made friends easily, was a great storyteller, and never lost his keen sense of humor or optimism,” they said. “He played a mean game of cards and was famous for his barbecue, his hunting camp cooking, and his lovingly tended roses.

“He was a true friend, honest, generous and fair. To many, he was the definition of a hero.”

Survivors include his second wife, Gayle; four children from his first marriage, Christopher David Steele of Seattle, Susan King of Orland, Calif., Cynthia Steele,of Seattle and Janet Rainey of Baker City; four grandchildren, Janeen and Michele McCormick and Darrin and Jared Rainey; three stepchildren, Stacey Tatlock, Rich Kirby and Angela Mawhinny; stepgrandchildren, Ashley and Jessica Colton, Kendra and Eric Tatlock, and Kayla, Audrey, Cody, Jackie and Adam Kirby; and two stepgreat-grandchildren, Eve and Aris.

Back in 1942, while lying in a fox hole on Guadalcanal, convinced that he would be killed any minute, Ned wrote this poem titled “My Thoughts After Battle”:

The grass is never so green,

The sky never so blue,

Music never so sweet,

Hearts never so true.

Thoughts never so clear,

Loved ones never so dear

As when death is near.

Gray’s West & Co. is in charge of arrangements.


Blanche Porter

Blanche “Maggie” Bowers Porter, 93, of Baker City died April 19, 2012.

Her funeral was at 2 p.m. today at Joplin Cemetery in Boise.

Blanche was born on Sept. 17, 1918, at Ustik, Idaho, to Edgar and Susie Bowers. 

She attended school at Ustick through the eighth grade.

She married John Roy Porter on Aug. 11, 1934. Her only child, Billy Roy, was born on Feb. 15, 1935.

She lived at Boise, at Izee, and at Anchorage, Alaska, before moving to Baker City in 1983 after her husband’s death. She attended Boise State University and became a restorative nurse in November 1976. She worked at a Boise nursing home and at Cedar Manor Nursing Home in Baker City and was honored for her excellent care of and devotion to her patients.

Later she met Ray Knapp and together they traveled to Alaska, British Columbia and Baja, Calif., making many friends along the way. She loved gardening and outdoor life.

Survivors include her daughter-in-law, Margaret Porter; grandchildren, Kandi Silvers, Randi Porter, Nicki Giesbrecht, Billy J. Porter, Robby Porter, Tamara Porter, Kricket Porter and Shariah Porter; great-grandchildren, Alaina and Natalie Giesbrecht, and Kelly, Jacob, Dylan, Taylor, Andrew, Ashley and Arynn Porter; great-grandchildren, Abram and Esperanza Giesbrecht; her sister, Maxine Tripplett; and her loving and loyal companion of 25 years, Raymond Knapp.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Roy; her son, Billy Roy; granddaughter, Tammi; and grandson, Timothy.

Summers Funeral Home of Boise is in charge of arrangements.


Isabel Dunn

Isabel Lee Dunn, 83, of Baker City died April 12, 2012 at St. Alphonsus Medical Center.

Her memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 975 S. Bridge St. Friends are invited to join the family for a potluck after the service at OTEC, 4005 23rd St. 

Isabel was born on July 26, 1928, at Elgin to Johnny Allen and Mary M. Stapleton Gawith. She worked as a nurse’s aide and enjoyed gardening, crocheting and cooking.

Isabel was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Survivors include her daughter, Roxana Williams of Kirkland, Wash.; son, Calvin Williams of Portland; two grandchildren; several stepchildren; several half-brothers and half-sisters; numerous stepgrandchildren and stepgreat-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents; and her sister, Carol Williams.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to the charity of one’s choice through Gray’s West & Co. Pioneer Chapel, 1500 Dewey Ave., Baker City, OR 97814.


‘Bob’ Donald Jr.

Robert T. “Bob” Donald Jr., 77, a longtime resident of Nampa, Idaho, and former Baker City resident, died April 20, 2012.

His memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. May 7 at the First United Presbyterian Church, 400 Lake Lowell Ave., in Nampa. There will be an inurnment service for the immediate family at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise.  

 Bob was born in Texas in 1935. He spent many of his early years in Baker City. He was the son of Robert T. Sr. and Anna Donald. His later years were spent with his parents in Mexico and Central America. He was a graduate of Willamette University at Salem.

 Bob loved his country, community and family. He pursued a long professional career in both the U.S. Marines and in the U.S. Army, serving in many locations in Asia, the U.S. and Central America. 

He played a very active role in the Lions Club of Nampa, volunteering for many of the group’s ongoing community services. He maintained contact with his cousins, their children and grandchildren, as well as friends across the United States.

 Having spent many years in Honduras in his youth, Bob was as proficient in Spanish as he was in English. His language skills served him well during his military service and while volunteering for Project Read with the Nampa Lions Club.

Bob will be greatly missed by those who knew him and enjoyed his loyal friendship and sense of humor.

Survivors include his cousins, Marguerite Mason of Laguna Woods, Calif., and Anne Gyllenberg of Longview, Wash. 

The Zeyer Funeral Chapel of Nampa is in charge of arrangements.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Lions Club International Foundation, 300 22nd St., Oak Brook, IL 60570 or to the Nampa Lions Club.