Obituaries for May 29, 2013

By Observer Upload May 29, 2013 12:52 pm
Simonis, Hug, Gomes, Burrows, Graybeal, Smolkowski


Darleen Simonis

La Grande

Darleen Simonis, of La Grande died May 26 at her home. Arrangements will be announced later by Daniels~Knopp Funeral,  Cremation & Life Celebration Center.

 Laura ‘Jo’ Hug

La Grande

Laura “Jo” Hug, age 91, of La Grande and Elgin, died May 20. A service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Summerville Cemetery Chapel. A full obituary will be published later by Daniels~Knopp Funeral,  Cremation & Life Celebration Center.


Russell Anthony Gomes



Russell Anthony Gomes, 68, of Enterprise, died in Wallowa Memorial Hospital on May 23, after a short battle with liver cancer.

Funeral services will be held at St. Katherine’s Church in Enterprise at 10 a.m. Thursday. Graveside services by the VFW and Enterprise Fire Department will follow. A dinner will be held at the VFW hall after the graveside service. Memorial donations may be made to the continuing support of the Enterprise Fire Department and the VFW hall.

Russ was born on Feb. 22, 1945, in Paia, Maui, to Anthony and Dorothy (Vares) Gomes. He was the second of three children.

Russ served in the Air Force from Aug. 23, 1963, to Aug. 22, 1967. Russ was stationed in Guam, Texas, Alaska, California, and Okinawa. After leaving the Air Force he lived in Sacramento, Calif. In 1968, he came to Oregon with Pierre Beaudoin and stayed because he loved the four seasons.

Russ met Karleen in July 1968, and married shortly after on Dec. 6, 1968, in Enterprise. Russ worked as a mechanic at several businesses in Enterprise including Milligan Motors, Chevron Service Station, Summit Ford, D & R Motors and finally Stangel’s Industries until his retirement in 2010. 

Russ served on the Enterprise Volunteer Fire Department from February 1985 to February 2006; most of those years were served as fire chief. He loved to go hunting and watch NASCAR. As a child growing up, he raced and worked on go-carts in Maui with his cousins. Later, he raced dirt track cars at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds. Russ loved to volunteer his services to anyone needing help. He took a lot of pride in helping Al Slinker with his latest classic car.

Russ was preceded in death by his parents, Anthony and Dorothy (Vares) Gomes. Survivors include his wife, Karleen, and their children and spouses: Craig and Rachel Gomes, Chris Gomes, Corey and Casey Gomes, Kelly and Rachelle Gomes, Ryan and Karen Finlayson, Kevin and Patti Gomes, and Casey and Kristen Gomes; as well as 11 grandchildren, with one more on the way. He is also survived by his sisters and their spouses: Elton and Natalie Chargin and Floyd and Lynette Trahan.


Irene Burrows



Irene Burrows, 72, of Union, died at a local care facility in La Grande on May 26. Celebration of Life services will be held at Loveland Funeral Chapel at 10 a.m. Saturday. Interment will be at Island City Cemetery.

Irene was born April 23, 1941, in Kingsport, Tenn., to Noah Clarence and Pearl (Golden) Cavin. In her teens, she moved to California, where she graduated from high school. Irene lived in several places in California before moving to Union in 1995.

Irene married Robert N. Hollis Sr., who died in 1974. She later married Luther L. Burrows, who died in 2009. Irene had a custom haying service for many years. She enjoyed spending time with her family. She loved everything about Christmas, especially decorating. She enjoyed going to yard sales, planting flowers and watching the birds, squirrels and deer in her yard. She really enjoyed singing with her sister.

Irene is survived by her daughter, April Pennington and husband Dale of La Grande; two stepchildren, John Burrows of Sparks, Nev., and Wendi (Mike) Devoto of Madera, Calif.; two siblings, Gerald (Billie) Cavin of Manteca, Calif., and Brenda Cavin of Ahwahnee, Calif.; brother-in-law, Orin Gaskin; and stepmother, Florence Cavin of Kingsport.

