Lem Edward Wilson, 87, a longtime Northeastern Oregon farmer and rancher, died Jan. 3, 2006, at Ontario.
His memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Bethany Presbyterian Church, 1712 W. Idaho Ave., in Ontario. Burial will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Prairie View Cemetery in Grangeville, Idaho.
Lem was born on Sept. 22, 1918, near Nyssa. He was the seventh of 12 children. His parents, Lemen Elijah and Nancy Isabelle Wilson, were children of pioneers who had moved West in covered wagons.
Lem grew up working on his father’s farm and herding sheep at an early age. After graduating from high school at Nyssa, he hitchhiked to Riggins, Idaho, where he got a job herding sheep for Walter Brothers for $30 a month.
Lem married Doris Hite on Sept. 5, 1939. In the 1940s, Lem farmed his own ground plus rented farmland and row cropped. He also had a potato harvesting business. During harvest season he was known to sleep as little as two hours a night.
In those days in the Treasure Valley of Malheur County he was known as the “Potato King.” In 1951, he realized his lifelong dream and bought a sheep ranch on the Snake River in Hells Canyon at Pittsburg Landing.
By the 1970s he was running 6,000 head of sheep. Lem was an accomplished “bush pilot” able to take off and land on the short, narrow and steep ridges of Hells Canyon. Sadly, the ranch was taken from him by the U.S. Forest Service through the law of eminent domain.
The ranch now makes up a large part of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Lem had a God-given gift for handling livestock, and animals just seemed to take to him. Over the years he had many farms, ranches, feedlots, sheep, cattle, horses, and mules.
Lem was a member of the Masonic Lodge and Shriners organization. He had a passion for helping handicapped children. He was a very compassionate and generous man held in high esteem by those who knew him. He was loved dearly by all his family and will be missed by all who had the opportunity and privilege of knowing him.
Survivors include his wife, Doris; two sons, Ray and Mick; his grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Lance Armstrong Cancer Fund through Blackmer Funeral Home, 305 N. Mill St., Grangeville, Idaho, 83530.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, January 13, 2006
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor