Obituaries for April 2, 2014

By Baker City Herald April 02, 2014 10:02 am

Jean Griffith

Bozeman, Mont., 1932-2014

Jean Griffith, 81, of Bozeman, Mont., a former Haines-area resident, died March 30, 2014.

Her funeral was Tuesday in the Spring Hill Presbyterian Church at Bozeman. 

The family will announce plans for a local service later.

Jean was born on July 15, 1932, at Corvallis to Tom and Janet Kerns. As a young child, she was raised on a ranch in Wyoming and then in Western Oregon, but the majority of her youth was spent on a farm in Eastern Oregon. There her life’s experiences prepared her for many adventures.

One of her most vivid memories as a young girl was when her dad started raising potatoes, and to save the crop, she and brother, Mac, had to pick gooey potato bugs off the plants. 

Though she would cringe at telling that story, the necessity of helping with harvest by operating equipment not only instilled a sense of accomplishment, but also encouraged her to enjoy school.

Education was of prime importance, so school attendance was accomplished by riding horseback to either Rock Creek or Muddy Creek Districts two or three miles from home. Because they were too small to saddle the horses themselves, Jean would make the lunches while younger brother, Mac, caught the horses and helped their father get them ready. 

There was never enough tack, but the Kerns kids were envied because they could ride; so they occasionally had to escape rocks being thrown at them. 

Jean rode a horse with a reputation and was once stopped and commanded: “Little girl get off that horse, that’s a dangerous animal!”   She was very familiar with her horse named “Silver” though, so she remained undaunted by such a command. When it came to the challenge of a race, however, the beautiful girl riding that horse would take on the invitation and win with her dapple gray.

Jean was always an achiever, which she demonstrated in many ways.  Learning to swim was a difficult challenge because just getting her face in the cold water was terribly hard, but through determination she overcame her fears and even became a life guard.

Other achievements included graduating as salutatorian of Baker High School and receiving a scholarship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to attend Stanford University in California, where she studied speech language pathology.  As a young freshman there, it became necessary for her to have an emergency appendectomy even though far from home.

During her life guard job one summer in Baker, Jean met Tom Griffith and a new life’s adventure began. Tom worked with the U.S. Forest Service at the time of their marriage on March 15, 1953, in Oregon. 

Later, Tom joined the U.S. Navy so distant areas of the country such as Rhode Island and San Diego became their beginning home locations. While her husband was on a ship in the ocean, however, their first son, Jerry, was born at Baker City, and a later realization was discovered that Tom was having sympathy pains at the same time on board the ship off the coast of Japan.

Tom had determined to not make the Navy a career and committed to memory, “back in the sticks by 56,” so despite encouragement by officers to reenlist, went home and back to work for the U.S. Forest Service and became a forest ranger. 

Thus began a life of periodically moving and Jean naturally assumed the role as “matriarch” for people who lived on the Forest Service compounds.  Her level head and wisdom were an asset to many individuals in the 12 different locations and four different states they lived in during this time; and their three sons benefited as well. 

Youngest son, Randy appreciated how his mother would always give a wise answer with positive encouragement and a good direction to go without being pushy.  Older son Jerry simply sums it up saying she was just a great mom!

Son Dan recalls his mother taking the boys to a river to play and seeing another young fellow swim across it.  Upon inquiring about this, Jean told him, “Don’t fight the current, you can make it. You’ll end up downstream, but you can make it.”  Dan then swam the river and not only felt a great accomplishment, but learned a life’s lesson.

After their years with the Forest Service and additional ranching experiences, Jean and Tom were moved to become lay ministers for the Methodist Church, which they did for seven years at a church in Belgrade, Mont.  During this time they continued to enjoy the outdoors and horses with pack trips to the wilderness and family canoeing on the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.  More recent favorite outdoor activities had been skiing at Bridger Bowl in Montana, especially on family gatherings each February. 

Indoor talents included knitting, writing, cooking, making family history, church news and other volunteering in later years. Her husband, Tom, was the love of her life. As Tom says, “it was a wonderful life.”

She was a very special beloved lady, family members said.

Many family members and friends were privileged to say goodbye during Jean’s brief illness. Her faith and strength were a great example and testament to the Lord for all who knew her. 

“She was a blessing to everyone, and she herself was blessed to be active in life even skiing only a few days before her passing,” they said. “She will be greatly missed.”

 Survivors include her husband, Tom Griffith; sons, Jerry, Dan, and Randy with their spouses and eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren; three brothers, Mac, Tim and James Kerns; a sister, Ellen Stevenson; and many nieces and nephews. 

LaRue Askins

Summerville, 1958-2014s

LaRue Askins, 55, of Summerville, died March 26, 2014,  at her home in Summerville. 

A private service will be scheduled later. The date and time will be announced. 

LaRue was born on May 23, 1958, at Los Angeles to Velia and James Lavern Quine.

She attended Redwood High School at Visalia, Calif., were she was raised. She moved to Farmersville, Calif., and later moved to La Grande. 

LaRue worked for the City of Farmersville in California and the State Department of Health Services in La Grande. She enjoyed hunting, fishing and spending time with her grandchildren and family.

The family expressed its appreciation to the community for all the support they received during LaRue’s  battle with cancer. 

Survivors include her husband, Robert Askins; daughters, Melanie Montejano of Exeter, Calif., and Melissa Porras of La Grande; sons,Tyrone Askins of Kingsland, Ga., and Bobby Askins of La Grande; grandchildren  Andy, Alonzo, Aaron and Aaleeya Montejano, Raymond and Erica Jimenez, Genessa and Joseph Porras and Liliana Evalyss Askins; and great-grandson, Isaiah Montejano.

