Dale Walston 1917-2017
Dale Walston died peacefully in his sleep at St. Joseph’s Long Term Care in Chewelah, Washington on Monday, September 18, not long after his 100th birthday. He had been a long-time resident at Buena Vista Assisted Living and Buena Vista Retirement Apartments in Colville until December of 2016. Dale was a life-long Colville resident, except during his WWII Army service in the South Pacific Theater and recently while in long term care.
In July 1950, he and Margaret (Twining) Walston of Coulee City, Washington, were married in the Coulee City Presbyterian Church. Margaret had recently moved to Colville with three friends (another Margaret and two Dorothys) to take teaching jobs, and Dale was home from the Army and working at various jobs, since his folks had sold their farm and moved into town. The couple that the teachers roomed with “strongly encouraged” the four young women to attend church, where Margaret met Dale Walston and Dorothy Hillman met Dale Stebbins. Weddings were soon being planned, all of the teachers became wives and mothers, and the four couples were life-long friends, continuing to meet for lunch in Colville or Spokane from time to time as long as they were able to do so.
Dale and Margaret made their home in Colville until her death in 2011 at the age of 90. After retiring, they traveled extensively by car, visiting most of the US states and Canadian provinces. These trips included visits with friends, former classmates, pen pals, army buddies, and family members, sightseeing at national parks and monuments, historical sites, musical shows and visiting quirky roadside attractions. Their two oldest grandchildren sometimes went on these trips with their grandparents. Dale and Margaret attended several state and national conventions for Grange, Letter Carriers, and Square Dancers. Dale did not care to fly; he said that he got in a plane in New Guinea when the Army insisted, but that it wasn’t something he wanted to do again. He did take a great interest in the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. but enjoyed it from a distance, as it was not completed until after they had stopped traveling. His name is included on the monument, thanks to a cousin who visited there.
Dale worked for the Colville Post Office from 1952 until his retirement in 1978, first as a city carrier, walking a 7-mile route each day for twelve years; then as a rural carrier with a 60-mile route. Following his retirement, he substituted for other rural carriers, often carrying the Star Route to Northport. He and Margaret were involved with numerous community and volunteer activities for many years. Yet when St. Joseph’s inquired what his occupation had been before his retirement, he responded “farmer”, and his fondest wish recently had been to return to the Greenwood farm.
Dale was born to Rosa and Glenford Walston at Pleasant View Farm near Meyers Falls (Kettle Falls) in Stevens County, Washington, and his family farmed in the Greenwood area. His brother Frank was born September 16, 1919. Dale attended grade school in Greenwood, continuing his schooling in Colville with the CHS Class of 1934 until he left school in 1932, believing he was not cut out for school work. The family farmed with horses until the two boys went off to military service during WWII, and their father began to use a tractor. Dale learned to milk cows, clear the land, run a sawmill, build barns, and held his first paid job as a janitor at the Greenwood Grange. He rode in, and won, many of the horse and mule races at the Grange Fairs. For his first car, he traded a bicycle for a 1926 Nash. After returning from the service, Dale studied for and received his VED (Veterans Equivalency Diploma) in 1962. He attended many of the CHS 1934 class reunions.
As a young man, some of Dale’s jobs included working at the Darigold cream station, including traveling to area farms as a tester; and at the Colville Grange Supply store, selling farm implements, gas and oil. He told of driving the oil truck around the county and up to the Canadian border delivering fuel. He and a Greenwood buddy were hired to clear the right-of-way for a new rural power line. The night before he left for the service, he and several friends had an ice-skating party behind the Meyers Falls Dam, and this was an event he always mentioned during car trips back through Greenwood and Old Kettle Falls.
