Maurice McKinnis

Baker City, 1933-2020

Maurice Lloyd “Mac” McKinnis, 86, a longtime Baker City resident, died June 14, 2020, after a long illness.

A private memorial service for his immediate family was set for June 30 at 1 p.m. at Coles Funeral Home, followed by interment at Mount Hope Cemetery.

He was born on Oct. 17, 1933, at Halfway to Ralph and Hazel (Gowey) McKinnis at the home of his maternal grandparents, Harper and Suzie (Deck) Gowey. He was delivered by his Grandma Gowey, who was a midwife and attended at the birth of many of her grandchildren.

He attended school in Grant County, graduating from grammar school at John Day Grade School and then Grant Union High School, where he lettered in football, basketball and track and went to state in track his senior year, 1952. He earned a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate at Eastern Oregon College of Education in La Grande. During his time in college he met Beverly Jean Comini. They were married on Oct. 15, 1954, at Pendleton “because deer season was over and elk season hadn’t started yet,” he said.

Mac, as he was known to many, started his working career at a young age, having worked as a hay hand, farm hand and equipment driver by the time of his eighth-grade graduation. After obtaining his teaching degree at La Grande, he was hired for his first teaching assignment in 1956 at John Day Grade School. In 1961 he moved his family to Baker and was hired as a grade school teacher at School District 5J. During his time at North Baker Elementary, Mac taught fourth, fifth and sixth grades as well as coaching basketball.

During the summer break, Mac worked for the Forest Service on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. He worked for the road crew, in brush management and trail maintenance, firefighting and fire security for the Whitman Ranger District based in Baker. He also managed the campgrounds at Phillips Reservoir and spent a number of years as the guard at the Anthony Lake Guard Station. He retired from the Forest Service after 33 years as a seasonal worker.

After 36 years of teaching and 33 years of forestry work, perhaps the job he enjoyed most was working at Cashway Lumber Company. What started as a means of supporting his building supply needs for home improvement projects became a regular opportunity to meet with friends, neighbors and former students for their project needs and to catch up on the news of the day. One home improvement project also resulted in an archaeological dig conducted by the University of Idaho in his backyard. The property had once been part of the farm land of Baker’s Chinatown and many artifacts were found and archived as a result.

Mac was an avid outdoorsman, enjoying hunting, fishing, camping and hiking. He not only enjoyed the activities with his own wife and children, but also with the members of the Scouting troop at his church. He acted as assistant scoutmaster for Troop 444, which met at the Baker Methodist Church, where he and his family were members. While he was with the troop they completed four 50-mile hikes through the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

He was a Master Gardener through the Oregon State University Extension Service, kept an extensive backyard garden, managed the family’s fruit trees and enjoyed canning fruits and vegetables. He enjoyed oil painting and completed projects on canvas, as well as on old saws. He was a UL-certified electrical inspector and among his projects completed the inspections for the wagon wheel light fixtures in the Grizzly Bear pizza parlors.

Mac also very much enjoyed getting together with family members at various reunions throughout the state. He was involved with the yearly Harris family reunion, which celebrated two of the pioneer families of Union County — Joseph Harris and J.L. McKinnis — to which he belonged. He also attended the Gowey family reunions throughout the years for his mother’s family, who were early settlers in Oregon.

Maurice is survived by his wife of 65 years, Beverly, of Baker City; his sons, Glen, of Baker City, and Ron and his wife, Jennifer, of Hermiston; his daughters and sons-in-law, Cheryl and Mike of Portland, and Teresa and James Millwood of Baker City; two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph and Hazel Gowey; his brothers, Myron, Harold and Wayne McKinnis; and his sister, Shirley Klecker.

Memorial contributions can be made to Heart ’N Home Hospice, the Baker United Methodist Church or the charity of your choice.

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