Baker City, Baker County, Oregon
Walter Hartwell Hayes, 85, of Baker City, died April 1, 2006, at St. Elizabeth Care Center, where he had lived the past 9 years.
There will be a memorial service this summer at Mount Hope Cemetery when family members can return from Europe and the Middle East.
Walt was born at Baker City on April 22, 1920, to Walter Dutton Hayes and Junia Philbrick Hayes. He spent almost his entire life in Baker County. The “lay-in home” where he was born is still standing on Spring Garden Avenue, not but a block from where his oldest grandson and family live.
The family lived up Sutton Creek on the “Hayes Creek Farm” as his dad called it, and Walt attended the Brookside School, as well as the Beaver Creek School before coming into town to attend the Helen M. Stack Middle School and Baker Senior High. He and his two sisters would ride their horses to school in good weather and in winter would strap on their skis and head out in the deep snow in order to get to school. It was uphill both ways and a bit of a distance.
Being the only son, he spent much of his time working around the farm and growing up quickly, helping his dad with the horses and working in the wheat/barley/oats fields. The hours were from sunup until sunset and many times proved way too much for a young lad of 8 to 10 years of age.
His childhood was not spent at having a lot fun and he grew up before his time. Many times there was complete exhaustion after spending long hours out in the sun and the tough weather endured by the family during the wintertime.
During his time in middle school, Walt skipped a grade because of his excellent academic skills, especially math, graduating ahead of his many friends, which he kept even though he was out of school and off to service not too long after graduation.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in January 1942, at Portland. He served in the Signal Corps throughout the war. His duties included supervising the signal centers, handling personal messages for military personnel and receiving and transmitting classified documents. While stationed at Pueblo, Colo., he met his sweetheart, Katherine “Katie” Harris, who was an operator for Western Union. They were married at Walla Walla, Wash., where Walt was stationed with the 17th Wing Signal Center, on Aug. 7, 1943.
Walt was excellent at his job and stayed stateside during his military career. So the story goes, while in Pueblo, being the excellent cryptographer that he was, he took and sent many messages and not all of them were government business.
Clark Gable was stationed at the same base as Walt and he took and sent lots of messages for Mr. Gable, in code, to many a “love-struck gal” whom Gable met through his military career.
Walt and Katie were transferred to Lincoln, Neb., and there their first child was born, son Creag. They then had two daughters, Jeanne Ann and Julie Alice.
Except for a short period of about one year in Portland and Boise, Walt and Katie lived in Baker City. He worked in the lumber industry, both in Baker City and as a timekeeper/employee at Unity for Ellingson Lumber Co.
He also worked for Chet Smith Motors, as well as Basche-Sage Hardware and Baker Co-op Supply. He retired from Baker County, where he worked in the assessor’s office.
He had a passion for cars and so enjoyed the Mercedes Benz, owning three during his life. Even as late as Christmas 2005, his son sent him a special calendar from Praha which showed lots of new models.
Walt always took time to care for the family plot at Mount Hope and made sure that it looked just right for Memorial Day each year. He loved to pull jokes on his daughter, Jeanne Ann, whose birthday is on April Fool’s Day; and she got caught many a time.
Math, reading and memorizing information came easily to Walt. He read “Gone With the Wind” in two sittings and read the Bible with ease many times. As recently as 2000, in reading through the Bible and in discussions with his daughter, he came to its fullness and understanding, when he was reborn on May 22, 2000.
He and Katie were charter members and helped start the Krazy Eights Square Dance group in the 1960s. They so enjoyed square dancing, and Katie usually made Walt a shirt for each outfit that she sewed for herself.
Walt learned to do some square dance calling, but music held a special interest for him anyway. He learned to play the violin and did so with perfection.
He had excellent math skills and could easily do problems, while the kids worked the problem out longhand. He had the answer long before they could even get started.
Walt will be remembered as a loving, caring person who was thoughtful of others. He enjoyed walking around town, looking at the new cars in the showrooms each fall, taking his dog “Stubby” for rides to the ranch.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Katie, who died in August 2005; his parents, who died in 1976 and 1978; and his youngest daughter, who died in 1980.
Survivors include his son, Creag, and his wife, Josie, and a grandson, Alex, who live in Prague, and his daughter, Jeanne Ann Mellott, and her husband, Alan; grandson, Scott Shively, and his wife, Shelly, and great-grandchildren, Courtney, Ashley and Zachary; grandson, Tim Shively and his wife, Brenda, and their dog, Oscar the bulldog; two sisters, Louise Watson, and her husband, George Sr., of Portland and Marilyn Hayes of Phoenix, Ariz.; his only niece lives in California and nephews live in Portland and Baker City; and other extended family members in Colorado and Texas.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Elkhorn Swingers through Coles Funeral Home, 1950 Place St., Baker City, OR 97814, or mailed to P.O. Box 62, Baker City, OR 97814.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, April 7, 2006
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor