My father, Ronald Daniel Wentworth, was born in Princeton, Idaho on September 5, 1923. His parents, Ora Norcutt and Arthur E. Wentworth, were moving the family from Geraldine, Montana to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The mode of travel was a old fashioned wagon train. Grandma Ora was pregnant with my dad so they decided to remain in Princeton and prepare for the baby’s arrival. Grandpa, Grandma, their three children, Melvin, Glennis, and Melvin, and baby Ronald spent the winter in Princeton with plans to resume their journey in the spring.
In the spring of 1924, they joined another group travelling to Western Washington. They settled along the Chehalis River between the small towns of Elma and Oakville in Grays Harbor County. Two more children, Thelma and Velma, were born in Washington. Grandpa rented and then purchased 70 acres for a dairy farm.
The children attended school until 8th grade at the Ford Prairie School which was about one and one-half miles from the farm. Grandpa would provide a horse, usually somewhat lame, for the three youngest children to ride and the older children walked. The school had a corral and hay for the horses. The teacher looked after the horses as well as the children.
There were many small family farms along the river and Dad developed lifelong friends, many who stayed on the farm as adults. The kids attended high school in Oakville and Dad graduated in 1941. He served in the Army for four years and upon being honorarily discharged, he drove a passenger bus for a while. But soon, Dad returned to farm with his father. The time in the Army and driving bus was the only time during his life that he was away from his family, his friend, and the farm.
My parents met at a dance hall in 1955 and married three months later. They purchased 65 acres located one-half mile from my grandparent’s farm. Money was tight so they purchased two half houses formerly used to house the railroad workers laying railroad tracks through the valley. The half houses were connected and porches were added to make a farmhouse. Years later when an interior wall was opened, the shingles on the original outer walls were still in place.
After retirement, Dad kept busy working during the haying season, bringing his own equipment to cut, rake, and bale the fields. He and Mom enjoying fishing and camping trips, raising small farm animals, and growing a fine vegetable garden. Retirement was very active for my folks. Dad loved playing cards and was a regular at the Elma Senior Center pinochle tables.
They lived most of their retirement years on two and one-half acres that was separated from the original dairy farm by the railroad and county road. They always had a couple of dogs and cats in addition to the chickens, ducks, and rabbits. Frequently, friends and family gathered for potlucks, telling tall tales, playing cards, and/or playing board games.
Just a few years after retiring from dairying, in 1979, Dad was involved in a horrific car accident. His car was hit head on just a few miles from home by a driver under the influence of street drugs. Dad and his friend, Ralph, were severely injured and Ralph’s wife, Jo, was killed. Both Dad and Ralph were hospitalized for an extended time, underwent numerous surgeries but thankfully they both recovered. Although the doctors repeatedly said he likely would not walk again, he proved the doctors wrong. He was determined to walk and to lead a normal life and so he did.
He did not allow his physical limitations slow him down or keep him off of the house! One time, a neighbor and good friend stopped her car on the one lane road in front of the house to tell him to get down off of the roof! She thought he had no business being up there at his age.
His stubbornness served him well again later in life. In June 2006, he suffered a massive stroke which left him completely disabled on his right side. Every motor skill was affected on that side as well as his ability to speak. He never gave up and he showed great grace as he went through a long and painful rehabilitation and ultimately, accepting his limitations. He continued to live fully, even being able to play cards at the Senior Center with help from his friends. Eighteen months after the stroke, he fell at home and sustained a head injury from which he did not recover. He passed on December 11, 2007 with my mom, Irene, my brother, Art, his sister Velma (Babe), daughter-in-law Debra, and myself at his bedside. With a quiet final breath, he was gone. He led a quiet, humble life and it was fitting that his departure from this life was quiet and humble.