Condolences may be sent to the family through Tami’s Pine Valley Funeral Home, P.O. Box 543, Halfway, OR 97834.

Harold Wyatt

Forest Grove, 1913-2014

Harold A. Wyatt, 101, of Forest Grove, a fourth-generation Oregonian and founder and principal owner of Flavorland Foods, died March 31, 2014, at the Hillsboro Tuality Hospital where he was taken Friday after injuring himself in a fall.

Harold was born in Wyatt’s Gulch in Baker County near Richland on March 27, 1913. His great-grandparents came to Eastern Oregon by covered wagon in 1864.

He moved to Halfway in 1920, where his parents owned and operated the Gray Gables Hotel. He attended the Halfway schools, graduating from high school in 1931. Earning funds for further education, he worked locally at Pine-Eagle Co-op, Mehlhorn’s sawmill, and the Union mine in Cornucopia. Later, he related his early experiences in Pine Valley in a series of articles in the Hells Canyon Journal, the local newspaper.

He graduated from Reed College at Portland in 1938, after completing a study of the city manager form of local government in Hillsboro. He was employed thereafter by the Bureau of Municipal Research and Service at the University of Oregon, and the League of Oregon Cities,  becoming acting head of both organizations in 1941. For his supervision of the codification of Portland’s ordinances he was complimented by a city council resolution for “a very beneficial service of lasting benefit to the City of Portland.”

In 1940 he married Julia Blake, cataloger for Reed College.

In October 1942, he was called by the U.S. Army for active duty at Fort Warren in Cheyenne, Wyo., where he was company commander of a special training company. In October 1943, he enrolled in the first civil affairs training program at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He was sent to England in 1944, and attached temporarily to a British military government unit. After seven months in France and Luxembourg he entered the Saar-Rhineland-Pfalz area of Germany in March, 1945, as a member of an advance Displaced Persons Unit of military government to direct the assembly, feeding and housing of foreign nationals until UNRA, an international relief agency, took over the responsibility. Later, he wrote a book about his experiences titled “The DP Question.”

Subsequently, he served as military government commander for several city and county units of German government until 1946, when he accepted the position of chief, Civil Affairs Branch, Office of Military Government Wuerttemberg-Baden, in Stuttgart, Germany. In August 1946, in Heidelberg, he was discharged from the Army with the rank of captain. He had participated in the campaigns of Central Europe, the Rhineland, Northern France, and the Ardennes.

His wife, Julia, and daughter, Linda, joined him in September 1946, and his son, Douglas, was born at Stuttgart. Mr. Wyatt worked in Stuttgart until September 1951, a total of almost eight years overseas. During this period he traveled extensively, reporting on national and international conferences of interest to military government. 

In 1949 he escorted the first group of German local government officials on a two-month tour of the United States. In later years he wrote a book titled “An Experiment in Reorientation by Military Government in Wuerttemberg-Baden, Germany.”

Upon his return to the United States in 1951, Mr. Wyatt formed a partnership with Gribner Bros. at Banks to process frozen fruits. In 1953, he incorporated Banks Frozen Foods, and with local growers purchased the Gribner Bros. operation and subsequently, Sunset Packing Co. at Banks, the Chandler Co. at Tigard and Pacific Packers at Salem. After building new facilities in Forest Grove, he changed the name of his company to Flavorland Foods, and added corn and other fruit items.

During the 1970s, Flavorland Foods was the largest employer in Forest Grove and the No. 1 processor of frozen strawberries in the country. Also, the company established the first national brand for IQF (individually quick frozen) fruits and berries under the Flavorland label.

In 1980, Mr. Wyatt sold the company to a large Canadian food processor and distributor and retired, after 29 years in the frozen food industry. Later he wrote a book titled “Experiences of a Frozen Food Processor and some Agricultural Issues in Washington County 1952-1980.”

He was active in community affairs, serving as president of the Sunset Chamber of Commerce, Director of the Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce, director and officer of the Oregon Strawberry Council, and was appointed by Governor McCall to two terms on the Oregon Strawberry Commission. He was a director of the Northwest Food Processors Association and a member of the Washington County Planning Commission during the development of the comprehensive plan. 

In 1990 he donated his brother Billy’s 2300 cabochen collection of Oregon minerals to the Oregon Trail Regional Museum in Baker City as a memorial to the Wyatt family, Baker County pioneers. In 1993 he established the Harold Alfred Wyatt Scholarship Fund, administered by the Oregon Community Foundation, for Baker County high school graduates interested in further education. Later he funded a similar program for western Washington County students interested in agriculture. Hundreds of students have received financial assistance through these scholarship programs. The Oregon State Scholarship Commission honored Mr. Wyatt in 1999 as scholarship donor of the year.

Mr. Wyatt was an avid outdoorsman, enjoying hunting, fishing, and drifting the wild rivers of Oregon in his drift boat. He also raised registered quarter horses on his farm in the Kansas City District for riding and packing in the Wallowa Mountains. Other interests were rock hunting and family genealogy. In recent years he spent the winters fishing in Cabo San Lucas in Baja California, Mexico.

Mr. Wyatt regarded his most important contribution to be the employment of so many young people during their summer vacations, giving them work experience and the opportunity to save enough money to start them on the road to a higher education.

Mr. Wyatt had a personal philosophy of optimism, and always tried to achieve his objectives by confidence and direction. For him, the glass was always half full, not half empty.

Arrangements are pending through Fuiten, Rose & Hoyt Funeral Home in Forest Grove. For more information call 503-357-3126 or visit