By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

HAINES — As Maxine Cole watched the countryside roll by, she couldn’t help but compare it to her hometown of Bellflower, in the metropolis of Los Angeles.

“The houses got farther and farther apart. Where are you taking me?” she remembers thinking as she rode with her husband, Larry Cole.

But this country of Eastern Oregon — and Haines in particular — is where her husband was born and raised.

And there’s nowhere else he’d rather live.

“The fabric of this community — you talk about it being woven. They are a tight-knit group,” Larry says. “It makes this the greatest place to be.”

He and Maxine, who will celebrate their 48th anniversary in January, have lived in Haines since 1980. They will be honored as grand marshal and queen during the Haines Fourth of July parade, which starts at 10 a.m. July 4.

They will be riding in a truck driven by their grandson, Tanner O’Grady.

“We’ll keep it a family affair,” Larry says.

To celebrate the couple, a potluck dinner is scheduled at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 30, at the Methodist Church fellowship hall in Haines.

The Friends of Haines will provide ham, rolls, drinks and cake. Everyone attending is asked to bring a side dish to share.

Legacy dates to 1880

Larry’s roots run deep in Eastern Oregon.

“My great-great-grandad settled Wallowa County in 1880.”

His grandfather, Richard Cole, lived on 160 acres near the Rock Creek Power Plant, west of Haines at the base of the Elkhorn Mountains.

Larry, 81, grew up “on the alkali flat by Driggers barn” in Haines.

His memories of childhood include the route his dad drove to collect milk and cream from the dairies around Baker County. As he describes the stops, Larry rattles off names rather than roads: Maxwell, Fisher, Vanderwall, Loennig and Boyer.

He learned to milk cows on the Talley place, located along what is now Talley-Dobbins Road.

“They didn’t have any names back in those days,” he says of the roads.

During World War II, his father collected milk. After the war he collected cream, which was made into cheese at the creamery on Auburn Avenue in Baker City near the railroad tracks.

In 1960, Larry’s father bought the Pine Cone Station, which later become Cole Bros. when Larry and Cliff Cole went into business together.

Prior to that, Larry served in the U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1957 on active duty, then until 1962 with the reserves. Then he joined the National Guard in La Grande.

“Because they had helicopters,” he says.

Larry liked to fly. Even today, the glass top of his coffee table sits atop an airplane engine.

His dream of flying commercial airliners never happened, but circumstances led him to the job he says was the favorite of his three careers.

He was a judge for 32 years and seven months.

When people ask him how he came to be first a municipal judge, then later Baker County Justice of the Peace, Larry has a simple explanation:

“In all my working career, I ended up being a mediator.”

His first day on the job, he was handed a 1969 traffic manual and an old gavel and was told “good luck.”

That was in June 1974. He retired Jan. 1, 2007.

He first worked in Union, then was elected in Baker County. Although most of his job involved traffic citations, he did a fair number of weddings, as well.

“Thousands of them,” Larry says.

“And I went to most of them,” Maxine adds.

Maxine, 71, grew up in Southern California. She and Larry met through a mutual friend. He had three children from a previous marriage, and later they had two children together.

See more in the June 25, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.