Obituaries April 10, 2013

By Observer Upload April 10, 2013 03:41 pm
McDaniel, Sailer, Simonis, Simpson, Beery, Nichols, Van Blokland, Thoren



Keith Charles McDaniel


Keith Charles McDaniel, 79, of Lostine, died at a local care facility in La Grande Saturday. A full obituary will be available later. Loveland Funeral Chapel and Crematory is in charge of the arrangements.



Orville Paul Sailer

Formerly of La Grande

Orville Paul Sailer, 99, formerly of La Grande, died Monday at Ashley Manor in Hermiston. His funeral will begin at 11 a.m. Monday at Daniels-Knopp Funeral, Cremation and Life Celebration Center. A full obituary will be published later.



Randy Simonis


Randy Keith Simonis, 57, died April 5 in Hermiston. Simonis was born on Nov. 12, 1955, in La Grande and was raised and attended schools in North Powder.

People can sign the condolence book and view the full obituary at

 Burns Mortuary of Hermiston is in charge of arrangements.



David Wayne Simpson


David Wayne Simpson, 58, of Union, died Monday at his home. A full obituary will be published later. Loveland Funeral Chapel & Crematory will be handling the arrangements.



Charles A. Beery

Formerly of La Grande


A military service for Charles A. Beery will be held at 1 p.m. April 17 at Willamette National Cemetery, Portland.

Beery, 69, of Salem, died on Nov. 23, 2012. He is survived by his wife, Naomi June, five children and one grandson.

He was born in La Grande on Aug. 25, 1943, the son of Corwin and Ruth (Conner) Beery. Charles attended school in La Grande. 

He married Naomi Wiles on Jan. 29, 1963. A month later, he joined the U.S. Navy and attended boot camp in San Diego. Then he went to Millington, Tenn., for aircraft mechanic school. He was stationed in Mirimar Naval Air Base for 21 years in San Diego, and in 1994 transferred to North Carolina for civil service. He retired in Salem in 2002.

The family requests no flowers. Arrangements are with Virgil T. Golden Funeral Service, Salem.


Dusten Edward Nichols

La Grande


Dusten Edward Nichols, 28, of La Grande, died April 6 at his residence in La Grande. A celebration of life will be held at the Veterans Memorial Club, 2005 Valley Ave. in Baker City, at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Dusten was born Dec. 20, 1984, to Robert Edward Nichols Sr. and Jennifer Leigh (Bunch) Johnson in Boise, 
Idaho. He received his education in Portland and moved to La Grande in 2006, graduating from La Grande High School in 2006. 

He loved music of all kinds and being outside with friends and family.

Dusten is survived by his father, Robert E. Nichols Sr. of Madras; his mother and stepfather, Jennifer and Russell Johnson of Baker City; siblings; Chantel Nichols, Robert E. Nichols Jr. and Angi Johnson, all of Baker City; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandmother, Margaret Nichols, and his maternal grandfather, Herbert Bunch.

Memorial contributions may be made to New Day Enterprises of La Grande through Coles Tribute Center, 1950 Place St., Baker City, OR 97814. 


Mildred Van Blokland

La Grande


Mildred Katherine Spencer Van Blokland, 104, of La Grande, died April 5 at Vera’s Adult Foster Care in La Grande. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. April 22 at the First Christian Church in La Grande. To view the full obituary and on-line guestbook, visit  

Mildred was born on April 5, 1909, in La Grande, the daughter of Roy and Nellie (Gekeler) Spencer, and was a granddaughter of Union County pioneers. 

She graduated from La Grande High School and attended Eastern Oregon University. 

On Feb. 20, 1932, she married Clifford Van Blokland in Walla Walla, Wash. 

Music was her passion and she began performing and teaching at an early age. Mildred continued to study and give lessons well into her 100th year, making her one of the oldest piano teachers in the state. Throughout her long career, she taught piano to more than 1,000 students of all ages. 

Student recitals were held in her home, and Mildred’s handmade, decorative cookies always added a sweet note to the festivities.

Mildred was an active member of PEO International, the Oregon Music Teachers Association and the First Christian Church. Her brothers, Don, Lee and Bob Spencer, preceded her in death, as did her husband, Clifford, in 1992 and her son, Curt, in 2012. 

Survivors include her daughter and son-in-law, Carol and Berkley Summers of La Grande, daughter-in-law, Karen Van Blokland of La Grande; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. 

Mildred will be fondly remembered by many other relatives and friends as well. 

Memorial contributions may be made to the EOU Foundation for a music scholarship.



