Norman Byron McRae, 93, passed away Dec. 9.
He was born on May 3, 1921, in Portland to Forbes William and Marte Else (German) McRae I, the second of three sons.
The family moved from Portland to the hinterlands of Southeastern Oregon and settled in the Harney County seat, Burns. He always thought of this part of the world as his home, having spent countless hours hunting and fishing with his brothers, his father, and lifelong friends, the Clarks, in the area. He graduated from Burns Union High School, then attended Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis, where he was the first chair trumpet in the university symphony and also played in the marching band, concurrent with being the fourth-string center on the football team. The only time he ever got called in to play football, rather than his trumpet, he was back in Harney County hunting elk. While at OSU, he pledged the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, going through an initiation ritual that caused his lifelong disdain for liver and onions.
When the attack came on Pearl Harbor, Norman enlisted in the Navy, leaving his college education for a higher duty. While stationed in California, he met Selma Joy Banther and proposed before he was shipped out to the Pacific. He served as a radio operator and was thinking he’d be safe on the battleship Richard B. Anderson, but was sent in on the second wave at Bougainville. It was during his time in the Pacific that he gained an abhorrence for curry in all forms, since it was used to disguise spoiled meats. Despite his problems with liver and curry, Norman was a gourmet chef, attending many James Beard cooking classes, and going on to prepare meals, not only for hunting camps and harvest camps at the Clark ranch in Drewsey, but also for meals at Kennewick First Presbyterian.
After the war, he was honorably discharged and returned stateside where he married Selma on Dec. 16, 1945. He and his new bride went to Eugene, where he finished his education, graduating with a degree in accounting. They then moved to Burns, where he managed the family lumberyard, and where two daughters, Martha and Kristine, were born. Norman so hoped for a son, someone to go hunting and fishing with him, but he settled for the poor substitutes he was given. While in Burns, he was active in many civic and veterans’ organizations, served as a volunteer ambulance driver, and played taps at sunset in the town cemetery on his Boy Scout bugle. In 1960, the family moved to Pasco, Wash., where he managed a lumberyard, then later worked for Ashgrove Cement until retirement. His lifelong passion for hunting and fishing led to many interesting family “vacations.” Most destinations were centered around lakes, streams, or oceans, where nature’s bounty could be caught and enjoyed. His two daughters learned that when camping, you should never forget the tent poles, especially if it’s raining; never, ever plan a fishing vacation around a place called “Mosquito Lake,” even if it did feature golden trout; that when on a logging road in the Olympic forest, one can, indeed, use baling wire and gum to reattach the gas tank to a Ford station wagon; and that family vacations always had the aroma of their dad’s Doublemint gum and mother’s black coffee, and they always featured whistling.
Norman’s whistling was his hallmark; those who spent time with him learned to tell his moods by the tune he featured. Yellow Rose of Texas meant that he was in a jolly mood, and nearly every phone call would end with him starting up the whistle before he hung up the receiver. When he was peeved, especially with Mother, the song would be It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie. Music was a big part of his life, although it usually manifested itself in his whistling. He finally took up square dancing in his later years, although Mother claimed he knew only one step, the Harney County Cement Leg Stomp.
Norman was a lifetime member of many organizations, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Safari Club, Transportation Club, the Elks (Exalted Ruler of his lodge) and the Masons. He supported wildlife conservation through Ducks Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and returned annually to his beloved Harney County and the Clark ranch for elk and deer seasons well into his 80s. In his early 80s, he also fulfilled a lifelong dream to go on an African safari with his good friend, Louis, and brought back kudu and impala trophies.
He is survived by his daughters, Martha and Kristine McRae; his grandson, Sam McRae-Skinner (Melissa); his granddaughter, Margaret McRae-Skinner; his two sisters-in-law, Ruth (Bud) McRae and Barbara (Milt) McRae; his first cousin, Chet Gardner (Barbara); and two nieces and three nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Selma; his older brother, Forbes William “Bud” or “Mac” McRae II; his younger brother, Milton Alexander “Milt” McRae; a sister who died in infancy; his first cousins, Florence and Mary; and the two best hunting dogs a man could have, his beloved Patches and Dutch.
In lieu of flowers, the family would ask that you donate to Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, HonorFlights for WWII vets, The Humane Society, or a charity of your choosing in Norman’s name.
The family invites you to sign their online guest book at www.muellersfuneralhomes.com.