OBIT SwisherbwDolores “Dee” Swisher passed away July 7 in La Grande. She was 80 years old.

Dee was born Aug. 22, 1933, in Ogden, Utah  to Condido and Cecilia (Alzola) Acurio. The family moved to Winnemucca, Nev., when Dee was 5 years old.

Her father died when she was 7 years old. Her mother later married her stepfather, Joe Churruca, who purchased a cattle ranch in Paradise Valley, Nev., where Dee spent the remainder of her childhood.

Many of her favorite stories were from her days in Paradise Valley and the lifelong friendships she made there.

It was at the “fish pond” in Paradise Valley that she met her future husband, Bill Swisher.

After high school in Winnemucca, Nev.,  Dee attended St. Alphonsus Nursing School in Boise, Idaho. During this time, Bill was drafted into the Korean War and sent to Fort Smith, Ark. They married in 1952, and Dee joined Bill in Arkansas.

Bill was discharged from the army in 1954, and the couple returned to Nevada and a job on the Lucky Seven Ranch in McDermitt. They moved to Harney County in 1956 to work for Walt McEwen.

For many years, they were hired as a couple. Bill managing the buckaroos and cattle operations and Dee cooking for the ranch and hay crews.

Their last 10 years in the ranch management business was spent in the Riley area with Silver Creek Ranches.

When Silver Creek sold in 1978, Dee went to work for the Harney County Clerk’s office. She worked as deputy clerk for 10 years, and then became clerk in 1989. She held that office for two terms until she retired in 1999. During this time, the office saw many changes, including implementing elections by mail and automatic ballot counters.

Dee was known for her ready smile and fun attitude. She was a joy to be around and expressed an uncanny interest in many things. She loved family gatherings, having company over, sharing something good to eat and a good story. She had many, many friends and was always eager to meet new people and make more!

She was an author, self-publishing a book, The Good Old Days?, a collection of true stories from her life of pioneer cattlemen, buckaroos and cowboys she had known.

Dee was quick to volunteer and involved with the community serving on school boards, Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Business and Professional Women’s Club and Harney County Democratic Society to name a few.

She was also an artist, illustrating her book with drawings. She was a gifted painter and seamstress. She enjoyed gardening, antiques and needlework.

Dee was especially proud of her grandchildren and often boasted of their obvious (to her) superior looks and intelligence, often saying, “There isn’t a bad one in the bunch!”

Dee is survived by her son, Cam Swisher (wife Kathy) of Burns; daughters, Martha Rogers (husband Ross) of Bend, and Cecelia Gerlach (husband Mike) of La Grande; grandchildren, Savannah and Garrett Swisher and  Mathew Tiller.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Bill, in 2007.

The family wishes to express their gratitude to Riverside Adult Foster Home in La Grande where owner Bob Kennon helped make Dee’s last two years happy and comfortable.

At Dee’s request, there will be no formal service. Contributions in her memory may be made to Harney County Library in care of Loveland Funeral Chapel, 1508 4th Street, La Grande, OR 97850.

Online condolences to the family may be made at


OBIT MeditzbwRoberta Joyce Meditz passed away at her home Tuesday, July 8.

She was born Dec. 31, 1940, in San Diego, Calif., two years after the fall of Wall Street, and began a lifetime of traveling.

Her parents, Bob Cooper and Bertha (Mosier) Whittier, bought a house on the side of a canyon, which was later rented out as they finally bought a trailer to chase jobs. Her father, an iron worker/welder, found work in Washington on a dam being built there, and so, after visiting her mother’s relatives in Portland and Seattle, the trailer became one of a caravan of other ironworkers. Roberta talked of nights around a bonfire where she learned to play a violin as the families sang and talked. Her father would later brag,“his girls (Roberta had a younger sibling by then) had been in every state west of the Mississippi, with the exception of three.”

Every Sunday, Roberta’s mother would take the girls to whatever Christian church was near, and when they got to Sandy, Utah, she bought another house. The ironworkers had found jobs in Provo, and each day and night, would drive back and forth in a 1940 Hudson. Roberta talked about their coal stove in Sandy, and the milk frozen on the doorstep after delivery.

After the family left Utah, they returned to San Diego when Roberta was in the fifth grade, by way of Brawley, Calif. Living in their San Diego home, Roberta and her sister graduated from high school. Roberta started junior college there, working at a child care facility in the afternoons and going to nurse’s aide classes at night.

