Arrow-right Camera


Vestal: Obituaries show diversity of community

Sat., April 20, 2013

One obituary is a portrait of an individual. Several obituaries are a portrait of a community.

The following were condensed from recent obituaries:

Maxine (Vanos) Ainslie grew up playing sports in Colfax, and worked in the pea cannery in Dayton during World War II. After the war, she married and had three children – two of them twins born on her birthday. After moving to Spokane and remarrying, she took up golf. She and her husband, Dr. John Ainslie, golfed at Manito Country Club in the summers and Indio, Calif., in the winters. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last August, and she died April 12 at age 87.

Delbert Bemis started skiing at Mount Spokane after he retired as a route manager for Valley Garbage, and he began teaching Special Olympics athletes to ski. A Chicago native who served in the Army during World War II, Del and his wife, Jeanne, liked to square dance. They had three children and 10 grandkids. He died Jan. 7 at age 91.

Ann Mary (Martin) Boyd worked as an Avon lady for many years, along with being a homemaker and employee at several businesses in Ephrata. Her husband, Pat, died in 1980; together they had also lived in Chelan, Wenatchee, the Tri-Cities and Seattle. Ann moved to Spokane in 2001. She died April 12 at age 94.

A retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, George “Rocky” Fortner became the “honorary mayor” of Lake Spokane, organizing and participating in a wide range of community activities and volunteering his time and efforts. He and his wife, Candy, founded the Parent-Teacher Network for Lakeside Middle School. He died April 8 at age 66.

John William Halstead was well-traveled for a young man, visiting all 50 states. He scuba dived, fly-fished, camped and skied, and he was completing a bachelor’s degree in political science and English at Washington State University. He died April 9 from an aneurysm at age 23.

A devout Catholic, Mary Greco loved to read, study, worship – and root for Notre Dame. Born on a farm in Walla Walla, she married her husband, Ernest, and raised two sons while working in the family tailoring and dry cleaning business. She was an excellent cook, and she made more than 100 Christmas stockings for family and friends. She died April 15 at age 96.

John Richard Koch loved to fly planes. A Marine pilot for 24 years, he later flew for Spokane Airways and Gulf Air in Alaska. He and a student each built an experimental plane, the Rutan Long-EZ, and flew them around the world in 1987. He and his wife, Jean, had three children; he spent his retirement flying, snowmobiling, fishing, kayaking and hunting. He died April 8 at age 85.

Two weeks after his 19th birthday, Denis A. Mikkelsen found himself aboard the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. As the ship sank in the harbor mud, Denis sprayed a fire hose at the ammunition to prevent an explosion. A Wilbur native, Denis also witnessed the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll in 1946. His Navy career took him around the world, and his wife, Vina, and family followed. He retired from the Navy in 1964, and started a 23-year career at Becherini Scale Center, and did a little farming on the West Plains. He died March 30 at age 90.

Stanley B. Covert – known as “Burt” and “Doc” – served in the Korean War and then started his medical career with a family practice in rural Maine. Office calls were $3, house calls were $4, and deliveries were $25. He later moved, with his family, to Shelton, Wash., where he ran a hectic family practice. He also served as the director of student health services at Eastern Oregon State College, and then moved to Elk, where he died April 10 at age 87.

James Dale Olinger II worked as a chemist at United Paint & Coating. Born and raised in Spokane, he graduated from West Valley High, attended Central Washington University and the University of Washington, and served in the Air Force. He died of pancreatic cancer April 8 at age 48, eight months after his sister, Dr. Janella Olinger, died at the same age from cancer.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.

There are 19 comments on this story »