Baker City, Oregon
Vera Louise Storie Powell, 104, a longtime Baker County resident, died Aug. 15, 2001, at St. Elizabeth Care Center.
Her funeral will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Gray’s West & Co. Pioneer Chapel, 1500 Dewey Ave. Her great-grandson, Pastor Wayne Hart of Calvary Baptist Church at Xenia, Ohio, will officiate. Interment will be at Mount Hope Cemetery. There will be a reception before the service at noon at Janis Hart’s home, 3320 Birch St.
Mrs. Powell was born on March 28, 1897, at Durkee on the Horseshoe Ranch to Sidney and Iva Storie. She was the third in a family of seven children. When she was 11 the family moved from Durkee to Dixie.
She attended grade school at both Durkee and Dixie and three years of high school in Baker City where she stayed with a family friend, Mrs. Huffman, for the first year. Then she and her sister, Mary, lived in a drafty old woodshed on Elm Street that had been converted to living quarters. Once or twice during the school year she took the train home to Dixie.
Upon getting her teacher’s certificate, her first teaching job was on Lookout Mountain where she taught 11 students.
Her teaching career only lasted one year. While attending school in Baker City, she met Warren B. Powell. They were married on July 17, 1917. Their first home was on Pedro Mountain at the site of the sawmill run by Mr. Powell’s family. Timbers for the Mormon Basin mines were sawed at the mill.
The Powells had three daughters: Eleanor VanWinkle, now of La Grande; the late Dorothy Cameron, who lived in Baker City for a number of years before her death; and Mary Ellen Groen of John Day.
Mr. Powell served in World War I. Upon his return home, he and Mrs. Powell purchased a ranch in Rye Valley. For several years, Mr. Powell’s parents and brothers lived on the ranch while he was away working.
Mr. Powell worked at Lime, helping build the cement silos. During that time Mrs. Powell lived in a tent-house which had a wooden floor.
They also lived at Ludwig, Nev., for a few months, where Mr. Powell found work in a gypsum plant. Eventually, the family went back to the Rye Valley ranch. During the hard times of the Great Depression, and when her husband would be away working, Mrs. Powell stayed at the ranch and kept it going with the help of various nephews and other people who needed a home.
She raised turkeys, which she sold to the markets in Baker City, earning money for her family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. She also helped milk a dozen cows and sold cream for cash. She raised chickens and a garden, sometimes trading eggs at the grocery store for staples.
In the spring of 1935, the family was unable to meet the mortgage payments on the ranch and had to give up. They moved to the Vale area and, with the resources they had salvaged from the Rye Valley place, were able to purchase an undeveloped piece of row crop land and again, her home was a two-room tent-house. Mr. Powell was not that type of farmer and a year later they sold the farm.
From then on they led a “gypsy life,” going where work was available. Mr. Powell did sawmill work, carpentry, sheep shearing and custom threshing. They lived wherever Mr. Powell could find a job.
Their sheep shearing jobs took them from Nevada through Oregon and Idaho and into Montana. They started working in April and continued until July. Many times Mrs. Powell cooked for the shearing crews in a tent house, feeding 15 or 20 men, which was a challenging venture.
Sometimes she would have a cook helper; quite often it would be one of her granddaughters. She made a home for her family in every kind of place imaginable, from tents to one-room sawmill shanties and trailer houses.
No matter what the situation, whether cooking for the shearing crew in a tent, sawmill workers in lumber town shacks or in her home, when there were people to feed she could always put a meal on the tables; sometimes out of the most meager of supplies.
During World War II, the Powells moved to Portland, where Mr. Powell found work in the shipyards and Mrs. Powell worked in a small grocery store at Tigard. Also, while living in Tigard, they had her husband’s invalid mother in their home to care for.
When the war was over, they returned to Vale and together with daughters, Dorothy and Mary Ellen, built a new home on Smith Street. Mr. Powell continued with his shearing in the spring and building houses or doing remodeling jobs after their return to Vale.
He built houses in such places as Bridgeport, on Willow Creek below Ironside and at Weatherby. Mrs. Powell was always by his side, living in small camp trailers and cooking for him.
In 1955, they returned to Baker City and Mr. Powell in the spring continued to shear small bands of sheep in Baker Valley and do carpenter work. He built houses for their daughters, Mary Ellen and Dorothy, and their families and several other houses in the Baker City area.
They eventually bought an older home on Clark Street, which Mr. Powell remodeled and made into a comfortable home for their retirement years. Mrs. Powell now had a permanent, comfortable home, with a modern kitchen and a spot for a garden, which she loved.
The couple celebrated 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries in their Clark Street home. Mr. Powell died in 1981.
Mrs. Powell lived with her daughter, Eleanor, until 1992, when she moved to an assisted living home. She first lived at Ray Evans’ foster home in La Grande for about two years and then returned to Baker City in 1994 to live at Meadowbrook Place. She remained there until entering the hospital on Aug. 13 of this year.
Survivors include two daughters, Eleanor VanWinkle of La Grande and Mary Ellen Groen of John Day; six grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 64 years; and one daughter, Dorothy Cameron.
Memorial contributions may be made to Meadowbrook Assisted Living Center, 4000 Cedar St., Baker City, OR 97814; or to a charity of one’s choice through Gray’s West & Co. Pioneer Chapel, P.O. Box 726, Baker City, OR 97814.
Used with permission from: The Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, August 24, 2001
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor