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Vestal: Obituaries tell the story of a community

Shawn Vestal

One obituary is a portrait of an individual. Several are a portrait of a place.

A recent week’s worth of passings told a tale of the Inland Northwest that included motorcycle riders and golfers, retired schoolteachers and longtime grocers, backpackers and horse owners – all the variety and history that produce a community.

Here, summarized, are some of them:

Gene Carpenter rode his first motorcycle when he was 18, and he didn’t stop until he was 89, when one of his hips gave out. Born in Chelan, Wash., in 1916, he and his family later moved to Spokane. He started playing accordion at age 14, and that led to a lifetime of music and performance and teaching. He was married twice and lived his final years with a special companion; he had three daughters, 20 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren. He died Aug. 20 at age 97.

Joy (McDonald) Baker was a member of the Dirt Daubers Garden Club for 50 years. She met her future husband, George, when they were fellow students at North Central High School, and they were married for 52 years. Born and raised in Spokane, she died Aug. 20 at age 91.

Born in Fruitland, Wash., Conrad Pascal was a longtime judge and judicial official for the Spokane Tribe and tribal organizations around the country. A one-time chief tribal judge, Pascal consulted with other tribes to set up their own judicial processes and helped establish a national tribal program for court-appointed special advocates to represent children in court. His devotion to his culture was strong: he was a drum leader and singer, and he passed along Indian traditions and customs, including stick gaming. He died Aug. 21 at age 69.

Ada Geraldine (Stinson) Oppie and her husband went from Playfair horse-racing fans to racehorse owners, after they moved to the Spokane Valley in 1952. Their stable included the popular stake horses Kaye de Mascus, Sea Mystique and Deceitfully. Jerrie, as she was known, grew up on a Nebraska farm, the youngest of 11 children, and married Chester Oppie in 1942, just as he was being shipped to India to serve in the military in World War II. She worked for GE Supply for 40 years. She and Chet were married for 69 years; he died in 2011. She passed away Aug. 18 at age 90.

Bill E. Harrington was born at his parents’ home, behind their grocery store in the Dishman area, in 1923. The family moved to Lincoln Heights when he was 2 and opened Harrington’s Mercantile, a hardware, feed and dry goods store that later became an IGA Foodliner. Bill learned the business from his father, including meat-cutting, and eventually he took over the store himself, as well as running other businesses in the region. He met his wife, Victoria “Vickie” Kelp, at a Lincoln Heights bus stop in 1945; they celebrated their 67th anniversary last September, two months before Vickie passed away. He was 90 when he passed away Aug. 5.

Lisa (Burns) Kirk loved to golf – with her “girls” nearly every weekend at Wandermere and with her husband, Mike. She grew up in the Edmonds/Lynnwood, Wash., area and moved to Spokane in the early 1990s, working in the mortgage industry. She died of a heart attack Aug. 17 at age 48, as she was getting ready for a golf tournament.

James Warner Farley lived the last seven years of his life in Spokane, where he came to be closer to his daughter’s family. A native of California, he taught school in the Ontario-Montclair School District for 35 years. He died Aug. 23 at age 80.

Harriet (Taylor) Schnug and her husband, Dr. George Edward Schnug, traveled the world, usually fishing and hiking wherever they went. An avid outdoorswoman and self-taught naturalist, “Happy” was born in Cincinnati in 1917. She and her husband moved to Spokane in the 1940s, where he set up practice and they raised three children. She was, her obituary said, “a good golfer, an excellent swimmer, a creative cook and an avid reader.” She died Aug. 11 at age 96.

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

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