Vestal: Departed residents brought color to our region
One obituary is a portrait of a life. Many obituaries add up to a portrait of a place, an example of the variety of people and personalities who add up to a community.
Here are a few of our neighbors who have passed away recently, with some brief biographical notes drawn from their obituaries.
Marjorie Marie (Gross) Streit, known in her youth as “the songbird of the Valley,” died Jan. 16 at age 86. When she was 12, she recorded “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” as a tribute to her brother in the Army, and she went on to a career as a professional singer. She later raised four children with her husband in the Ponderosa neighborhood of the Spokane Valley. She had nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Lillian Esther Allan lived all of her 95 years in Spokane. She graduated from Rogers High School and taught Sunday school at the Hillyard Baptist Church. She and her husband had two children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She died March 5.
Known as “the guy with the long mustache,” William Edward Gilk Jr. died Feb. 22 at age 55. He served for 20 years in the Air Force, and worked most recently as a computer analyst supervisor. He had four children and three grandchildren. His Air Force career took him to various places, such as New Mexico, Colorado and Alaska, and he received the Air Force Achievement Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal four times.
Thelma Sophia (Severin) Spalding met her husband at Natatorium Park, and they were married in 1933. The couple raised two children and operated Spalding Auto Parts. “Customers soon realized that she knew just as much as the men did regarding car parts,” her obituary said. She loved to travel, and took a fishing trip to Alaska in her 80s. Sophia, who had seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson, passed away March 7 at age 99.
When Eugene Leroy “Gene” Frazer was 8 years old, his father died in a farming accident outside Colville. He moved with his mother and brother to Spokane. Gene served in the Air Force and then drove for Wallace-Colville Motorfreight until he retired in 1982. A Cadillac was his car of choice. He had a son and stepdaughter, two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren. He died March 2 at age 81.
A fervent Zags fan, Kathryn Kimmel Barbieri died at age 92 on March 4, the day her beloved Bulldogs reached No. 1 in national polls. Kathryn’s local roots run deep. Her great-grandfather came to the region in 1889 to help rebuild Spokane after the Great Fire; her 12 great-grandchildren are sixth-generation Spokanites. She and her husband, Lou, had seven children, and she volunteered in many local organizations. She celebrated her 90th birthday at the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas, insisting that her children join her.
George Isamu Heyamoto was a fixture at Indian Canyon and Downriver golf courses, where he could shoot his age even into his 90s. He grew up on a hops ranch in Newberg, Ore., and was a good baseball player as a youth, along with his brother, who was nicknamed “Heat.” His family was interned at the Minidoka Internment Camp in Southern Idaho during World War II. He moved to Spokane, where he worked in various jobs, including as manager of the Globe Hotel and as a lithographer. He was a regular for breakfast at the Hilltop Cafe. He had two children and two stepchildren. He died March 6 at age 92.
Charlene Lou Hughes died March 1 after a battle with leukemia. She was 68. Charlene grew up in Cheney, where she always earned perfect attendance pins for Sunday school and she was elected queen of Job’s Daughters in 1961. An active member of the Lutheran Church and manager of several retail stores, she had four children and four grandchildren.
Virginia Helen Bailey worked for 36 years as a clerk, bowling instructor and restaurant manager at the Colonial Bowl. Prior to that, she worked as a waitress at the Kress building in downtown Spokane, and as a telegraph operator for the railroad. She had one daughter. She died March 6 at age 93.
Charleen D. Brown lived all over the country before coming to the Inland Northwest; she was born on a Kansas farm and lived in Denver, California and Alaska before moving to Bonners Ferry in the 1970s. She moved to Spokane in 1992 when her husband passed away. She was known for staying in touch with those she met, and sent out more than 300 Christmas cards each year. She is survived by two children, five grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren. She died Feb. 25 at age 95.
Norman Enoch Heinen Sr. served in the Spokane Fire Department for 33 years. A native of Morgan Acres and a Navy veteran, Heinen was a devout Catholic and a Meals on Wheels volunteer. A father of two, Norman died March 6 at age 69.
Vickie Leann (Stallman) Hoy married her high school sweetheart, Michael Hoy, and they had two children. She worked for Albertsons stores and was a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1439, for 36 years. She had two children. She was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, and she passed away at age 57 on Feb. 19.
Carol Elizabeth Kabat Baumann was president of 12 different organizations during her time in Spokane. She worked as a second-grade teacher, and then as a producer and anchor at KSPS Public Television. For more than a decade she did “News for Young People.” She grew up in Salinas, Calif., before coming to the Inland Northwest to earn a master’s degree at Eastern Washington University. She had two children. She spent her later years in Issaquah, Wash., and passed away March 3 at age 81.
Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.