In his last ride through Greenwood and their old farms last month, Dale pointed out where he used to catch the school bus, his old swimming hole near there, and he named the original families at most of the older homes in the area. His mother’s family home is still standing and lived in, although the house at their first farm is long gone. Because there was no water on the place, he helped his mother haul water from a neighbor. Over the same route in the spring of 2016 he was greatly impressed by the condition of the fields and said the lush green fields had the tallest growth that he had ever seen there. His father and grandfather had cleared much of what is now farmland in the Greenwood / Highland area, and Dale remembered helping the Catholic brothers with their harvest (near what is now known as the old convent between Colville and Kettle Falls).
Dale was drafted into the Army in late 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and in January of 1942 was put in charge of 22 young men leaving Stevens County by bus for Fort Lewis, Washington. From there Dale was soon sent to Camp Roberts, California for basic training. In April 1942, thousands of men were encamped in the San Francisco Cow Palace awaiting transport to their battle assignments. Dale served in Company M, 126th Infantry Regiment, a part of the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division (known in WWI as “Les Terribles”). Most of the unit had been reactivated from National Guard units in Wisconsin and Michigan. They sailed from San Francisco for the South Pacific in late April on a converted Matson Line cruise ship, the SS Lurline, arriving on the east coast of Australia.
Dale did not talk much about the war during the years he was raising a family, although he kept in touch with a few army friends. In the 1990s he became more interested in recording his army experiences, and typed out his recollections of his service years. He was a mortar man, carrying a heavy gun (broken down into 3 sections) through jungles and up and down mountains; he contracted a severe case of malaria and was hospitalized.
Most of his 126th Company did not survive the war, and he returned to San Francisco on a Navy ship. He received occasional packages and letters from home during his time overseas, and there is a copy of a letter he sent to the Grange thanking them for a package they had sent him. Corporal Walston was honorably discharged from the Army in June 1945 at Fort Lewis and traveled straight home to Colville, nearly giving his mother heart failure when she saw him walking up the street to their house after an absence of over three years.
Thanks to the Internet, Dale was able to find out a few years ago that a fallen buddy, whose fate he had not known since December 1942, had been buried at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines, and this gave him some peace of mind, especially when a church friend was able to visit the location and send him a photograph. In May 2010 Dale attended a 32nd Division Reunion in Spokane and spoke about his time in the service. He kept a map in his room that he had marked up to show the route the troop ship had sailed across the Pacific to Australia, then subsequently to Papua New Guinea (Buna, Villa Verde Trail), the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines.
Dale joined Greenwood Grange No. 373 in Kettle Falls at age 14 and served as Master in 1941 and 1950. In 1951, the two Walston brothers (Dale and Frank) and their new wives (Margaret and Gladys) transferred their membership to the Fort Colville Grange No. 533 in Colville, where their involvement continued for over 50 years and Dale’s children were in Juvenile (now Junior) Grange. Dale served as Master for both Fort Colville and the Stevens County Pomona Grange, and held nearly every other office at some time during his life (although, as he recently reminded his daughter, he had never been the Lady Assistant Steward nor one of the three Graces). He and Margaret joined the National Grange in 1954 during a convention in Spokane. He was recognized by the State Grange for over 80 years of Grange membership.
Dale sang tenor in the Colville Methodist Church choir for nearly 40 years and often performed as a soloist or a member of a trio or quartet. His father and brother joined him in growing beards and performing during the City of Colville Centennial celebration in 1959. He also sang with the Colville Community Choir and with the Woodland Chorus, including several performances of Handel’s “Messiah”. For many years, he was a soloist at the Rural Carriers’ Convention memorial services and sang for many area weddings and funerals. He was also a cornet player.
Dale joined Kettle Falls Presbyterian Church in 1941, and in 1946 transferred to the Colville Federated (now Congregational) Church. In 1950 he became a member of the Colville Methodist Church where he was active in the Young Adult group and a Charter Member of the Methodist Men, became a lay leader, held many church offices, and attended regularly until the past year as his health began to restrict him more. The van transportation provided by the church enabled him to continue attending for several years after he quit driving. Church friends recently helped Dale’s granddaughters Erin and Andrea arrange a 100th Birthday celebration at the Colville Community Church. It was attended by many community and Grange friends and family, and by all of Dale’s children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren.