She was preceded in death by two spouses, Bob Hollis and Luke Burrows; parents, Clarence and Pearl Cavin; son, Bobby Hollis; and sister, Charlene Gaskin.

Online condolences to the family may be made at

Norman Dwain Graybeal

Formerly of Elgin


Norman D. Graybeal died at Park Manor Rehabilitation Center in Walla Walla, Wash., May 22 with his wife, Minobu, at his side. 

A memorial service will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mountain View — Colonial DeWitt, 1551 Dalles Military Road, Walla Walla. 

Norman was born Jan. 20, 1931, in Elgin, to Lee and Dora (Lewis) Graybeal, the youngest of six children. Norman graduated from Elgin High School in 1949 and joined the Navy in 1950, serving four years on the USS George DE-697. During a leave, he met Doris A. Wagoner from Pilot Rock, and was married in 1952.

After the Navy, Norm attended Eastern Oregon Normal School in La Grande, where he received his B.S. in education. Teaching took him all over the U.S., and during his spare time he obtained a master’s degree in education in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and master’s degree in science in Missoula, Mont. 

In 1969, he went to Japan to work for the Department of Defense as a math and science teacher at Sasebo Naval Base. After a year in Sasebo, he was promoted and sent to Camp Zama Army Base, where he became vice principal. Doris and Norm had three children: Brad, Douglas and Jennifer. They later divorced.

Norman met Minobu Kitazawa at Misawa Air Force Base in Japan and was married in 1981. They spent two years in Eugene, where Norm finished his Ph.D. in education administration at the University of Oregon. After returning to Misawa AFB in Japan, his career took him to the Clark AFB in the Philippines and Wurzburg, Germany, before retiring in 1992 to College Place, Wash. Norm and Minobu have two children, Michael and Kaori, both graduates of Walla Walla High School.

Norm was very active in the communities of College Place and Walla Walla with AMVETS Post No. 1111. He was a lifetime member of the NRA, AMVETS Gun Club and American Legion. He loved to hunt, fish and camp with his family.

He is survived by his wife, Minobu Graybeal; five children, Michael and Desalyn Graybeal, Kaori Graybeal, Brad and Cathy Graybeal, Douglas and Tamara Graybeal and Jennifer and Israel Vigil; five grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lee and Dora Graybeal; brother, Ira Lee Graybeal; and sisters, Esther Thurner, Gertrude Sauter, Doshia Oliver and Verna Eckrich.

Friends may write memories and sign the online guest book at

 Alvin ‘Al’ Henry Smolkowski



Alvin “Al” Henry Smolkowski died on May 28 with his family at his bedside. 

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at the Elgin Catholic Church at 2 p.m. Saturday. Interment at the Elgin Cemetery will immediately follow. Recitation of the Rosary will be held at the Elgin Catholic Church at
7 p.m. Friday. 

Al was born in Peterson, Canada, in 1937. After high school, Al joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he served on several bases across Canada. While at a secret base in the Canadian Arctic monitoring foreign radio traffic he met Maureen, his wife to be, who was teaching in White Horse. 

They moved to Calgary, Alberta, where they were married. Al studied aeronautical engineering at Alberta Institute of Technology, graduating with honors. He also designed and built a successful man-powered aircraft. Their first son, Kevin, was born in 1963.

They moved to San Diego, where Al went to San Diego State. Then Boeing in Seattle offered him a position. They lived in Bellevue, Wash., where their son Keith was born.

The family moved to Wahoo, Neb., where Al was vice president of a manufacturing company. Here they adopted four more children and had a daughter who died two days after birth.

After moving to La Grande, Al worked for an irrigation company, then started his own successful awards and engraving business that he moved to Elgin.

He was a member and past president of the Elgin Lions and served on the Elgin Health District Board. He was a man of strong faith and an active member of Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Elgin. He was truly loved by the Lord and will be greatly missed by all those whose lives he touched.

He leaves behind his wife, Maureen; sons, Kevin, David, Tim and Keith; daughters, Katherine and Kristi; 14 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Loveland Funeral Chapel is in charge of the arrangements.

Online condolences to the family may be made at