She soon got a job at Scrips Memorial Hospital as a nurse’s aide when an RN class was advertised in Modesto, where her parents were living. At her mother’s urging, she applied and was accepted for the first class of the school. She now had two children, but lived close enough to the school to go home for lunch and return for afternoon classes. Her mother now had foster children and at one time, there were seven children under the age of 7, with five cribs set up in the house. Lunch time could be very busy.

After graduation from nursing school, Roberta got a job in Martinez, Calif., at the VA hospital. There, she met and married Jeanie Lewis, and had her daughter. They bought a home in Pittsburg, Calif., where the older boys started school. Three years later they moved to Southern California, and divorcing Jeanie, bought a home in Compton. Later, they moved to Torrence, then Long Beach, and then returned to Compton while working at Kaiser in bellflower.

Roberta worked at the Kaiser emergency room in Oakland, and living in San Leandro, when she met and married Dave Meditz. Dave owned some land in Harney County and wanted to “make a go of it,” so he started on the 40 acres in a pickup with a cabover camper. Meanwhile, Roberta would drive back and forth every two weeks until she finally quit Kaiser in Oakland and moved to the land in Harney County.

It didn’t take long before Roberta was taking traveling jobs under contract for six weeks to nine months, traveling home at one to two week intervals. Finally, Roberta retired at the age of 72.

She is survived by her husband, David; sister, Bonnie Sue; and sons, Nick and Phillip.

She was preceded in passing by her parents and daughter.

Donations in her memory may be made to Harney County Hospice.

A private service will be held.


OBIT EckleybwJoseph Ray Eckley, 61, passed away July 10 at his home in the Keating Valley area of Baker City.  No services are planned at this time.

Joe was born in Silverton Nov. 24, 1952, to Ben and Gloria Eckley.

He married Lois Patchin on Jan. 26, 1974. In 1979, they moved to Harney County where Joe worked for Turner Brangus Ranch for several years until buying property south of Burns. Together, they built an alfalfa hay and cattle ranch. In 2008, they sold the ranch and bought a small farm in Keating Valley.

Joe served in the Army National Guard for six years, earning the rank of staff sergeant. He was a past president of the Harney County Farm Bureau and a member of the Lower Powder River Irrigation District.

Joe loved farming and took special joy in the challenges of working the land.  He could fix anything and was endlessly creative when it came to making things work. He was quick to help a neighbor and was much respected by those who knew him. He enjoyed hunting, reading and gunsmithing. He loved life and lived it to the fullest.

Joe is survived by his beloved wife of 40 years, Lois; daughter, Jennifer Schick, and her husband, Mark, of Aloha; grandson, Joseph Schick, of Aloha;  mother, Gloria Eckley, of Woodburn; brothers, Stan Eckley and his wife, Mary Pat of Tillamook, and Keith Eckley and his wife, Corinne of Keizer; and sister, Diana (Kingsley) Kelley of Central Point; along with several nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by father, Ben Eckley; brother, Jim Eckley; and grandson, Tyler Schick.

Contributions in Joseph Eckley’s name may be made to the Burns or Crane chapters of FFA through Gray’s West & Company Pioneer Chapel, 1500 Dewey Ave., Baker City, OR 97814.


Britt Lay 1942-2013

Posted on July 23rd in Obituaries

OBIT LayWORKEDAs longtime cowboss at the White Horse Ranch near Fields, Britt Lay made an impression on many local residents and aspiring buckaroos during his 71 years before his passing last December. At his request, no services were held, but a celebration of life is planned for July 26 in Denio, Nev. There will be a potluck at 1 p.m. at the Denio Community Hall, and an engraved bench will be placed at the Denio Cemetery in memory of Britt.

Britton “Britt” Lay was born Sept. 9, 1942, in Elizabeth, N.J. After leaving home at age 12, his adventures began. He started hitchhiking and hopping trains headed West, doing odd jobs and meeting all sorts of folks. He returned back home at times until he joined the U.S. Army at age 17. After boot camp, he was stationed in England, and then Germany, where he drove truck clearing wreckage in East Germany. He was later shipped across the globe where he did tours in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

After his tour was over, he returned home in 1961, and married his first wife, Sandy. After a short-lived marriage, they divorced and he married Diane. They had a son, Tommy. Britt then took to the deserts of Nevada, Montana and Wyoming to learn the cowboy ways. He worked many ranches, camps, feed lots and sale yards doing all sorts of jobs from buckarooing to hauling cattle. He and Diane separated in 1971.

