Thomas Nichols

Formerly of Baker City, 1930-2019

Thomas G. Nichols, 88, a former Baker City resident, died Aug. 27, 2019, at his home in Springfield, Oregon, after an extended illness.

His memorial service was Oct. 12 at the Baker City Christian Church.

Tom was born on Dec. 3, 1930, to Ulwin and Elsie Nichols. He grew up in Baker and loved the surrounding mountains where he spent years fishing, hunting, hiking and camping.

In 1948, he married his wife, Bernadine, and they were blessed with four children, Doug, Dan, Terry and Cindi. He was employed by Safeway for 13 years at which time he resigned his assistant manager position and moved his family back to Baker where he finished his working career as a union carpenter.

He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Bernadine; his sons, Doug and his wife, Marilyn, of Sandy, Dan and his wife, Mary, of Hillsboro, and Terry of Springfield; his son-in-law, Rick Spriet of Springfield; his brother and sister-in-law, Gary and Kitty Nichols of Vancouver, Washington, and his sisters-in-law, Mildred Peterson of Baker City and Fern Beck of Portland; eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his mother and father, and by his daughter, Cindi Spriet.

Memorial contributions can be made to St. Judes Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105.

‘Bill’ Knight

La Grande, 1934-2019

William “Bill” LeRoy Knight, 85, of La Grande, died Oct. 1, 2019, at a local care facility.

His Funeral will be Saturday, Oct. 12 at 10 a.m. at Loveland Funeral Chapel, 1508 Fourth St. in La Grande. A lunch reception will follow at Island City Hall. Friends and family are welcome to gather at Wendy and Kelly’s home in North Powder any time following the reception.

Bill was born May 12, 1934, in Wallowa County to George and Vera (Smith) Knight. The family homesteaded on Eden Bench at Troy. George was a farmer along with his father, William Joseph Knight. The family moved to La Grande in 1944 when Bill was 10 to a farm his parents bought in the Grande Ronde Valley. One of his fondest memories was riding out of Troy on horseback with his grandfather. Since they had no way to truck the three horses, they saddled up two of them, put a pack on the third and went by the way of Lookout Mountain, Elgin and Summerville in three days. W. J. was about 83 years old at that time. He lived to be 107.

Bill attended school at La Grande from fifth grade until he graduated in 1952. He rode the school bus until he learned to drive and got his car. High school students didn’t have cars except for a few farm kids. Since Bill was a farm boy, he had a little 1930 Model coupe which he later traded for a 1948 Studebaker coupe.

His first job for someone else was on top of Ladd Canyon in a house, doing miscellaneous ranch duties at age 14. Bill worked for his father during high school in the Knight’s tire shop which was located on Adams Avenue at the time (where the Chevron station is now.) He would work until after dark, recapping tires. The tire shop later moved out to Island City, eventually becoming Larry’s Tire Service. He continued to work there until he was laid off during a recession in 1962.

Bill was a member of the National Guard from shortly after high school until 1961.

Bill married Dolores Jean Humlicek on Aug. 30, 1953, at Milton-Freewater, and they made their home in La Grande. They had three children, Brian, Kemit and Lisa. Brian Merrill passed away in 1956. Bill and Dolores divorced in 1981.

Bill became interested in learning to fly a helicopter and have his own business after his father laid him off in ’62. He helped with the local forest firefighting crews while with the National Guard and got the idea of the helicopter being used for agriculture here in the valley. He went to Yakima, Washington, and bought his first helicopter, a Bell 47-D1 bubble nose, in 1963 where he began his training. While learning to fly, Bill worked in south central Washington for a few months, learning how to mix farm chemicals and other aspects of Ag spraying. He started Rambling Rotors, Inc. in 1963 at the age of 28.

By 1985, Rambling Rotors Inc. had seven Helicopters and 16 employees. He was the FBO for the Union County Airport for one year. Bill also founded the Lifeguard III Air Ambulance at the Pendleton Fire Department. Bill was well-known as an outstanding pilot and his abilities were not just limited to only agricultural flying. He flew many jobs with OTEC, ODF&W, BLM, Forest Service, many rescue missions and countless others. His helicopters were contracted to fly camera crews on the movie sets of “Paint Your Wagon”, “Samson and Delilah” and the “Incredible Journey 2.”

He married Hilda (Vanderwall) Haufle on Jan. 7, 1986, at Stateline, Nevada. He became a great fatherly influence to Hilda’s daughters, Wendy and Amanda. He and Hilda made their home in North Powder, where they owned a farm and raised Belted Galloway cattle. Bill loved hunting, fishing and boating.

In 1991, Bill experienced some heart complications and was concerned about continuing his medical certification to fly. This was when he had his first thoughts of retirement or other options.

In 2008, Bill had a ruptured brain aneurism that changed his and everyone’s lives tremendously.

Bill was a son, dad, mentor, grandfather, great-grandfather and more… Often referred to as “one of the best pilots many have known.” He will be missed, but he WILL be remembered.

He is survived by his wife, Hilda; his children: Kemit and his wife, Linda Knight of Starkey, Lisa and her husband, Leigh Wright of Island City, Wendy and her husband, Kelly Secl, of North Powder and Amanda and her husband, Travis Bowman of La Grande; 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren; his siblings, Georgia Danly of Walla Walla, Barbara Waliser of La Grande, Gary Knight of Milton-Freewater, Marilyn and Duane Staat of Woodburn, and Linda and Corky Walker of Hermiston.

He was preceded in death by his parents, George and Vera (Smith) Knight; his son, Brian; and his brothers-in- law, Harry Danly and Larry Waliser.

Online condolences may be made to the family at

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