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Shawn Vestal: Obituaries add up to portrait of community

Sat., July 19, 2014

One obituary is a portrait of a person. Several add up to a portrait of a community.

Recent obituaries published in The Spokesman-Review tell a story of nuns and war veterans, coaches and expert bowlers. Here are a few of them:

Born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, Ian M. Dallas served in the British Merchant Navy, immigrated to South Africa and worked in the diamond mines of Tanzania. He and his wife, Jean, moved to Southern California, and then to Liberty Lake upon retirement. He loved to fish, garden and golf, and was president of the Meadow Wood Golf Course Men’s Club for two years. He died July 6 at age 79.

Marjorie Ann (Arveson) Arndt ran Waverly Place Bed and Breakfast, bordering Corbin Park, with family members for 26 years. A native of Newport, Margie graduated from Rogers High in 1957 and married her high school sweetheart; they eventually settled in Spokane and raised four kids. Margie was a founding member of the Corbin Park Historic District and served several organizations focused on the West Central neighborhood. She died June 25 at age 75.

Edwin J. Stevens Jr. – known in the local bowling world as Steady Eddie – was an avid and skilled bowler until a knee injury sidelined him in 1994, two years after his induction into the Spokane Bowlers Hall of Fame. He ran his own construction company, East Valley Construction, with his son. He was a volunteer coach, financial supporter and frequently “Fan of the Year” for the Spokane Junior Wrestling program. He died July 7 at age 71.

Rita Joyce (Cornwell) Pecka worked and volunteered all around Othello. She and her husband, Albert, farmed in the 1950s. She went on to work at the Othello Air Force Radar Station, Bentley’s Floral Design, Potter Drug, Petrolane, Othello Community Hospital and the East Columbia Irrigation District. She volunteered for many organizations and served one season as a Little League coach. She died July 14 at age 80.

Bobby F. Brewer was the oldest in a family of six children born in Campton, Kentucky, in 1932. He served all over the world in the Air Force and retired from Fairchild, going on to a 21-year career at Key Tronic as an engineer. His first wife, Dorothy, passed away in 1997; Bobby later volunteered for Hospice of Spokane for 10 years. He remarried in 2009 and enjoyed traveling the country and spending time at the dream house he built himself on Lake Pend Oreille. He died July 7 at age 82.

When Esther Irene Ernst moved with her family to Millwood at the age of 7, she spoke only German. She eventually graduated from West Valley High in 1940 and worked in several jobs around the area, including 35 years as a cashier for Safeway. She loved to dance, crochet and embroider. She died June 21 at age 93.

Roy “Bill” Graffis is the only high school coach in Washington State Interscholastic Association history to win three state championships – in football, boys basketball and girls basketball. He and his wife, Della, raised six kids. He taught and coached in Lacrosse, Oakville, Moses Lake, Sprague, Odessa and Oakesdale, and he finished his career as an educator as the superintendent in the Columbia School District. He died July 4 at age 82.

Clifton K. Baun rode his all-terrain vehicle weekly with his wife and friends, right up until his 85th year. A 40-year employee of Kaiser Aluminum, he spent many hours volunteering in the community, particularly with the Union Gospel Mission. He served in the Marines during World War II. He died at age 88 on July 3.

Ronald E. Frederick marked his 18th birthday in Korea, where he was serving in the Army. An Odessa native, he returned there to farm after the war and spent some time working in Spokane. Over his life he farmed, worked as a machine yard foreman, VFW club manager, school bus driver and postal carrier. He was a member of the VFW, NRA, American Legion, Odessa Gun Club, Christ Lutheran Church and the coffee group known as the “Old Cronies Coffee Klatsch.” He died July 8 at age 78.

Richard James “Dick” Dukart started working in high school, building fruit boxes at a Yakima canning company. After serving in the Navy, he returned to work in the canning industry, eventually spending 42 years working for General Foods all over the country and retiring as a plant manager in Bettendorf, Iowa. He and his wife, Alice, moved back to the Inland Northwest to be near family after his retirement. He died July 9 at age 89.

Born in Shelby, Montana, Sister Rose Theresa (Dorothy) Costello graduated from Spokane schools and entered the novitiate of the Sisters of the Holy Names. She professed her vows as Sister M. Rose Theresa in 1938 and began her college education and teaching career in parish schools around the region. She had an interest in geography and particularly enjoyed teaching seventh-graders; she co-authored a geography workbook for fifth-graders and was runner-up for Washington teacher of the year in 1967. She recently celebrated her 75th jubilee as a Sister of the Holy Names and her 96th birthday. She died July 14.

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

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