J. Merle Cummings, 90, of Unity, died Aug. 24, 2008, at Baker City.
His funeral will be at 10 a.m. PDT Saturday at the Vale Christian Church. Pastor Roger Scovil of the Baker City Christian Church will officiate. Visitations will precede the service at 9 a.m. PDT. Interment will be at Valley View Cemetery. Friends are invited to join the family for dinner at Vale Christian Church after the service.
Merle was born on Jan. 10, 1918, at Burns to Austin and Bessie Cummings. His parents later divorced. He lived at The Dalles during a part of his early elementary years and was a 1937 graduate of Crane High School in Harney County. Even though Merle was a small man, he was very athletic and played high school football and enjoyed the sport of boxing.
Because of his poor eyesight, Merle was ineligible to join the Army during World War II. Instead, he worked for a construction company in Hawaii during the war.
When he returned to the United States, he met Donna Lou Billington. They were married on Jan. 6, 1945. Together they ranched in Harney County and at Westfall and Vale in Malheur County. They raised six children and were married for nearly 50 years when she died in 1994.
Throughout his life, Merle had been very active as a rancher and community leader, serving on school boards and various other committees. He was president of the Malheur County Cattlemen’s Association from 1965 to 1967 and belonged to the Malheur County Sheriff’s Posse for more than 20 years.
For a few years he and Donna owned a dairy. Then he studied and got his realtors license. Shortly afterward, the couple sold the farm and selling real estate became Merle’s new vocation. He really enjoyed those years and was awarded Realtor of the Year in 1976 by the Malheur County Board of Realtors.
As retirement age was approaching, the couple decided to buy property at Unity where Merle had lived for the past 26 years. With this move, he and Donna decided to take up a new sport: snowmobiling. He was active in the Burnt River Snowmobile Club, taking his last snowmobile ride in January 2008 for his 90th birthday.
When he was 85, he married Ruth Goodrum Cummings of Prairie City. They enjoyed traveling between his home at Unity and her home at Prairie City. They never missed a family reunion and had recently attended this year’s reunion at the home of his son, Richard, at Dixie, Wash.
Merle was an active man who enjoyed sports, discussing politics, hiking, and traveling and he especially loved his large family.
Survivors include his wife, Ruth of Prairie City; a sister, Arline Miller of Turlock, Calif.; three sons, Richard and his wife, Kay Cummings, of Dixie, Wash., Jim and his wife, Irma Cummings of Bickleton, Wash., and Mike Cummings, Unity; three daughters, Francise and her husband, Boyd Perry, of Baker City, Larraine Cummings of Culver, and Barbara and her husband, Don Briggs, of Hood River; and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Donna; his parents, Austin Cummings and Bessie Gillis; and his sister, Gwen Howard.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Burnt River Snowmobile Club, through Gray’s West & Co., 1500 Dewey Ave., Baker City, OR 97814.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, August 27, 2008
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor