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Passings tell tale of place, its people

Wed., July 10, 2013

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

A recent Sunday’s worth of passings told a tale of the Inland Northwest that included bankers and beer salesmen, soldiers and sailors, huckleberry pickers and lifelong baseball fans – all the variety and history that produce a community.

Here, summarized, are some of them:

At age 17, Dale Arthur Bailey Sr. pulled his younger brother from the path of an oncoming horse-drawn hay wagon, and the rescue left him badly injured. The Valley Herald heralded him as a hero. A Marine, Dale served in the Korean War and was life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He worked as a truck driver and then for 24 years at Inland Asphalt, retiring in 1996. He died at age 81 on June 24.

Phillip William Codd worked as a nurse in the intensive care unit and emergency department at Sacred Heart hospital – where he met his wife, Carrie. They recently celebrated their 16th anniversary. He grew up in Spokane, one of 10 children, and was a dedicated athlete, racing on foot, on bikes, on skis and in the water. He died suddenly July 1 at age 64 while taking a morning jog through Riverside State Park near his home.

At 91, Alma S. “Allie” Benzel was one of eight children born on a family farm between Ritzville and Odessa, Wash., and she outlived all her siblings. She and her husband, Larry Benzel, ran Benzel Ford Sales in Ritzville for 30 years; she also worked as the business manager for Ritzville Memorial Hospital, branch manager for Lincoln Savings Bank and assistant vice president at Washington Mutual. She died July 1.

John “Jack” William Bartol traveled the Northwest as a sales representative for Hamm’s and Molson breweries. His family remembers his story of catching a 40-pound king salmon on the Kenai River – a salmon that grew, in the telling, to 80 pounds. Three of his seven children served in the military, and he and his wife of 69 years, Wanna Lee, were committed to the Catholic educations of their kids. Jack died recently at age 85.

Jean Kilpatrick was born in Steptoe, Wash., graduated at the top of her class at Steptoe High School, and married the son of an Oakesdale, Wash., farm family in 1944. During harvest at the Kilpatrick homestead, she would prepare hot lunches – including pies and cinnamon rolls – and serve them to workers off a truck tailgate. She was a homemaker and served in many community organizations; she also was a member of the Slippery Gulch Players in Tekoa, Wash., which performed for the annual community celebration. She died June 29 at age 87.

Larry Lee Cotant married the love of his life, Tracy McClendon, in May – their 26-year relationship was at last recognized under Washington’s new marriage law. Cotant was a foster parent to four at the time of his death at age 49, on July 3. He had served in the Navy, worked in a variety of jobs in Spokane following his discharge, lived in Cheney, and loved attending Chiefs and Indians games.

Gary Lee Gow grew up on a dairy farm in Elk. He served in the Coast Guard, the Air National Guard, and for 20 years in the Spokane Police Department, from which he retired as a detective. He died at his Spokane home on June 24, at age 74.

As a youth, Thomas McKay spent summers camping and picking huckleberries in Montana. He and his brother would beat the bushes and collect the fruit in large canvas containers, gathering up to 35 gallons a day to sell around the region. The proceeds helped support his family and financed his college education at Eastern Washington College of Education in Cheney. He met his future wife, Louise, on commuter car rides between Spokane and Cheney. He served in World War II, suffering a shoulder injury on Okinawa in 1945. Upon his return, he farmed, logged, sawmilled and taught school. He and Louise built a home for themselves in Curlew, Wash., after retiring. He died July 1 at age 94.

Brian Patrick Sweeny, a 1997 Gonzaga Prep graduate and class salutatorian, worked as a stunt producer on the TV show “Fear Factor” until the show ended in 2006. He loved living in Southern California – surfing, playing basketball and beach volleyball – and traveling the world. At age 28, he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and given 15 months to live – a prediction he outlived by six years. He died June 29 at age 34, having returned to Spokane for hospice care.

Nola J. Remillong- Stanford’s passion for hockey earned her the nickname “Hockey Nola.” A native of New Zealand who served in that country’s Women’s Army during World War II, she married an American Marine, came to the United States in 1944, and became a citizen in 1948. She survived two husbands, lived in Davenport, Wash., and Spokane, and had a large family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She died recently at age 93.

Lorraine Berenbaum Cooper grew up in Chicago, where her aunts would take her to Cubs games on Fridays because “ladies” got in free. She was first hospitalized for arthritis in her 30s. She and her father moved to Seattle, and she came to Spokane in 1954 after a blind date with Gerald Cooper led to their marriage. She worked as a legal secretary, volunteered for many causes and served as president of the local Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. She suffered from Parkinson’s disease in the final five years of her life. She died July 4 in hospice care in Seattle at age 96. In her final week, she watched the Cubs and Mariners play on TV.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or

Tags: obituaries

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