La Grande, 1923-2017
Royce Irby, 94, of Summerville, died Aug. 14, 2017, at the Wildflower Lodge in La Grande.
“Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars offered their support to Dad for several years and have allowed us to plan a memorial service for him in their Cove facility in May of 2018,” family members said. Service details will be announced when they have been confirmed.
Dad was born on Aug. 3, 1923, in such an isolated part of Nebraska that his brother, John, many years later had to sign a statement that he was born in the United States. He was the last of eight children born to James Jessie and Martha Waltrip Irby.
Dad entered the Navy on Nov. 30, 1942, and was assigned to the USS New Mexico, which was based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Having fought through nearly continuous battles, the ship was struck by a suicide bomber in January 1945, which hit and killed her commanding officer and 29 others. In May of 1945, she was hit by another suicide bomber, leaving 54 crew members killed and 119 wounded.
The ship was repaired and began to prepare for a planned invasion of the Japanese islands. News of the end of the war reached the ship at Saipan on Aug. 15 with the surrender witnessed on Sept. 2, 1945.
The New Mexico sailed homeward arriving in Boston on Oct. 17. Dad left the Navy on Nov. 17, 1945, and returned to Idaho. For his service, Dad received the Phillipine Liberation Medal (One Star), the American Area Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
Our parents married during a leave on Oct. 20, 1943. They lived at Payette, Idaho, until 1953 when the family moved to Burns with Dad working in the lumber industry.
They moved to La Grande in 1965. He worked at the Boise Cascade Particle Board mill from 1970 until his retirement in 1987.
Upon retirement, Dad and Mom became snowbirds, traveling to Parker, Arizona, each October for 25 years. They made many good and lasting friendships during their travels and enjoyed visits from fellow snowbirds at their home in Summerville.
Royce was preceded in death by his wife, Geneva, in December of 2013; and by his parents, sisters and brothers.
Survivors include four children, Constance Irby Corn of Boise, Norman Irby and his wife, Marlies, of Battleground, Washington, Patricia Irby Dorton and her husband, Danny, of Gresham, and Steven Irby and his wife, Kenda, of Spangle, Washington; nine grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.