Obituaries for July 1, 2013

By Observer Upload July 01, 2013 10:27 am
Rife, Helmick, Courtney, Duckett, Riley

Kenneth Rife

La Grande

Kenneth Rife, 66, of La Grande, died at his home on Saturday.  Arrangements are under the direction of Tami’s Pine Valley Funeral Home.

 Marlin W. Helmick

La Grande

Marlin W. Helmick, 83, died at his home on June 26. A viewing for family and friends will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Loveland Funeral Chapel. His funeral service will be at the Zion Lutheran Church at 10 a.m. Friday, followed by interment at Grandview Cemetery. Loveland Funeral Chapel is in charge of the arrangements.


Harold James (Jim) Courtney

Formerly of La Grande


Harold James (Jim) Courtney, 86, died in Harney District Hospital June 24. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. July 11 at Valley Golf Club in Hines. 

He was born on Oct. 11, 1926, in La Grande and married Doris Miller April 11, 1948, in La Grande. 

His early years were spent on his father’s and grandfather’s farm on Foothill Road in La Grande. He was the only child of Lester and Lucille. This farm was lost due to the Great Depression, and the family moved into La Grande, where his grandfather and father ran a livery stable. Jim became involved with scouting and sports, where he found his talent in football and earned his varsity letter as a freshman. 

He enlisted in the Army prior to high school graduation, graduated in December of his senior year and was soon sent to Japan on a steamship. The country boy from Eastern Oregon spent the entire voyage being seasick.

Once in Japan, he was assigned to the 55th Combat Engineers. The engineers were assigned to get the streets cleared and the railroads running again. While riding on one of the overcrowded railroad cars, there was an accident where Jim was severely injured, covered with a sheet and thought dead. To the doctors’ surprise, he survived the injury.

Upon return from active duty, Jim took a job with the City of La Grande as a city recorder and street sweeper (literally sweeping the streets with a push broom). Jim also went to college at Eastern Oregon College on the G.I. Bill and earned his degree in education. Jim played on the college football team and played drum in the newly formed American Legion Drum and Bugle Corp. 

Jim’s first job was as a teacher and coach in Joseph. He later moved to Enterprise as an administrator. In 1976, he became the Harney County ESD superintendent, from which he retired in 1988. 

Jim enjoyed hunting, fishing, family and especially golf. He was a gifted athlete, and excelled in football, basketball, track, baseball, softball, even bowling. 

Survivors include his three sons, Daniel James and wife Janyce of Drewsey, David L. and wife Nancy of Grants Pass, and Steven John and wife Diane of Anacortes Wash.; his brother-in-law, Ed Miller and wife Jean Ann of Beaverton; 13 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.   

Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Doris, in 2006, and his parents. 

Memorials may be made to the Harney County Dollars for Scholars in care of LaFollette’s Chapel, P.O. Box 488, Burns OR 97720. Sign the on-line guest book at 


Doris Hazel Duckett



Doris Hazel Duckett, 87, of Elgin, formerly of La Grande and Canyon City, died at her residence on June 22. Graveside services will be held at Canyon City Cemetery at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Doris was born Aug. 3, 1925, in Salem to Earl and Rosa (TenEyck) Lankins. She lived close to Estacada, where she graduated from high school. Doris attended Oregon State University and graduated with a teaching degree in home economics. She taught in Condon and North Powder. While teaching in North Powder, she met Richard “Dick” Duckett of
La Grande. They were married June 14, 1952, in Oregon City and made their home in North Powder and then Wallowa.

The family moved to Bates in December 1958. She taught home economics one year in Prairie City before going to work for the Bates Employees Credit Union (now Old West FCU). When the mill moved from Bates to John Day, she and Dick moved to John Day. Doris continued to work for the credit union until she retired.

Doris moved to La Grande in 1996. Before her stroke in 2002, she was active in Eastern Star, loved to travel and to play Bridge. Her grandchildren meant the world to her.

