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.

August T. Beard 1932-2014

Posted on July 2nd in Obituaries

OBIT Beard webAugust T. Beard, 81, passed away June 30 at his home in Burns.

August was born Aug. 9, 1932, in Precinct 6, Childers County, Texas.

He was only 4 years old when his family left the dust bowls of Texas, during the Great Depression, and came to Oregon looking for work. Raised in Central Oregon, he started working on a ranch in Lower Bridge, for Pridey Holmes, at the age of 14. Pridey was amazed at how well he worked and what a good cowboy he made. Oh, the stories he told of rounding up the cattle up toward Sisters and working on the ranch.

When he was old enough, he enlisted in the Army, and served during the Korean War. After his time in the military, the open range called his name, so he went back to work for Pridey. Eventually, he went to work for Jack Robinson Construction in Redmond, where he stayed until retirement in 1988.

He met and married his first wife, Veralee, in 1968. Sadly, she passed on in 1988. In 1992, he met his second wife, Mary Fisher. They married in 1993 and had 21 wonderful years together.

“Augie” loved to work with his hands. He made many children happy by making wooden toys for them. He also loved to carve and has some beautiful carvings to show for his talent. The many excavation toys he made were very intricate, with working parts and pieces. The details were fabulous.

He loved to hunt and fish. He taught more than one youth how to track a wounded animal, or passed down his skills with a rod and reel. He was quite the outdoorsman. He loved the woods, camping, and walking the desert. He was a real “man’s man.”

He is survived by his wife, Mary L. Beard; brother, Jerry Beard; and sister, Edith Roebuck. He is also survived by many stepchildren, grandchildren, nephews and nieces.


Larry (Kent) Davis

Posted on July 2nd in Obituaries

Larry (Kent) Davis, Burns High Class of 1963, passed away June 4, following a long illness. He had lived and been cared for at Grimm Adult Family Home for the past several years.

His ashes will be scattered, following a memorial service at his home on July 12. He will return to his boyhood home in Sodaville, his ashes scattered on the playground of the three-room schoolhouse where he attended grades 1-4; in the field near his home; along the banks of Oak Creek, where his sister, Marie, and brother, Buck, played.

He is survived by his sister, Marie Campbell, of Port Angeles, Wash., the last surviving sibling of the 11 children their parents bore and raised. May the long time sun shine upon our little brother and bring him peace.


OBIT Johnson webA memorial Mass for Wayne Johnson, 92, will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 3, at Holy Family Catholic Church in Burns.


OBIT Miller webFern (Arnold) Miller, 92, of Talent, passed away June 13, following only a few days when life was no longer fun for her, interrupted on her way to see her beloved Mariners play some home games.

Fern was born March 4, 1922, to Ben and Blanche Arnold at their ranch near American Falls, Idaho, and lived with her parents and three brothers in Jerome, Idaho, throughout her school years. She was a long-time Harney County resident and hard-working ranch partner with her husband, Howard, and brother-in-law, Neil, at Crow Camp Ranch.

A mother of seven, Fern befriended scores of her children’s friends on their way through Crane grade and high schools, taking in hundreds of ball games, school dances, road trips, last day picnics and potlucks, 4-H and grange events and county fairs. She and Howard provided a temporary “home for boys” after the school and dormitory burned down in 1967. She was a good and cheerful neighbor to adults in the ranching community.

No matter how hot the summers, Fern kept a steady flow of brownies and other goodies coming from the old wood stove. Summer vacations and Sunday and holiday gatherings at Crow Camp remain fond memories to many nephews and nieces who recall Fern’s unfailing kindness to them.

Fern’s kindness extended to anything that grew. At Crow Camp, where gardening was a constant battle against drought, her garden was a tablefull of luxuriant houseplants that she fed with the dregs of her cold coffee. Later, digging in the earth gave her a peace that she called “dirt therapy.”

Fern “retired” to Hawaii with her youngest daughter, Ada (Derek) Rivera, where she continued to work hard for many years alongside Ada, Derek, and their son, Sam, operating Paradise Inn Bed and Breakfast in their Kauai home. Vacationing family and friends could always find a nice room, good times, comfort food and happy memories waiting for them, often for free. Always happy working in the  garden, she enjoyed the tropical life with its profusion of beautiful flowers and plants. She appreciated the gentler climate, but called riding out and cleaning up after Hurricane Iniki in 1992, “an experience,” which wasn’t all pleasant.

