Ernest J. Alvarado 1921-2015

Posted on February 11th in Obituaries

OBITAlvaradoErnest J. Alvarado, 93, passed away Jan. 20  at his ranch in Elkton.

Ernest was born Nov. 29, 1921, in Tres Pinos, Calif., to Joseph P. and Dora (Villegas) Alvarado. He grew up with six brothers and two sisters.  He attended Tres Pinos Elementary School, and graduated from San Benito High School in Hollister, Calif., in 1939.

He worked in the New Idria mines and at Bethlehem Steel, before moving to Alaska to work on the Al-Can highway. Ernest enlisted in the U.S. Army in January 1944 in Fairbanks, Alaska. He served with the 464th Air Base Squadron. He was stationed on Amchitka Island in the Bering Strait.

Upon his return to California, he was employed driving truck in the San Joaquin Valley. He married Anna Mae Santos in November 1947 in Merced.  In May 1963, Ernest was very proud to welcome his first child, Ramonda, into his life, followed by daughter, Valencia, in December 1964.

In 1968, Ernest and Anna Mae purchased a ranch in Oregon, and moved to Elkton in July 1969. Here, he and Anna Mae raised their daughters, sheep, cattle and hay while Ernest worked at the Drain Plywood Mill.

Ernest was from one of the families that were known as the “California Dons” – those Spanish settlers who received land grants from the king of Spain. He was a descendant of Joaquin Alvarado, first mayor of Monterey, and Juan Bautista Alvarado, a governor of California under the Spanish.  His mother’s family, the Belardez, were famous throughout early California for their farming and sheep raising activities.

When Ernie’s daughters were at Elkton High, he was a supporter of their FFA activities. He received the Honorary State Farmer degree in 1984.

Ernest enjoyed big band swing music, old movies, reading, writing letters, and visiting with his grandchildren, nephews and nieces.  He could be recognized wearing his black cowboy hat, with his faithful bud, Whacker, a yellow Labrador, at his side.

Ernest is survived by his daughter, Ramonda (David) Thompson; grandchildren, Maria, Risa, and Adam of Diamond; sisters, Margueritta Johnson of Antioch, Calif. and Julia Smith of Hollister, Calif.; many nephews and nieces on the Alvarado and Santos sides; and his bud, “Whacker.” Many thanks are given to his caregivers over the past five years, Barbara Dawes, Jon Stoneman, and Doug Byle.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Anna Mae; daughter, Valencia; brothers, William, Raymond, Percy, Clarence, Vincent, and Joseph; a baby sister, Frances; and his parents.

Services will be held Friday, March 27, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Roseburg.

Recitation of the Rosary will be held at 11 a.m., with Funeral Mass at noon.  Burial will follow at St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Roseburg.

Contributions in Ernest J. Alvarado’s memory may be made to Crane FFA Alumni Scholarship Fund, c/o Ramonda Thompson, 49401 Happy Valley Rd, Diamond, OR  97722.

Spencer McMurray 1938-2015

Posted on February 11th in Obituaries

OBITMcMurraySpencer McMurray, 76, passed away Jan. 26 at his home in Hines, surrounded by his children and wife, following a more than yearlong battle with cancer.

Spencer was born Oct. 20, 1938, in Burns to James Nathan McMurray and Sybil Veronica (Svihovec) McMurray. He was raised in a close-knit environment, with his sister, Jeri, and enjoyed spending time outdoors, an activity he carried throughout life and passed on to many others. He enjoyed spending time with his niece, Peni, and nephews, Richard and Mike, until he joined the Army in 1960. After his discharge in 1961, he met and married Shirley Gregg. After marrying, the couple moved to Boise Idaho, where he found work as a delivery man in the Coca-Cola factory, and where his first child, Jeri Rae was born Sept. 2, 1962. Shortly afterward, the young family moved to Klamath Falls for a brief stint before moving to Torrance Calif. in 1963.

While in California, Spencer held a variety of jobs to support his growing family that included Janice Lea, born Feb. 2, 1964, James Nathan, born Dec. 15, 1968, and Jonathan Lee, born May 31, 1970. Spence worked at a furniture factory, a trailer manufacturing company, and for the U.S. Postal Service as a letter carrier. The family then moved to Fort Jones, Calif. in 1971, and to Medford in 1972, where he completed a teaching degree at Southern Oregon University. This led him home to Harney County and a teaching job in the one-room schoolhouse at Lawen. One year proved to be enough of education (at least formally), and Spencer worked for the Forest Service, Edward Hines Lumber Company, and making maps for Mark Palmer Surveying until he settled in at the Harney County Road Department, from which he retired in 1998. In addition, he spent many hours painting and teaching that trade to many an apprentice. Though he was demanding of his help, his drive created a cadre of painters who knew what to do with a brush and roller.

