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Opinion >  Column

Shawn Vestal: Obituaries paint a portrait of a community

Shawn Vestal  (DAN PELLE)
Shawn Vestal (DAN PELLE)

One obituary is a portrait of a life. Several taken together form a portrait of a community.

Recent obituaries tell the stories of a chef and a school teacher, a political pioneer and a Kaiser supervisor, a small-town doctor and a big-town journalist.

The following snapshots were based on recent obituary notices:

The third of seven kids, Marceen Marie Zappone was a born entertainer. She attended Catholic schools and Gonzaga University, before transferring to Fort Wright College to study drama. She commuted to school in her father’s 1931 Model A, and played the role of Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She later graduated from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College – skills she put to use at private parties and during Expo ‘74 – and later took a stab at stand-up comedy. She worked as a bank teller and in several other jobs over the course of her life, and started her own soap business, MZ Creations. She died Aug. 22 at age 71.

Kenneth Langford was born on a small farm in 1931 in Henrietta, Texas, which instilled a lifelong love of horses. He joined the Army as a young man and served during the Korean War; following his discharge, he attended college and joined the Border Patrol. While working in El Paso, he went on a blind date with an Army nurse, Marietta Lee. They would marry and stay together for 60 years, raising three children. Ken finished his career as chief patrol agent in Spokane, and he bought property outside of town so he could again have horses. He died Aug. 16 at age 89.

Claudia Marie Roffler taught school in Spokane for 25 years, most of it at Emerson, Garfield and Linwood elementary schools. Born in Otis Orchards, she attended Eastern Washington State College, where she met her future husband, Dean Roffler. They married in 1958, and Claudia postponed her teaching career to raise their two children. She battled dementia in her later years, and died Aug. 22 in her home at the memory care unit of Fairwood Retirement Village. She was 86.

Born in Seattle, Dr. Robert W. Tulin served in the Navy during the Korean War and started a career as a teacher before changing course and going to medical school. He started practicing in Colfax in 1970, and became an instrumental figure in the health care community, helping to recruit doctors to expand the clinic where he practiced and serving as chief of staff at the Colfax hospital. He was named Rural Doctor of the Year in 2000. He and his wife, Shirley, raised three children. He died Aug. 24 at age 90.

In 1976, Marjorie Maxine Williams became the first woman elected to the City Council of Coulee Dam, just one of the many ways in which she worked on behalf of the community. Restoring and maintaining the city park was one of her chief priorities. She was born the oldest of 13 children in Pawnee City, Nebraska, in 1929. She and her husband, Ken, moved around in their early years before settling in Coulee Dam. She worked as a bookkeeper, business manager and city clerk, the position from which she retired in 1989. She also operated the White Cottage Antique Store. She and Ken moved to Spokane Valley in recent years to be near children and grandchildren. She died Aug. 16 at age 91.

Born and raised in Missouri, Louie Jack “Brad” Bradshaw joined the Air Force in 1952 and was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base. He married Rosalie Marie on the same day he was honorably discharged from the service – July 19, 1955. He went on to work as a metals products supervisor at the Kaiser Aluminum Plant in Mead for 28 years, which included an assignment in Ghana in the late 1960s. He was a whiz at fixing cars, and loved teaching Sunday School. He died Aug. 13 at age 88.

Richard “Dick” Gibson‘s first foray into journalism was writing about a malfunctioning water fountain at his elementary school – headlined “Old Faceful.” It heralded a distinguished career as a journalist that carried him from Spokane to newspapers around the country, including the Des Moines Register, the Minneapolis Tribune and the Wall Street Journal. Born and raised in Spokane, he was an Eagle Scout and a member of the first graduating class at Shadle Park High. He met his future wife, Mary Susan McMahon, at the University of Washington, and they raised two children. He died unexpectedly on Aug. 7, while visiting childhood friends in Spokane. He was 78.

Joseph Frank Hoerner had a long career as a cook and chef at many Spokane institutions, including the Davenport and Manito Golf & Country Club, where his hallmarks were lavish buffets with ice-sculpture centerpieces. Born in Elgin, North Dakota, he moved with his family to Spokane in 1949. He and his wife, Caroline, had seven children and were married for 65 years. He loved to fix up old cars, and to create an ice rink for his kids in the backyard during winters. He died Aug. 24 at age 88.

Born in Moscow, Idaho, Marian Dee Bushnell moved around the region with her family when she was a child. She attended school in Deer Park through seventh grade, then in the Mead district through high school as her family farmed on the Peone Prairie. She asked her future husband, Dale Bushnell, on their first date when they were 15. They moved to St. John in 1951, where Dale was a lineman for the power company. They raised four children and spent the rest of their lives in St. John. She died Aug. 24 at age 90.

Growing up in Oregon, Donald R. Davis was once tapped to drive Pat Nixon and her daughters around during their dad’s presidential campaign. He joined the Army and served as a medic in Korea, and lived in Portland before moving to Spokane. He worked in several different occupations, selling kitchenware and insurance, and as a stockbroker, in addition to owning Riverside Recovery Center for drug and alcohol addiction treatment. He and his wife, Pat, had five degrees from Gonzaga University between them. He ran in two Coeur d’Alene marathons, and scored two holes-in-one at the Manito Country Club. He died Aug. 18 at age 82.

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