Returning to live in Oregon 15 years ago, Fern is survived by her daughters, Carol (Ron) Waterman, Laura (Tom) Munkres and Ada; sons, Dave and Evan Miller; as well as several grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews and nieces.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Howard; her parents; brothers, Bill, Fred and Earl Arnold; sons, Tom and Eric Miller; and grandson, Daniel Ausmus Waterman.

There will be no public ceremony. Instead reflect for a while on happy memories of your own, and send your good wishes with Fern along the next stage of her journey. She lived well, with strength, grace, generosity, and a great sense of humor, and we remember her joyfully and lovingly, always.

webOBIT GreigMary Ann Catherine (Labenz) Greig, 91, passed away June 10.

Mary Ann was born Nov. 22, 1922, in Monroe, Neb., to Conrad and Margaret (Hoelscher) Labenz. She was the oldest of seven children. The family grew up in the St. Edward, Neb., area.

She married Roger Lee Greig Dec. 29, 1947. The couple lived and farmed in Nebraska until 1955, when they decided to join Roger’s sister, Ellen, and her husband, Ed Hellbusch, and move to Oregon for work. When they arrived in Burns, Roger worked in the woods for Edward Hines, and Mary Ann worked as a cook for the fire and logging camps.

Soon, she went to work at Harney County Hospital as a housekeeper, and eventually retired as a supervisor.

Mary Ann and Roger didn’t have any children of their own, but they treated their nieces and nephews as if they were their own. They always had them stay overnight, and traveled with them when they were children on trips to see family in Nebraska, Wyoming, Washington and Canada. They took great pride in watching them all grow.

After Roger passed away in 1991, Mary Ann became very active in the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center. She enjoyed the daily luncheons, brunches, and volunteered there regularly. She enjoyed playing pinochle, bingo and bunco, and traveling to Bend on the bus with her friends to shop. She was very active with the American Legion, and enjoyed their meetings. She enjoyed flying to Nebraska every few years to visit her brothers and sisters, and to see her nieces and nephews grow there.

Mary Ann and Roger were devout in their Catholic faith. Mary Ann truly enjoyed attending Mass daily, and her fellow parishioners at Holy Family Catholic Church meant a great deal to her.

At the young age of 91, Mary Ann wasn’t one to just sit at home and do nothing. She was always active. She was an amazing cook, and enjoyed baking treats for her afternoon card games. She was a wonderful seamstress, and loved to crochet. She loved spending time with her special nephew and niece, Dag and Rachael Robinson, for dinners, barbecues, birthdays and holidays at the family cabin, or just “dragging Main,” as she called it. She remained very active, even when she didn’t feel that great. She didn’t want to miss out on spending time with her family and friends.

Mary Ann is survived by brothers, Gerald and Ralph, of Omaha, Neb.; sister, Florine Iverson, of Clay Center, Neb.; special nephew and niece, Derrin (Dag) and Rachael Robinson, of Hines; among many others.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Conrad and Margaret Labenz; brothers, Mark and Irvin; sister, Alice; and husband, Roger.

A memorial Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 21, at Holy Family Catholic Church, followed by interment at Burns Cemetery.

Contributions in Mary Ann’s memory may be made to the Holy Family Catholic Church and/or Harney County Senior and Community Services Center.

webOBIT ChoateIma Elizabeth Choate, 87, passed away Friday, June 13, at her home in Hines, with her family at her side.

She was born July 21, 1926, in Burns. Her parents were Harry Howell (b.1880) and Velma Kelley Howell (b.1903).

Young Ima attended school in Burns, and graduated from Burns High School in 1944. At the age of 19, on January 21, 1945, Ima married Tom Choate, also from Burns, and the son of John T. (Jack) Choate and Itha Naomi Garrett Choate of Burns. Tom was serving in the United States Army Air Force. They were married in Great Falls, Mont. When Tom was honorably discharged in October 1945 from Great Falls Army Air Base, Mont., the newlyweds immediately moved back to Burns.