His retirement was much like the rest of his life, busy and full of activity and life. He spent many hours outdoors, fishing and hunting, practicing catch-and-release in both pursuits, though it was much more difficult with the latter; so he practiced more of a “hunt and not shoot” philosophy. His love of fishing was painfully evident in the fact that he rarely drove by a fish hatchery without a pit stop to enjoy a respite on the trip. He passed on this love of fishing to all his children, in varying degrees, and to many other people, young and old alike. He also passed on his love and compassion for animals to all his children. This was evident in the time he spent feeding squirrels and hummingbirds, while manning a lookout for the BLM in his retirement.

In addition to spending time on recreational pursuits and animals, he spent many hours as an official on the basketball court and baseball field, most often serving as an on-field coach, as well as an official. When he felt his vision and speed were getting too slow for the pace of sports, he switched to being an avid observer of youth and high school sports. If he wasn’t fishing, he was likely watching a group of young people toss about one kind of ball or another. This love of sports transcended the local area, and created a long-time love affair with the Oregon State Beavers.

In addition to officiating and watching sports, Spencer spent many an hour playing and coaching youth in the area. He spent countless hours playing pick-up softball games in Hines Park with countless numbers of kids and adults alike. He ran an open gym basketball game at Lincoln Junior High for years, both of which will be remembered quite fondly by a large group of people to this day. His commitment to his family, children, in-laws, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and “adopted” alike, was nearly unparalleled. His courage, sense of humor and ability to tell a great story and bawdy joke will be missed by a great many people.

Spencer is survived by his wife of 53 years, Shirley; children, Jeri, and her husband, Carl Hauth, of Corvallis, Janice Sloan and her partner, Tom Walsh of Salem, Jay McMurray and his wife, Delly, of Baker City, and Jon McMurray and his wife, Michele, of Fossil; grandchildren, Katie Hauth of Australia, Ryan Hauth of New Orleans, Zach Hauth of Corvallis, Ashley McMurray of Baker City, and Max, Maddie and Molly McMurray of Fossil.

He was preceded in death by his mother and father; sister, Jeri; nephew, Michael Banks, and many dear friends.

Spencer was cremated, with a request to spread his ashes in some of his favorite places, such as his parents’ homestead at Poison Creek, his cabin at Whitney, and the Blitzen River near Frenchglen.

Michael John Sturza 1956-2015

Posted on February 11th in Obituaries

OBITSturzaMichael John Sturza, 58, passed away unexpectedly Jan. 22 in Prineville.

Mike was born June 15, 1956, in Redmond to Stan and Phyllis Sturza. He was the second of three children that included Margaret, Mike and Lori. He attended Redmond schools and graduated from Redmond High School in 1974. He was a three-sport athlete, lettering in football, basketball and baseball. He continued his love of sports by attending Treasure Valley Community College on a football scholarship.

He married Patti Miller on June 27, 1987, in Prineville, and then joined her in Paulina, where they made their home for 27 years. When Mike moved to Paulina, he truly became a “community member,” and was recognized in 2014 as the recipient of the Carl Weaver Outstanding Service Award.

Mike was a key member of the Paulina Rodeo Club, holding offices for several years. He was instrumental in the success of the Paulina Rodeo, from irrigating the grounds, gathering stock, organizing hay donations and hauling it to the rodeo grounds, feeding bucking stock, sorting timed event cattle, loading the bucking chutes, selling ads, returning donated livestock when the rodeo was over, and cleaning up the grounds Monday morning after the rodeo. Mike ran many trap shoots for various fundraisers, and was on the ground floor of the Paulina Rodeo Scholarship fund, developing where it is today. He did all this quietly and effectively, without need or want of accolades.

He volunteered to coach football and basketball at Paulina Elementary and many children benefitted from his knowledge of the games. He helped many, many ranches with gathering, branding, feeding, doctoring, building fence or whatever people called on him to do.

Mike was a good cowman that loved his cattle and had a vast knowledge of bloodlines and EPDs.  He especially enjoyed grading bulls for PABCO (Performance Angus Breeders of Central Oregon).

He was a successful team roper, winning many buckles and saddles. Even though he loved to team rope, it took a backseat to hunting season. He was unselfish when it came to helping other hunters bag a big one. Deer hunting with his dad, Stan, and elk hunting at Schnabele Ranches were the highlights of the year.

He was a member of the Elks Club, Paulina Rodeo Club, American Cowboy Team Roping Association (ACTRA), the National Rifle Association, and the Catholic Church.

