Edith Lawrence, 80, died Aug. 20 of cancer.
Edith was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on Sept. 24, 1931, to Loran and Margaret (Zurn) Allen.
She was the third child and first daughter born into this union. Her parents were married in 1927 and left Minnesota for the dream of a wheat farm in Canada where they raised lots of wheat and eight children. The family returned to the U.S. driving a 1931 Model A Ford truck in 1940 due to the political climate at that time. (Canada was conscripting young men for the war in England), and low wheat prices. This adventure eventually brought them to the Humbolt gold mine above Huntington, where the family was snowed in for the winter. Loran caught a ride with the mail man and traded gold nuggets, which he panned from open streams, for groceries and brought them back by sled, while wearing snow-shoes. Neighbors assisted with food when possible but it was an emaciated family of 10 who traveled to Vale when the snow finally melted. Many in the family were like Scarlet in “Gone with the Wind,” vowing never to be hungry again.
This adventure included a stint of 10 people in a tent living along the Malheur River in Vale where they were afforded the luxury of thermal hot water privileges on the edge of this magnificent river.
The availability of food was plentiful. The next stop on this journey was the trek to the high desert of Harney County, the beloved Steens Mountain and Burns, where the family put down roots.
Edith was married to Alfred F. Lawrence on Feb. 26, 1949, and to this union three children were born: Jean Ellen Cassel in 1950 (deceased 1997), Laura J. in 1952 and Les Alfred in 1954. Edith began working at the police department in Burns in 1968.
Edith graduated from Burns Union High School in 1950. She also spent a year and a half of study at Eastern Oregon College after she and Alfred moved their family to La Grande where she joined the La Grande Police Department in 1970 and retired in 1993.
Edith held many positions with the department administration even working with Bill Byrd, an investigator. She loved that challenge. In the early 1980s Edith became the 9-1-1 communications manager for the department, coordinating 23 local agencies and was instrumental in setting up the original 9-1-1 system in Union County. She played a pivotal role in the formation of the whole county with her communication skills and winning ways with people in the struggle of change. Edith felt privileged to be a part of this successful endeavor in this capacity.
Edith loved life in all of its various forms such as the sun rising, clouds, rock formations, classical music, family and friends. Edith had an amazing ability to perceive optimism in the light of any situation. As a young child, she was always the family teller of stories, fact or fictional. She would hold an audience of children spellbound with her imagination. Add a touch of her special humor and a great story was born. Her connection and bond to each grandchild was the source of strength and joy she relied on for each day, which she further extended outwardly to family and friends.
Edith was preceded in death by her husband, Alfred Lawrence; daughter, Jean Ellen Cassel; and parents, Loran and Margaret Allen.
Edith is survived by her children, Laura McRoberts of La Grande and Les Lawrence of Ketchikan, AK.; grandchildren, Alicia McRoberts of La Grande, Mat Cassel of Portland, Marc Cassel of La Grande, Mike (Dana), McKayla and Tanner Cassel, and Diedra, Ava, and Devin Powsey of Baker City, Jared (Dawn) McKaylyn and Trenton Lawrence of Ketchikan, Ak., Christina (Ken) and Ian Smestad of Portland and Christen (Carolyn) Lucas and Annabelle McRoberts of Jerome, Idaho; siblings, Otis Allen of Memphis, Tenn., Bill (Ulaberl) Allen of Burns, Lorna Spain of La Grande, Tom (Ruby) Allen of Norman, Okla., Dan Allen of Boise, Idaho, Shirley Dean Demackiewicz of Lake Tapps, Wash., and Jim Allen of Boise, Idaho; and many nieces and nephews.
Donations in Edith’s memory may be made to The Grande Ronde Symphony, PO Box 824, La Grande, OR 97850. Online condolences to the family may be made at: www.lovelandfuneralchapel.com
Funeral services were held at the Presbyterian Friendship Center Aug. 25. Disposal of remains will be by cremation and burial to be at a private family gathering at the gravesite of her daughter at Hillcrest East cemetery.