Wilma Irene Speece Thoren 


stepped from the loving arms of her daughter into the loving Arms of our Heavenly Father and life eternal, Sunday, March 3, 2013, at her and daughters’ home in Troutville, Virginia.

Born in West Baden Springs, Indiana, January 22, 1922, she had just celebrated her 91st birthday. Daughter of Helen Grace Whittinghill and Byron Franklin Speece, wife of 46 years to Everett Joseph Thoren, mother and parent of eight children, grandparent/great-grandparent to many. 

She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, and brother Byron Franklin Speece, Jr.

Irene grew up in an environment of disciplined work, academic and athletic aspirations. As a youth with her brother, they both set strong footprints for knowledge that would propel both to top of their high school class to share co-valedictorian honors. Work, chores, more work, learning, family and sports a big part of her youth and throughout adult life; “Mom” often told stories of earlier times with her father, a “scratch” golfer and 24-year professional baseball pitcher, whom Irene would “warm up” playing the Catcher, part of their annual ritual for her Dad’s pre-Spring Training regimen…she sacrificing bruised and reddened hand and shin for love of her Dad and the game.

Mom’s reflections were fascinating to her children; as a 2-year-old in the family’s Washington DC second floor apartment, she and her brother fell out of the window, into a planter area, unharmed…mother in a panic, father in a different sort of panic, he trying to balance love of his kids along with his rookie year in major league baseball and distractions of urban living during “The Roaring Twenties.”

Mom would beam with pride as she attended baseball games, especially as her dad and his 1924 Washington Senators baseball teammates completed their march past the New York Yankees, then past the New York Giants, winning the deciding 7th game in the 12th inning to become major league baseball’s 1924 World Series Champions! Later in life Mom grinned large when told that in 1925 her Dad had pitched and put-down-in-order the starting line-up of eight New York Yankee batters…four would-be Hall of Fame members, including the strike out of Babe Ruth!

Irene graduated from high school, co-valedictorian; completed business school, headed west to Portland, Oregon, where she began her corporate career as an executive administrator to the CEO, Timber Structures. This career (and independence) would be cut short; she met, dated, and married Everett, a returning WWII veteran of United States Army Air Forces (USAAF-Europe).  
After a single date of bowling, all subsequent dates were to church and to a Billy Graham Crusade where Irene found a personal relationship with her Lord Jesus Christ.  She continued to be his servant all her days, warmly witnessing to her children, associates, and anyone who crossed her path, directing Vacation Bible School programs, singing special music (a beautiful soprano voice) at church and Handel’s Messiah with the Union County Choir at Eastern Oregon State College.

After eleven (11) years and eight children, and another half-decade to recover, she restarted her formal leadership and administrative career for her Elgin, Oregon, Church of the Nazarene, and the Elgin School District.  First as president of the PTA, administrative assistant to the principal of the elementary school, then launching back into a salaried position as the Elgin School District, Deputy Clerk, where she established a record of superior performance over 22 years of public service, then retirement to Roanoke, Virginia.

Irene always had a smile on her face and a kind encouraging word for others. She was a sweet and gentle person and an inspiration to those around her.  She had peace, great joy, smiling big and proud as she lived out her years.  She encouraged her children to work hard, grind forward, push to be somebody, do your best in all things, do not quit, but establish your life in Christ and put Him first in all things. She enjoyed crossword puzzles, family, and her Faith, led a Bible study at her apartment building for many years. 

Irene lived a principled and exemplary life, grew strong in the Lord right to the moment of her physical death and rebirth…she instilled in herself, family and strangers the simple principle for enriched living; “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love; …injury, pardon; …doubt, faith; …despair, hope; darkness, light; …sadness, joy; …for it is in giving that we receive; …pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life” (Jesus Christ; St. Francis of Assisi) .

Irene is survived by all eight (8) children: Paul Thoren of Fairfield, CA; Kenneth Thoren of Newberg, OR; David Thoren of Sacramento, CA; Daniel Thoren of Painter, VA; Judith Thoren of Rossville, KS; Phillip Thoren of Saratoga, CA; Dwight Thoren of Nampa, ID; Deborah Thoren Mowery of Troutville, VA; (19) grandchildren and (6) great grandchildren. Nana will be missed by all.
Wilma Irene Speece Thoren ashes will be interred with husband, Everett Joseph Thoren, in general proximity to brother, Byron Franklin Speece Jr., at Willamette National Cemetery, Portland, Oregon.

Family Choice Funerals and Cremations in Roanoke, VA is assisting the family.   Online condolences can be left for the family via the online guestbook at