He is survived by his wife, Patti Miller of Paulina; mother, Phyllis Sturza of Redmond; sisters, Margaret Sturza (Curt Olson of Madras), and Lori Turel of Redmond; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.  He was proceeded in death by his father, Stan Sturza.

Services will be held Saturday, Jan. 31, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Redmond.

Memorial contributions may be made to Paulina School Athletics, 70050 SE Paulina City Rd, Paulina, OR, 97751 or the Paulina Rodeo Club, P.O. Box 37, Paulina, OR, 97751.

Juniper Ridge Funeral Home is in charge of these arrangements.

Randall H. Graves 1940-2015

Posted on February 11th in Obituaries

OBITGravesRandall H. Graves, 74, passed away Jan. 27 in Burns.

He was born May 24, 1940, in rural Tennessee to John and Juanita Graves.

Randy grew up in Burns, and attended Burns High School. He worked for Edward Hines Lumber Co. before joining the Army and serving overseas.

He worked on several ranches around Harney County before returning to work at Edward Hines Lumber Co. He married Carolyn Hurst in 1973.

Randy moved to Alabama, where he continued his career in the lumber industry. He was remarried, to Ethyl, who preceded him in death. He returned to Burns in 2012 to care for his mother. Randy enjoyed hunting and fishing, and being back in Harney County.

Randy is survived by his mother, Juanita of Sublimity; sister, Shelley Jean of Eagle Point; brothers, David of Burns, and Brian and his wife, Carol of Lyons; son, Wayne Graves, and his wife, Tammy of Greenleaf, Idaho; daughter, Vickie of Boise, Idaho; grandson, Dillon Graves; granddaughters, Kaitlyn Graves and Allyson Smith; and several nieces and nephews.

Randy was preceded in death by his father, John K. Graves, in 1998.

A celebration of life will be held later this spring.

Donations may be made to the Harney County CAN Cancer fund, 557 West Washington, Burns, OR 97720.

Brent Smith 1948-2015

Posted on February 11th in Obituaries

OBITSmithBrent Smith passed away Jan. 12, after a long and heroic battle with colon cancer.

He was born Jan. 20, 1948, in Burns, to Betty N. Choate Smith and Fredrick A. Smith. Brent was the seventh of nine children. Brent spent his early years growing up and going to school in Burns, moving to the Springfield area as a young man.

Brent married Gwen, his beloved wife of 43 years, in 1971. Together they made their home in Springfield. Over the years, Brent worked in machine maintenance for Agripac, as a millwright and prior to retirement , as an unemployment supervisor for Barrett Business Services. Brent loved spending time with his brothers and sisters, his dearest and best friends. He was an accomplished mechanic. He enjoyed classic cars, owning first a 1966 Nova, and finally, a 1956 Chevy, lovingly referred to by his wife as, “the other woman.”

Brent is survived by his wife, Gwen; children, Kelly Chasteen, Cindy Pinkerton and Joshua Smith; four grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; brothers, Jack Smith and Denton Smith; sisters, Naomi (John) Lynch, Sonja (Art) Morin, Susie Stear and Melody (Tim) McCauley.

He was preceded in death by his brothers, Fred and Wayne. Brent will be greatly missed and long remembered for his kind and gentle spirit. Per Brent’s wishes, there are no services planned.

Leland Pat Miller 1928-2015

Posted on February 11th in Obituaries

OBITMillerLeland Pat Miller, 86, passed away peacefully at his home Feb. 4, with his family at his side.

Pat was born June 10, 1928, in Prineville to Lyle and May (McCullough) Miller of Paulina. Pat attended schools in Paulina, Maury, and Prineville. He married Naida Louise Evans Jan. 17, 1951. Pat and Naida had four daughters, and were married 64 years.  Pat ranched in Paulina and Powell Butte the rest of his life.

He proudly served in the U.S. Army from 1954-56.  He had fond memories of his fellow servicemen that he met while serving in Germany. Pat was a founding member of the Paulina Rodeo Club, a 50-plus year member of the Prineville Elks Club, and a long-time supporter of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.

He greatly enjoyed political debates and all politics. He enjoyed watching all sports, especially football, basketball, baseball, and volleyball. Pat was an avid rodeo fan, with saddle bronc riding as his favorite event.

Pat is survived by his wife, Naida of Paulina; daughters, Dana (Gary Millin) of Powell Butte, Patti (Mike Sturza) of Paulina, Toni (Jim Lewis) of Prineville, and Lisa (Rob McLean) of Paulina; grandchildren, Kaki McLean Morehead, Chance Millin, Rylee Lewis, Jace Lewis, Kade McLean, and Presley Smith; and four great-grandchildren, Crae Millin, Jaide Campbell, Brymlee Morehead, and Cy Millin.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Lyle and May Miller; sister, Bette Valley; and son-in-law, Mike Sturza.

