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By Alice Perry Linker
Observer Staff Writer
They came home to Northeast Oregon Wednesday.
Retha Shirley of La Grande and Bartholomew Bailey and Daniel Rama of Baker City, wildland firefighters who died in Friday's motor vehicle accident in Colorado, were given heroes' welcomes at the Northeast Oregon Interagency Fire Center near La Grande.
The silence of the ceremony was broken only by the sounds of the National Anthem and by the voice of Karyn Wood, supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, reading the names as three identical flag-draped caskets were carried from the DC-3 that brought them from Colorado.
"We know these people, their families and we feel the loss as much as anybody,'' Wood said to reporters before the ceremony began.
Accompanied by Assistant Supervisor John Schuyler, Wood walked through an honor guard of more than 100 firefighters and support personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry and Grayback Forestry Contracting.
Michael Wheelock, owner of Grayback Forestry, and Martha Ketelle of the White River National Forest of western Colorado accompanied the three caskets on the flight from Rifle, Colo., first to Boise and finally to La Grande.
A color guard of two, Lynn Roehm and Jean Moore, walked at the head of the honor guard line that stretched from the airplane along the length of the fire center building. The ceremony began with the singing of the National Anthem, led by Diana Pearson, Silvia Kreger and Cliff Curtis.
The pall bearers, who walked three times through the length of the honor guard carrying each casket, included Tyson Schoenmoser, Retha Shirley's boyfriend. Others were Scott Boatman, Craig Romaine and John Hein, Grayback Forestry employees, and Forest Service personnel Scott Kleeman and Dave Quinn, supervisor of the fire center.
After the caskets were placed in waiting hearses, the vehicles, led by Forest Service vehicles, moved slowly away from the fire center.
A funeral service for Daniel Rama, 28, will begin at 10 a.m. Friday at the Church of the Nazarene in Baker City. The service for Retha Shirley, 19, will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Joseph High School, and Bartholomew Bailey's service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Baker City's Church of the Nazarene. Bailey was 20.
Two firefighters from Idaho also died in the van crash on Colorado's Interstate 70.