Ima and Tom created a beautiful family together, having four boys and one girl. From their five children, Tom and Ima came to have 11 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.

Ima Choate is survived by her children, John T. (Tommy) Choate Jr. and wife, Barbara, of Hines, Gordon Choate of Redmond, Jerry Choate and wife, Katherine, of Sidney, Mont., and Sharyn Ochoa and husband, Philip, of Santa Rosa Valley, Calif. She is also survived by 11 grandchildren, Dena Vinzant, Tom Choate, Mike Choate, Debbie George, Dawn Wilson, Becky Winters, Melissa Church, Jerri Lyn Clelland, Lorie Smith, Amanda Sherrill, and Matt Cooper; 16 great-grandchildren, Jonathan Vinzant, Jessie Vinzant, Jacob Ray, Felicia Choate, Marissa Choate, Alicia Plechaty, Tyler George, Hannah George, Nicole Morgan, Brooks Morgan, Austin Wilson, Bree Porfily, Logan Porfily, Lucas Roberts, Gauge Smith, Blake Sherrill; and four great-great-grandchildren, Jaydon Vinzant, Bentley Vinzant, Corbin Vinzant and Dakota Morgan.

Ima was preceded in death by her parents, Harry Howell and Velma Howell; siblings, Ruth Howell Armstrong of Vale, and Denise (DeeDee) Howell of Burns; her beloved husband of 65 years, Tom Choate (d.2010); and her son, Gary Choate of Burns (d.2012).

Services were held at LaFollette’s Chapel on Tuesday, June 17,  with eulogy given by son-in-law Philip Ochoa. Graveside services followed.

Donations in Mrs. Choate’s memory may be made to the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center directly, or in care of LaFollette’s Chapel, P.O. Box 488, Burns, OR 97720.

webOBIT StewartDaniel Augustus Stewart, 50, passed away June 7 at the home of his parents, Louis and Evelyn (Davis) Stewart of Burns, with family and friends at his side.

He was born Feb. 1, 1964, at the Naval Hospital in Key West, Fla.

Dan moved to Burns in 1975 when his father, who was born and raised in Burns, retired from the Navy. Dan attended school in Burns.

The family moved to Walla Walla, Wash., in 1980 after Edward Hines Lumber Company reduced operations. He attended school there, working the summers for local farm operations. After leaving school, he was employed in several occupations, including gas station attendant, wood stove manufacturing, bow building and other operations for a local processing plant.

Eventually, Dan moved back to Burns, where he always liked living. He worked at McDonald’s, Coachworks and LP laminated beam plant, where he was a leadman before the company shut down. During his time here, he met Janet DeLay. They married in 2008, and Dan was the happiest he had ever been in his life. After LP shut down, Dan and Janet moved to Pilot Rock, where he worked at the lumber mill there. They also bought and ran a coffee stand. When Dan became unable to work in the lumber mill, they moved back to Burns.

After returning to Burns, Dan and Janet eventually went to work for the Malheur Field Station. He was employed there as the maintenance supervisor until he was unable to work, shortly before his death.

Dan always enjoyed being around other people and, because of this, he was able to make friends easily. He always kept track of his family and friends, calling them or going to visit them frequently, just to see how they were. Whenever there was a gathering of friends and/or family, Dan would always keep the kids occupied and entertained. They loved him for it.

Dan is survived by his wife, Janet; two step-daughters, Melissa and Samantha DeLay; grandsons, Tristin and Owen; granddaughter, Jaiden; parents, Louis and Evelyn Stewart; brother, Louis Stewart; sister, Yvonne Coyne; brother, David Stewart and wife, Cindy; nieces, Taya and Beccah Stewart, Crystal Cook, Felisha Fernandez and Michelle Miller; nephews, Michael Manning and David Stewart; several grand-nieces and grand-nephews; numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and their children.

He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Andrew Stewart; grandmother, Agatha Robison; grandfather, Preston Robison; grandmother, Veave Miller; grandfather, Clarence Miller; uncle, Preston Robison; and aunt, Linda Robison.

There will be a Celebration of Life, with a potluck dinner, at Triangle Park June 21, beginning at 2 p.m. and lasting until visitation has concluded or dark.

The family requests that those wishing to make a donation do so to an organization or charity of their choice.

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