No services will be held at Pat’s request.

Because education was so important to Pat, memorial contributions may be sent to the Pat Miller Educational Scholarship Fund, in care of Dana Millin, 14221 SW Miller Trail, Powell Butte, OR 97753.  Friends may send a card with a short story or memory to Naida Miller, 8023 SE Wolf Creek Rd, Paulina, OR 97751.

Juniper Ridge Funeral Home is in charge of these arrangements.

Joseph Toelle, 30, passed away suddenly Feb. 5.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, at the Harney County Fairgrounds Memorial Building. A private family burial will be held on Friday.

Contributions in Joe Toelle’s memory may be made to the Toelle boys’ college fund, checks can be made out to Autumn Toelle, and sent to LaFollette’s Chapel, P.O. Box 488, Burns, OR 97720. Please visit to sign the online guestbook. LaFollette’s Chapel is in charge of funeral arrangements.

Death notice – Dale White

Posted on February 11th in Obituaries

Dale White, former Harney County judge, 83, passed away Feb. 7.

Funeral services are pending, and will be announced at a later date. A full obituary will follow.

Michael Schnitker 1956 – 2015

Posted on February 4th in Obituaries

OBIT SchnitkerWORKEDMichael Lynn Schnitker was born March 15, 1956, in Seattle, Wash. He was the first born of Darrell and Billee (Jacoby), and was the life of the party from that point on. As a young boy, Mike moved a bit because his dad was in the military, but eventually, the family settled in Gooding, Idaho. Mike became a big brother and fulfilled the role with gusto. Holly and Julie took equal parts of love and torment.

Mike was an animal lover from the start. He would recount numerous stories of being on his grandfather’s ranch in Twin Falls, Idaho. Great Grandpa Schnitker took Mike under his wing and fostered a love of cattle, horses, and anything else cowboy. Mike excelled in FFA, and soon learned he had a knack for dogs, especially Australian Shepherds.

Mike met and married Donna (Morris) in 1975 on Dec. 27. The two had only been dating for three months, but he knew he found the one. Soon after, they welcomed Katy and Justin. Not long after becoming a family of four, Mike got a call to manage a ranch in Burns and the family relocated.

Burns quickly burrowed deep in Mike’s blood. He put his heart and soul into ministry at the Nazarene Church and many were blessed by his guitar playing and his big laughter.   As his roots grew deeper, Mike expanded his ministry and found himself pastoring the Crane Fellowship. In fact, the building of the church was one of Mike’s greatest joys. His kids often recount that every conversation included a report on church happenings from Pastor Mike.

If you knew Mike, you knew he also loved dogs and cows. His small herd of Charolais was something that he was very proud of, and he loved to watch the babies being born each year. He also never traveled anywhere without one of his Aussies.  The dogs were his constant companions and it was not uncommon to see his favorite curled up at his feet at night.

Mike loved people and he loved his family. His tough exterior instantly melted as soon as he was around any of his grandchildren. He was “Noosh” to Gracie and Finnley Turpen and “Pappy” to Ayden and Jaxstin Schnitker. Regardless of who was calling him, he adored the role of grandpa and loved taking the kids for ranger and tractor rides.

Mike was known for being bigger than life, and he will be greatly missed.

He is survived by his mother, Billee Schnitker; sister, Holly (Mark) Sabala; wife, Donna Schnitker; children, Katy (Kyle) Turpen and Justin (Kierra) Schnitker; and his grandchildren, Ayden, Jaxstin, Gracie and Finnley.

He was preceded in death by his father, Darrell Schnitker; and sister, Julie Coates.

To honor Mike, donations may be made to Crane Fellowship or Adventure in Life Ministries:

Curtis E. Denny

Posted on February 4th in Obituaries

OBIT C. DennyWORKEDCurtis E. Denny, 57, passed away Jan. 16 in Salem.

He was a legendary Hilander, called to make the last touchdown, the final field goal.

Curt graduated from Burns Union High School in 1975, where he was a stand-out athlete in football, basketball and track. In 1975, he set a new state record in the shot put, 64’ 9”, breaking his own record form the previous year. That record stood for more than 20 years.

He was a good brother and even better son, and after often wondering where to lay him to rest, it always came back to Burns. He never married, had no children, though he coached many to victory on the field, for the love of football and track. He had a rough way about him, but on the inside, a soft and gentle heart.

He is survived by sisters, Ruthanne B., Alexis C., Grace L., and Shirley; numerous nieces and nephews; and last, but not least, Janene P. and Chelle T .

He was preceded in death by his parents.

A memorial service will be held Feb. 24 in Burns at the old football field off of Foley Drive.

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