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Shawn Vestal: Obituaries offer snapshot of life in the Inland Northwest

Sat., Nov. 30, 2013, midnight

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

The obituaries of recent weeks told a tale of the Inland Northwest that included farmers and arts patrons, harvest cooks and golfers. Here, summarized, are some of them:

James Campasino picked up golf while he was stationed on Guam during World War II. It became a lifelong passion. With a handicap in the single digits, he competed in amateur tournaments and was a best-ball regular with his son, Jim. James served in the military for 25 years, retiring from Fairchild Air Force Base, and went on to spend 18 years working for the Post Office, delivering mail in the Westview neighborhood. He was a proud grandparent and willing to brave a scolding for letting his grandkids eat ice cream and popcorn for breakfast. He died Nov. 7, two days before his 90th birthday.

Mary Ann Burghard was in ninth grade when the love of her life got onto her Ritzville school bus. Eventually, she and Herb were married for 72 years, and they raised three children in Odessa, Wash. She became a great cook by preparing meals for harvest crews, and she volunteered for many local organizations. After her children were grown, she worked part-time at local businesses. She and Herb tried to take a long walk together daily. He died in June. Mary Ann died Nov. 19 at age 91.

Drafted into the Army in 1953, Merrill Brown was trained in using the big anti-aircraft gun known as the Skysweeper. Upon his return to the family farm outside Cheney, he met his future wife, Joyce Doreen Paul, and they started a family. His obituary said he was “truly Farmer Brown” – besides his regular farming duties, he was a supplier for Darigold for 42 years. He and his wife had five children. They were devoted followers of Christ, and dedicated to ministering to children, prisoners and the elderly. He died Nov. 19 at age 82.

Joan “Jody” Hix grew up in Colorado, graduated from Stanford University, and was living in San Francisco when she met and married her husband, Clarence, in 1949. They moved to Spokane, where they raised three children. Jody served two terms as president of the Deaconess Hospital Auxiliary and volunteered in many other organizations. She and her husband moved around the West, and they became avid golfers. She was a member of the Philanthropic Educational Organization, a group dedicated to helping women, throughout her life. She moved back to Spokane in 2009 to be near family. She died Oct. 29 at age 86.

Educated in a one-room schoolhouse in Nebraska, Esther Vera Bolker became a force for education and the arts in Spokane. She put off her college education to help put her husband, Norman, through medical school; after raising four kids, she earned a degree in Classical Greek and Latin Civilization at Gonzaga University. She and her husband assembled a large collection of art prints, which they donated to GU. She served in a wide range of civic organizations during her 36 years in Spokane, supporting chamber music, libraries and other cultural organizations. She and her husband have lived the past 20 years in Corvallis, Ore.; they celebrated their 72nd anniversary in June. She died Nov. 20 at age 90.

James Bowman was born in Spokane in 1945, graduated from Rogers High in 1963 and was a co-owner of the Silver Pheasant bar on North Division Street – before he headed to Alaska to become a commercial fisherman. His life there cost him part of one thumb and all of one boat, but it gained him his wife, Lisa, and their son. In 2006, he moved to Coeur d’Alene, and then to Deer Park. His final years were spent battling lung disease. He died Nov. 6 at age 68.

Barry Markham Miller came to Spokane as an airman in the Air Force stationed at Geiger Field. He wed Mary Engle, a Deaconess nursing student, and they were married for 50 years. After the Air Force and 10 years of working at a factory in Cleveland, he returned to the Northwest and began teaching school. He taught English and the great literary works in Priest River and Salmon, Idaho; in the summers, he worked in the national forests. He ran the Coeur d’Alene Marathon in his mid-40s. He died Nov. 16 at age 73.

Charlotte Ann Thoma moved to the Spokane Valley with her family when she was very young. After attending local Catholic schools, she entered the Drezden modeling school and took a job modeling for The Crescent store. She married Erich Thoma in 1956, and they had three children. Charlotte loved Brazilian needlepoint, china painting and her German shepherds. Later in life, she became a nurse, caring for people in hospitals, clinics and homes throughout the community. She died Nov. 17 at age 75.

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

Tags: obituaries

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