Doris is survived by her daughters, Georgia Boethin and son-in-law Jim of Canyon City; Deb Horrell and son-in-law Shane of Elgin; daughter-in-law Debbie Duckett of Elgin; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by both parents; husband Dick, who died in 1981; and son Rick, who died in 2004.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association and Cancer Research through Eastern Star in care of Loveland Funeral Chapel, 1508 Fourth St., La Grande OR 97850.

Online condolences to the family may be made at


John Marcus Riley

Hillsboro and Cove


John Marcus Riley, 84, of Hillsboro and Cove, died after heart surgery and a stroke June 25 at the Kaiser Sunnyside Hospital in Clackamas.  His Memorial Mass will be held at 11 a.m. July 27 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Union.

John was born Dec. 4, 1928, in Kimball, Neb., to Clyde and Wilma (Blackman) Riley.  Told by the doctor that John would not survive the night, he was baptized by his father in the kitchen sink. The Riley family moved to Pendleton in 1941 and then to the Portland/Vancouver area in 1942, where his parents worked in the Kaiser shipyards, as did 14-year-old John.

He served in the U.S. Navy during both World War II and the Korean War, earning a World War II Victory Medal and four Battle Stars. 

On May 9, 1953, he married Elinor Ann Molby.  They had six children. He worked in drywall and construction for many years. John and Elinor moved to Union County in 1974.

John was active in the community and particularly in the church. He did sheetrock work on the classrooms at St. Clare’s Church in Portland, helped build the rectory at St. Philip Benizi in Redlands and was instrumental in designing and building the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Union.  

The Sacred Heart Church was his passion and probably his greatest legacy. He volunteered as general contractor for the church, which started construction in 1979 and was reportedly dedicated on June 25, 1980, to meet the needs of a growing congregation.  

John and Elinor worked with the parish and other community members on fundraising, purchasing the land, designing the church and building it. John was always proud and humbled by the special day when the Union LDS members joined the Sacred Heart volunteers in their “church raising.”  

He was a director for the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show, painting grandstands, and helping with building projects like the pari-mutuel building and the clubhouse.  Even in his later years, he helped with Grande Ronde Valley Habitat for Humanity and did drywall work and painting for the Union Family Health Center.  

He was exacting and detail-oriented in his work, and enjoyed a degree of artistry in a brocade ceiling or a tile backsplash. In his spare time, he painted Eastern Oregon landscapes and frequently framed his works with weathered barn woods.

John loved to hunt, fish and camp. John and Elinor raised quarter horses, and spent time trail riding in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. He was spiritual and attended Mass every Sunday and daily when he could. In retirement, John and Elinor built a home in Cove, celebrating their 50th anniversary there in 2003.  In 2005, Elinor was diagnosed with lung cancer and recovered from that illness, giving them several years to travel to Ireland and Rome on Catholic tours and attend annual church retreats.  

In 2010, Elinor died and John struggled with her loss. He found solace in grief classes taught by Teresa Smith-Dixon of La Grande.  In 2010, John and Elinor were named grand marshals for the EOLS, and daughter Kathleen and granddaughters Sabrina and Camille helped fill Elinor’s place.

In recent years, he had many friends and email correspondents. A special friend was JoAnn Johnson of Hillsboro. They talked daily on the phone and when together spent time enjoying family barbecues, drinking coffee and going to Mass together.

On June 15, 2013, John suffered a very serious heart attack and then had heart surgery from which he never awoke. He appeared to be making strides in responding to his family, but on June 22 — Elinor’s birthday — these responses stopped. A few days later, the family agreed to honor his wishes and remove life support; he died June 25 with family near.  

John is survived by sons and daughters-in-law, John Riley and Sharon Liese of Park City, Utah; Michael and Sherry Riley of Union; Kevin and Jennifer Riley of Milton-Freewater; and Patrick and Christina Riley of Washougal, Wash.; and by daughters and sons-in-law, Kathleen and Lawrence Cathey of La Grande; and Suzan and Mark Hopman of Hillsboro; 11 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; four step-grandchildren; and seven step-great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, wife Elinor, and sister Joann Gaylord.  Memorial contributions in his honor may be made to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 340 S. 10th Ave., Union.