Britt met Alice, whom he married in 1972, and had two sons with, Winston and Wilson. He was with her till the day he died. The family lived and worked at various ranches until moving to the White Horse Ranch in 1982, where Britt was the manager for 24 years. Many buckaroos in this area worked for Lay and tell stories about how much he taught them.

After leaving the White Horse, Britt and Alice moved to Missouri, where he enjoyed being part of hot rod car clubs. After seven years, they moved to Phoenix, Ariz. to be closer to family.

Britt is survived by his wife, Alice Lay; sons, Winston Lay and wife Gloria and their sons Erik and Joseph; Wilson Lay and his wife Terra and their son Gage Wall; sister, Elizabeth Lay of Phoenix, Ariz.; and brother, Richard Lay of Albuquerque, N.M.

He was preceded in death by his parents, John and F.T. Britton Lay.


Hilda Marie Smith, 75, of Burns passed away July 7. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, at Faith Baptist Church in Hines


Ferne Cagle 1921-2014

Posted on July 16th in Obituaries

OBIT CagleStephanie Ferne Barnes Cagle, 92, passed away Monday, July 7, at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.

She was born Nov. 2, 1921, to Charles and Fannie Holloway Barnes in Burns. She was the first of six children, including a set of twins. Ferne was raised on the family ranch just south of Frenchglen.  She attended grade school in Frenchglen, and would walk one and a quarter miles to school most days. She attended Crane Union High School in Crane, staying in the dormitory. She was not able to go home very often, except for holidays, because of the distance and lack of transportation. In the summers, she would help during haying season by cooking for her father’s hay camps at Brenton Cabin and the P Ranch.

During WWII, she worked at the Portland ship yard doing office work and later worked for CC Anderson, a clothing company in Boise, Idaho. After WWII, she married Noel L. Cagle, whom she met before the war when he came west with the CCC to work on projects on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

They lived in Salinas, Calif., for a while where their son, Charles, was born. They moved back to Harney County and worked for Joe Fine on the Roaring Springs Ranch.  Later, they were hired on at the refuge and lived at Three Mile, Buena Vista Station, and Sod House, where their daughter, Nancy, was born.  After retiring, they moved to Hines.

Ferne’s passions were gardening and flowers.  For many years, she entered flowers in the county fair. She was a clerk for the Frenchglen School District,  a member of the Harney County CattleWomen,  the Sunrise Garden Club, American Auxiliary,  and was a life time member of the Elks Lodge No.1680.

She is survived by brother, Don “Jiggs” Barnes, and his wife, Lucille, of Burns; sisters, Jen Otley of Happy Valley, and Donna Jordan and husband, Lauren, of Pilot Rock; son, Charlie, and his wife, Lorna, of Burns; daughter, Nancy, and her husband, Tom, of Bonanza; grandsons, Jason, Bryan, Wes, Clint; great-grandsons, Dominic and Aidan; great-granddaughters, Laila, Addy and Bailey; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Ferne was preceded in death by her parents, Charlie and Fannie; her husband, Noel; and two sisters, Thelma Otley and Jo Urizar.

Contributions in Ferne Cagle’s memory may be made to the Harney County CattleWomen Scholarship Fund or to a charity of one’s choice, in care of LaFollette’s Chapel, P.O. Box 488, Burns, OR 97720. Go to to sign the guestbook and send your condolences to the family.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, July 19, at 10 a.m.  at St. Andrew’s Episcopal/Peace Lutheran Church in Burns.


OBIT Landonbw webJames Dale Landon, 81, passed away July 8.

Jim was born Aug. 8, 1932, to Carol Landon and Merle (Pewanka) Landon in Saco, Mont. As a young boy, his family moved to Kalispell, Mont. He graduated from Flathead High School in 1951. He was active in sports throughout high school, playing and being co-captain of the football and basketball teams. In 1950, the Flathead Braves team won their first Class AA  football championship. In 1951, he was part of the winning championship team that earned the nickname “the comeback kids.”

After graduation from high school, he enlisted in the Navy, “bobbing around the ocean for four years,” as he would say. After he was discharged from the Navy, he enrolled at Montana State University, where he played football. The Bobcats were national champions in 1956. They went to the Aluminum Bowl in Arkansas. He was inducted into the Montana State University hall of Fame in 1987, and into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 2006.

