Betty Proffitt

Baker City, 1936-2019

Betty Messer Proffitt, 82, died March 25, 2019, at Baker City.

There will be a visitation from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday at Gray’s West & Co. Pioneer Chapel, 1500 Dewey Ave. Her funeral will follow, beginning at 10 a.m. also at Gray’s West & Co. Pioneer Chapel. There will be a reception afterward at Dave and Julie Mespelts’ residence at 625 Washington Ave., Baker City, OR 97814.

Betty was born on May 8, 1936, at Denton, Kentucky, to Anderson and Cecile (Rice) Messer. She attended Albany High School. On July 23, 1963, Betty married Norman Proffitt at Weiser, Idaho.

She worked as a cook at Baker High School for 30 years, retiring in 2000. In her spare time, Betty enjoyed spending time with her children, grandchildren and family. She liked gardening, crocheting, feeding birds and squirrels, cooking, taking trips to the coast and going on rides in the mountains with her husband.

Her greatest accomplishments included raising six boys and, according to her husband, Norman, putting up with him for the last 55 years.

Betty is survived by her beloved husband, Norman Proffitt of Baker City; sons, Charlie (Kim) Mespelt of Baker City, Larry Mespelt of Clarkston, Washington, David (Julie) Mespelt of Baker City, Bob (Arletta) Mespelt of Dunseith, North Dakota, and Norman Jr. (Jess) Proffitt of Rock Springs, Wyoming; 13 grandchildren; and 27 great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents Anderson and Cecile Messer; a sister, Mabel Britton; and a son, Tom Mespelt.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Heart ‘n’ Home Hospice through Gray’s West & Co. Pioneer Chapel, 1500 Dewey Ave., Baker City OR 97814.

To light a candle in memory of Betty or to leave a condolence for the family, go to

Phyllis Brownlee

Former Baker County resident

Phyllis Brownlee, 93, a noted interior designer and Arabian horse breeder, died of a stroke on March 2, 2019, at Astoria.

Brownlee was raised on a ranch at Rock Creek, near Haines. After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Oregon, she did a short stint as an advertising copywriter in Portland.

When she and her first husband, John Koines, moved to Honolulu in the 1950s, she began working for Theo H. Davies, one of the “big five” trading companies in what was then the Territory of Hawaii. The company was importing Herman Miller furniture and Brownlee learned everything she could about the products, which were difficult to assemble.

Soon, local architects were asking for her help placing the furniture in buildings and homes. Brownlee began learning on the job, eventually doing her own interior design work. She collaborated often with Pete Wimberly, a prominent architect in Hawaii, the West Coast and the Pacific Rim.

Brownlee went on to have a successful career as an interior designer. She was recognized for her use of local design motifs, colors and indigenous art work in restaurants, hotels, resorts, banks and private homes.

The hotelier Laurance Rockefeller commissioned her to design interior hotel spaces at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Hawaii and the Fijiian in Fiji. She received the International Design Award for the Batik Dining Room at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Hawaii. Brownlee counted her years in Hawaii as some of the most productive and expansive in her design career.

Phyllis Armand Perkins Brownlee was born in Baker City to Grace and Armand Perkins. She began riding at an early age, and in the early 1970s, horses called her back to Eastern Oregon. She and her second husband, Edward “Mick” Brownlee, a noted sculptor, returned to the Baker Valley, where she had a second successful career as an Arabian horse breeder.

Drawing on the knowledge of her father, Armand, who was known for his horse trading acumen, and her own research and sensibilities, Brownlee bred and raised many champion Arabians at the Bar One Ranch, at the foot of the Elkhorn Range near North Powder. The Arabian Horse Times recognized her as one of the nation’s 30 leading Arabian horse breeders.

Brownlee and her husband built a life that combined art, ranching and horses on the Bar One. Both were involved in the local community, with the Baker County Chamber of Commerce, the Oregon Trail Museum, the Haines park, and the rebuilding of the Haines Steak House. They were instrumental in launching the Old Hands Contest that recognized a working cowboy each year at Haines.

Despite some of the messy work that comes with horse stable management, Brownlee always looked stylish, even with mud on her boots. She was instantly recognizable by her proud bearing, a stylish hat and elegant clothes.

Brownlee spent her final decades in a beautifully designed home at Neahkahnie, on the Oregon Coast.

Brownlee was preceded in death by her husband, mother, father and her sisters, Cornelia Perkins and Belle Rogers.

Survivors include her three stepchildren, Kevin Brownlee (Marla), Shannon Brownlee (Greg) and Shawn Brownlee (Denise); seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Esther Evans

Baker City, 1925-2019

Esther Bork Evans, 94, died March 20, 2019, at Baker City.

Her memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 30, at the McEwen Church on the Sumpter Highway. There will be a graveside service and interment at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at the Enterprise Cemetery in Enterprise.

Esther was born on Jan. 30, 1925, to Richard and Edith Wilson Surber. She had 11 brothers and sisters.

She married Lee Bork on April 29, 1945, and was married to him for 48 years until his death in 1993. They made their first homes at Enterprise, Baker, then to Umatilla in 1976 until 1995.

She married Arley Evans and moved to Lewiston, Idaho. Arley died in 2009.

Returning to Baker in 2010 she lived out her life here. While living at Elkhorn Retirement Village she enjoyed taking meals on wheels to the shut-ins at her building.

Everyone loved to see her coming and she loved the opportunity to provide service to her neighbors.. She was fortunate to have niece and nephew, Saundra and Harry Bork, close to take her on drives around Eastern Oregon and make her last years truly golden.

She was preceded in death by husbands, Lee and Arley; sons, Chester Perry and George Perry; son-in-law, Ron Shoemaker (Bernadine and Ron were married 40 years; Ron was considered one of her sons); and 10 brothers and sisters.

Esther is survived by her children, Ralph Bork and his wife, Debbie; daughter, Bernadine Shoemaker; six grandchildren, Laurie Perry, Jeremy Shoemaker, Elijah Bork, Robert Shoemaker, Jacob Bork and Caleb Bork; 10 great-grandchildren; sister, Rosemary LeSollen; and so many nieces and nephews, many of whom called her their second mom or Auntie Mom.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through Tami’ Pine Valley Funeral Home, P.O. Box 543, Halfway, OR 97834. On line condolences may be made at