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Thursday, April 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Shawn Vestal: Obituaries provide a picture of what has made Spokane such an interesting city

Shawn Vestal (Dan Pelle / DAN PELLE)
Shawn Vestal (Dan Pelle / DAN PELLE)

One obituary is a portrait of an individual. Bring several together and you have a portrait of a place.

Recent obituaries in The Spokesman-Review tell stories of Fuller Brush men and decorated Vietnam heroes, truck drivers and part-time ministers, businesswomen and piano players. The following was summarized from those obituaries.

As a young woman, the Minnesota-born Mary Egan (Becker) Beck traveled through Alaska and Hawaii selling magazines and encyclopedias before enrolling at the University of Washington. That is where she met her future husband, Lawrence, with whom she eventually moved to Spokane in 1967 and raised four children. Mary was a charter member of the South Hill Senior Center, and a longtime member of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, and she played bridge at every opportunity. She died Oct. 27 at age 90.

Born in Moscow, Bruce Maurice Kyllo spent his early years farming and selling Fuller Bush products around the Palouse, before returning to the town where he spent his youth, LaCrosse. He opened Kyllo’s Grocery in 1962. Later, he worked for the LaCrosse School District as a custodian and groundskeeper until his retirement in 1990. He planted more than 3,000 trees in and around LaCrosse, and was honored by the Whitman Conservation District for his efforts. He and his wife, Ruth, raised three kids; Bruce dedicated what had come to be known as “Bruce’s Forest” to Ruth after her passing in 2003. He died Nov. 2 at age 92.

Her father nicknamed her “Babe,” and Julia Margaret Grandinetti Adams remained Babe – or Grandma Babe or Aunt Babe – throughout her life. Julia was a lifelong Spokane resident, who graduated from Lewis and Clark High and attended Kinman Business University, where she met Jim Adams. She married Jim in 1950, and they moved into their first and last home together in North Spokane. They raised a son, and had two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Over the years, she worked at Lindgren Turner Manufacturing, Jaremko Motors, the Desert Sahara Hotel and The Spokesman-Review, and she was a member of St. Aloysius parish. She died Oct. 23 at age 91.

John Lewis Leppelman was born in Visalia, California, and volunteered at age 17 to serve in the Army during the Vietnam War – a decision that resulted in three heroic, decorated tours of duty as a paratrooper. “Lepp” was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, along with several other honors, and he published a book, “Blood on the Risers: An Airborne Soldier’s Thirty-five Months in Vietnam,” in 1991. John married his first wife, Linda, in 1973; they raised three children over their 21-year marriage. He worked as a realtor and owned his own appraisal business for many years. He and his family lived in many places, including Coeur d’Alene, and traveled extensively. He married Sandra Riechert in 2003, and they became “snowbirds” – spending summers at the lake in Coeur d’Alene and winters in Yuma, Arizona. He died Oct. 31 at age 71.

Born in Rosebud, South Dakota, in 1937, Kay Frances (Pourier) Cotant grew up on a ranch, working in hayfields, rustling cattle with her dad, and rodeoing. She graduated from high school and was trained as a teacher in Nebraska, where she taught for several years. She was a singer who auditioned successfully for the Tommy Dorsey Band – but didn’t end up joining the band due to an “affair of the heart.” She married Larry Joe Cotant in 1959, and had three children in Nebraska before moving to Greenacres, where they had another daughter. She and her husband drove an 18-wheeler hauling cattle and boat trailers across the U.S. She died Oct. 16 at age 81.

Carol Jean (Schultz) Buddrius lived her whole life in Harrington, where she married her high school sweetheart, DeWane Buddrius. She worked hard on the family farm, driving wheat trucks, preparing meals for crews, and being an extra hand when needed. She was a great cook and gardener, loved to play piano and sing praise songs, and had a deep love of the Bible and Jesus Christ. She and DeWane raised three children, and had five grandchildren. She died Nov. 3 at age 76.

Eddward Melvin Wadsworth spent much of his life in Big Sky Country. Born in Great Falls, Montana, he attended schools there, graduating from the College of Great Falls and the University of Montana, with degrees in mathematics. He was a programmer and systems analyst for Boeing, the state of Montana, and Hitachi Data Systems. He also became ordained as a minister for the Foursquare Church, and was an associate pastor for more than a decade. He and his wife, Marilyn, traveled the country in retirement before settling in Spokane in 2008. He volunteered on the prayer team at the Healing Rooms Ministries. He died Nov. 1 at age 80 after a battle with leukemia.

Kay Laurelle LeFevre Stipe was born in Fargo, North Dakota and grew up in Kalispell, Montana. She met her future husband, John, at the University of Montana. They settled in Spokane, where they owned Ethan Allen Home Interiors and raised a family. Kay was involved in many local organizations, including the American Heart Association, the Spokane Symphony, Morningstar Boys Ranch, and Junior League. She served for 39 years on the board of trustees for the Hutton Settlement. She died Sept. 28 at age 82.

Born the youngest of 14 children, Ernest Lewis graduated from Rogers High in 1962. He and his wife, Marilou, raised two children in Spokane. He began his career working for the railroad at Western Fruit, which became Burlington Northern, and later worked for the Spokane School District. He died Oct. 30, on the very same property where he was born 75 years earlier.

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