After leaving college, he moved to California, where he met Nancy. They were married Sept. 2, 1960. In 1968, they moved to Burns. He worked in construction and the logging industry for several years. In 1992, he and Nancy moved to Dundee, where he owned and operated Lumpy’s Tavern. In 2000, they moved back to Burns to be close to their children and grandchildren. He loved going to the kids’ and grandkids’ games and activities, puttering around the house and doing projects for family and friends. He liked going to brandings and haying in the summer. He also liked working in his “hardware store” (shop). The kids would check his “store” before going up town. They would usually find what they were looking for.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Nancy; sons, Jimmy Landon,  and his wife, Sue, of Billings, Mont., Kelly and his wife, Samantha, of Burns, and Keith Landon of Burns; daughters, Joni Ackerman of Billings, and Lisa Tiller  and her husband, Scott, of Hines; brother, Frank Landon and his wife Phyllis of Newberg; Don Landon, and his wife, Gloria, of Kalispell; sister, Grace Watters, of Kalispell; 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his mother, Merle, and father, Carol Landon; brothers, Roy Landon and Marvin Landon; sisters, Alice Pollard, Sylvia Gledin and Nadine Christie.

A celebration of life was held July 14, with a military salute.

Contributions in Jim’s name may be sent to Desert Dream Mentor Program for Developmental Disabilities in Harney County, 362 N. Broadway, Burns OR 97720.

photo.PNGWayne Oscar Johnson, 92, passed away June 28.

Wayne was born Feb. 13, 1922, in Omaha, Neb., to Oscar and Josephine “Josie” Armstrong Johnson.  He was their youngest child. His older siblings were Bernice, who died at age 16 in 1921; a brother who died as a baby; Russell, who was born in 1908 and died in 1994; and his sister, Dorothy, who was born in 1913 and died in 1996.

Wayne was about 10 years old when his family moved from Nebraska to Payette, Idaho, because of drought and dust-bowl conditions there. “We was blowed out,” Wayne said.

From Payette, Oscar Johnson transferred from working in a feedlot to the Alvord Ranch east of Steens Mountain in Harney County. In 1932, Wayne, 10, his sister, Dorothy, and his mother, Josie Johnson, followed, and Wayne was enrolled in grade school at Crane. He graduated from Crane Union High School in 1941.

Wayne had many adventures and stories to tell. He recalled his first summer spent on the Alvord Ranch as an exciting adventure for a 13-year-old boy. He said, “It was a wonderful place. They had a creek running down off the hill through the place, through the milk house and there were frogs and everything, and there were oodles of deer and quail around. You’d go down in the field and you’d just about have to push the deer out of the road.”

Wayne would say, “I got to go with the buckaroos a lot, and I got to know the ranch pretty well. And when I wasn’t doing that, when anybody came to the ranch, I showed them around. I was pretty important, 13 years old, big hat and all.”

Wayne remembered Mustang Smith, who used wild mustangs as teams for the haying equipment. “He’d bring those mustangs in off the desert. It took three of them to pull the mowing machine. They’d have to wrestle those old ponies around and hook them up. They wasn’t broke, they’d just hook them up and go with them. That was fun to watch Mustang Smith. He was a wild man, that’s why they called him ‘Mustang,’’ ’ Wayne said.

During the school year, Wayne and his family lived in Crane. Wayne was paid $1 a day to help out at Floyd Presley’s store, the Crane Mercantile, before and after school.

About two months before school was out, Joe Fine came into Crane looking for someone to cook at the Roaring Springs Ranch. He got Wayne into the Crane school dormitory when he was in the eighth grade, and his mother and dad went out to work at Roaring Springs. Wayne and his sister, Dorothy, stayed in Crane, and Wayne worked in the store that summer, and got a raise to $60 a month.

While he was in high school, Wayne spent his summers with his folks at Roaring Springs. He remembered when Joe Fine first put the lawn in at Roaring Springs ranch headquarters, and when the trees that are growing there today were just saplings.  He and his dad mowed the lawn with a push mower that was too hard to push through the tall grass.

After a couple of years at Roaring Springs, Wayne’s dad, who had immigrated to Nebraska from Sweden with his brothers, decided he wanted to go back to farm in Nebraska with family. “My mother and I said, ‘We’re not going with you. We’re going to stay here.’ And we didn’t go, and we survived.” His mother, Josie died in 1963.

After Wayne graduated from high school, he worked at Roaring Springs and at the Alvord Ranch until he was 23 or 24. When the Alvord Ranch sold, he worked a couple of months and then quit. He went to Brogan to work for a while, and then went to work at the feedlot at Payette, cleaning the corrals with a tractor.

