Marshal makes life of service

By By Katy Nesbitt The Observer July 04, 2012 01:43 pm

If you were to look up “parade grand marshal” on Wikipedia, you might get a description that sounds a lot like John Duckworth, the city of Wallowa’s choice to lead its Fourth of July parade this year.

On the Saturday morning before Independence Day, Duckworth and Bob Lewis were at the Southfork Grange in Lostine re-wiring the furnace room after the installation of a new propane furnace.

In the main hall, propane griddles were staged for the grange’s four days of pancake breakfasts that will be served July 4 through 7 during the Lostine Flea Market.

Duckworth hoped they could figure out the re-wiring job quickly, so he could get on with the day’s next project. He’s been a member of Southfork since it merged with the Wallowa Grange 20 years ago, and of course, he was a member there before that.

A volunteer for numerous organizations over the past 50 years, he said he is disappointed at the dwindling numbers.

“People are not joining. There is a decline in membership in all the groups I’m in,” said Duckworth.

After a hiatus from serving as its treasurer for many years, this year he is the president of the Wallowa Lions Club. The club runs a park, a basketball tournament at Christmas, and food booths at various events including Chief Joseph Days.

Each fall, Duckworth helps plan the annual Ducks Unlimited banquet held at the Elks Club — a prime rib dinner affair with games and dozens of prizes from rifles to handguns to jewelry.

During the winter, he compiles the statistics for the Wallowa High School basketball team, a job he’s had since he was in high school. He said he’s taken care of the stats longer than there’s been girls’ basketball at the school, starting in 1957.

He began his stint as a Wallowa volunteer fire fighter at the tender age of 16. He also served on the Wallowa City Council for 30 years.

“I’ve been doing civic activities all my life,” said Duckworth.

Duckworth seems to have stayed with a lot of things he started as a youth. He was first hired by the Oregon Department of Forestry as a student conservation aid clearing roads and fighting forest fires as a teenager. Upon high school graduation, he was hired as the Wallowa Unit assistant manager.

Lets no moss grow

In 1997, just 38 short years after he was first hired, he retired from the department and went to work for Henderson Oil. The man lets no moss grow; after 10 years with Henderson he now works for Prince Construction, just to keep busy and off the mean streets of the Lower Valley.

Though he says he doesn’t feel retired, each summer he joins other forestry department retirees from around the state for a week-long camping trip. This year, they will gather near Gilchrist. For the past 17 years the group has gone everywhere from the Oregon coast to the north Cascades of Washington, to the Alvord Desert.

In his limited spare time, he might be found at the Wallowa Rod and Gun Club.

Once in a while, Duckworth has a chance to sneak off and go deer or elk hunting. He used to fish like it was his job before he started working, but he was just a kid then.

Though he was born in Baker City, Duckworth is Wallowa County, through and through.

“I found a hole here and never got out,” said