Dale and Margaret always raised a large vegetable garden and beautiful flowers. For many years, Dale won ribbons at the NE Washington Fair for his dahlias and other flower and vegetable entries. He helped prepare the Grange display booths and served in other volunteer capacities at the Fair each year. They were officers and active members of the Miss-N-Links Square Dance Club in Colville, and frequently travelled to Spokane and Canada to dance. They helped put on a state square dance festival in Colville at the new high school and formed life-long friendships with many other dancers.
Dale took a keen interest in local history, and was a first-hand participant in a great deal of what is now part of the area’s historical record. He always enjoyed visiting museums, and oral histories from both Dale and his father are included in the Stevens County Museum archives. Dale was a life member of Fort Colville Grange, Washington State Grange, and the National Grange, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Methodist Church (Charter Member of Methodist Men; Dale reported that as of the church’s 100th year anniversary celebration, he had been a member longer than any other man in the church), the 32nd Division Veterans Association, the 126th Infantry Association, Stevens County Historical Society, Western Dance Association of Spokane, and other organizations. He was a volunteer driver for Rural Resources, Volunteer Chore Services, and Meals on Wheels, walked on a Relay for Life team for many years (including as a survivor), and served as the President of the State Rural Letter Carrier Retirees for 2 years. He was a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA), and faithfully voted in all city, county, state, and national elections, casting his most recent ballot in the August 2017 Stevens County Primary election.
Dale enjoyed watching the Jeopardy quiz show and Lawrence Welk Show reruns on television, reading westerns and mysteries, and doing crossword puzzles, until failing eyesight made these activities increasingly difficult and finally not possible.
Dale was preceded in death by his parents Glenford and Rosa (Wheeler) Walston, brother Frank Walston (2004), sister-in-law Gladys Walston (2012) and his wife of 63 years, Margaret (2011).
He is survived by his children Susan Walston (Merriam, Kansas) and Richard (wife Lois) Walston of Colville; 7 grandchildren (Ryan, Erin, Lieven, Andrea, Tanner, Dayna, and Ridge); 8 great-grandchildren (Aleigh, Jack, Zach, Garett, Fiona, Isabelle, Zoey, Madalyn) and other cousins and relatives in the Colville area. Remaining friends in the Chewelah area include a Greenwood classmate, area Grangers, postal employees, and square dancers from former area clubs.
The family would like to express their gratitude to the caring staff at Buena Vista, Alderwood Manor in Spokane (including Dale’s granddaughter Dayna), and at St. Joseph LTC in Chewelah for the support and care they provided for Dale in the past years.
Friends and community members who knew Dale are invited to help celebrate his life on Saturday, September 30, 2017 at the Colville Community Church, 930 S Elm Street at 11 am, Pastor Dave McCue officiating.
Immediately following the service, there will be a procession to the Highland Cemetery in Colville. Friends may gather at the graveside to participate in a brief committal service or may continue directly on to the Fort Colville Grange Hall, 157 Hwy 20 East (across from the High School) for a final memorial for Dale and the celebration of Dale’s life will continue with food and fellowship. The Grange will conduct the Draping of the Charter for Brother Walston (open to the public) and the VFW will perform a flag-folding ceremony in honor of Dale’s military service. These events will be held upstairs, with the meal provided in the basement. Both areas of the hall are accessible by a ramp on the east side of the building.
In lieu of flowers, at Dale’s request, donations can be made to the Colville Community Church in support of their Education, Music, or Transportation services, or to the Stevens County Historical Society in support of the Museum.
Danekas Funeral Chapel and Crematory has been entrusted with the arrangements. Please visit www.danekasfuneralchapel.com and sign the online memorial.