He didn’t like the damp foggy weather along the river and came back to Harney County, where it is sunny and dry. He returned to the Lawen area, and was part owner of the Lawen Store with his sister, Dorothy, and brother-in-law.

Wayne did lots of buckarooing and other ranch work. He worked at the Roaring Springs for about 10 years until the Gill Cattle Company bought it.

He met Stella Able of Burns, and they were married in Winnemucca, Nev., Jan. 24, 1953. They were married for 46 years until her death in 1999. They had no children.

Wayne had a few cattle, so he leased the Donald Otley place near Lawen for a few years. He worked for Edward Hines Lumber Company for four or five years. Wayne said, “Then I got itchy feet, and wanted to get me a ranch job, so I went to work for Tommy Jenkins and stayed for five years.”

Wayne also worked at the experiment station, and he and Stella helped his sister, Dorothy, run the Lawen Store after her husband died. In the 1980s, Lawen flooded, and Malheur Lake rose so high that there was water to the back of the Lawen Store.  Wayne said, “I put dikes up, but the water was so high in the basement that I saw the light bulbs floating. I told Stella it is time for us to get out of here.” So they moved into Burns.

He started mowing lawns in his later years to stay in shape. He took care of his wife during her 13-year battle with cancer.

Wayne married Rose Modey in Feb. 2000, and gained more family with lots of grandchildren.  Wayne and Rose enjoyed retirement activities such as traveling, old-time fiddler’s music, and playing cards at the Senior and Community Services Center.

Wayne is survived by his wife, Rose, of Burns; her many children and grandchildren; niece, Nancy Dowell of Redmond; and nephew, Earl Carson and wife, Shirley, of Diamond

One of his last words of wisdom were, “You can choose to make your life happy or you can eat sour pie.”


Ray Botkins 1951-2014

Posted on July 9th in Obituaries

OBIT BotkinsWORKEDRay Botkins, 62, passed away Tuesday, June 24, at Harney District Hospital.

He was born Sept. 21, 1951, in London, Kent., to Lucille Botkins-Moss and Gilbert “Doc” Botkins.

He moved from Kentucky to Oregon with his family when he was 6 years old. He attended school in Condon and Burns, and joined the U.S. Army in 1968.

He was stationed in Korea and Germany, as well as other American Army posts, and earned Marksman Honors before his honorable discharge three years later.

He was married to Maria Uriarte in 1973, and had two children, a son and a daughter, Ryan Botkins and Deshaunna Botkins Simpson.

In 1995, he married Diana Kealiher, who also had two children, a daughter and a son, Amber Briels DeLange and Brandon Briels.

He enjoyed ranching, horses, old cars, guns, riding his Harley, and spending time with family and friends. He had five sisters and a brother he dearly loved to visit with. They all loved to be together to laugh and talk. He also loved westerns, playing with his grandchildren and ice cream.

He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, and underwent a bone marrow transplant in 2009. His donor was his loving sister, Donna Richardson. He struggled with multiple health issues for almost six years before he passed away.

Ray is survived by his wife, Diana “Deenie” Kealiher Botkins of Burns; son Ryan Botkins, and wife, Tracy Aranda Botkins, of Safford, Ariz.; daughter, Deshaunna Botkins Simpson, and husband, Michael Simpson, of Hines; Deenie’s daughter, Amber Briels DeLange, and husband, Ryan DeLange, of Hines; Deenie’s son, Brandon Briels, and wife, Amy Anderson Briels, of Baker City; grandchildren, Jaden and Kyran Simpson of Hines, Dylan and Kloe Botkins of Safford, Ariz., Nolan, Cooper and Beau Briels of Baker City, Kylee Simpson of Hines, and Trinton and Trey DeLange of Burns; siblings and their spouses, Barbara Choate and John Thomas Choate Jr. of Hines, Shandel and Richard Carter of Bryant, Alaska, Sharon Botkins of Bend, Donna and Aaron Richardson of Hines, Orie and Phyllis Thomas of London, Kent., and Darleen and Mark Beall of Portland; stepfather Ron Moss of Bryant, Alaska; and numerous nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his father, Gilbert Botkins; his mother, Lucille Botkins-Moss; and older brother, Eddie Wayne Botkins.

He was laid to rest in the Burns Cemetery June 28 with military honors and an escort from the Desert Riders and numerous other friends that he rode his Harley with.


Bonnie Barbara Ellis, 70, of Burns, passed away June 30, at her home.

She was born July 14, 1943, in Eugene.

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