Heavenly Father called his son, Joseph Dale Lethlean, 91, of Baker City, home on March 28, 2018, to be reunited with loved ones there. On this side of the veil, he will be dearly missed.
To celebrate Dale’s life, a funeral will be held on Saturday, April 7, 2018, at 1:00 p.m., at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 2625 Hughes Lane, Baker City, with a viewing at noon. Following the service, interment will follow at Mount Hope Cemetery with military honors and the dedication of the grave. Visitation will be April 6, 2018, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., at Coles Tribute Center, 1950 Place Street, Baker City.
Joseph Dale Lethlean was born on February 17, 1927, at Muddy Creek, OR, to Joseph Henry Lethlean and Effie Ellen Davidson Lethlean. At age six, Dale became a big brother to Joy Elizabeth. His childhood was spent working on the farm with his father and Uncle Bill, whose teachings were invaluable. At the age of eight, Dale became very ill and had a near-death experience. This moment remained with him his whole life.
At age nine, having traded a calf for a Howard piano, Dale’s love for playing musical instruments began. After a few years of piano lessons, Dale bought a clarinet. By the age of 16, he swapped out his clarinet for a trombone and taught himself how to play it. Dale became quite accomplished on the trombone. He played in area bands for many community dances.
Dale grew up attending Muddy Creek School. One day during high school, Dale saw the woman he would marry, Vera Mae Thorne, standing on the stairs on her first day at school. With the closure of Muddy Creek School during the school year of 1944-45, Dale would graduate from Haines High School in the Spring of 1945.
Shortly after graduation, Dale received a letter from the President of the United States instructing him to report in October 1945, at Fort Lewis, WA, to join the U.S. Army. Basic training was received at Camp Pendleton, CA. In December 1945, on a three-day pass, Dale married his high school sweetheart, Vera, at El Paso de Robles, CA.
All too soon, Dale boarded a ship on his way to fight overseas during World War II. En route, the ship stopped at Pearl Harbor where Dale was called off the ship. Dale became a part of the 501st AAF (Air Corps) Band at Wheeler Army Air Field until he received an Honorable Discharge in July 1946. Dale was decorated with the Asiatic Pacific Theater Service Medal and the Victory Medal.
Upon returning home to his bride, their first son was born, J.D. Initially, Dale began working for Clayton Jackson at Jackson’s Food Market in Baker. Within a short time, he was the manager of the General Store in Pondosa, a sawmill town in Baker County. During this time, a daughter, Linda, was born.
In the early 1950’s, with the closure of the General Store, Dale moved his family back to Baker to work again at Jackson’s Food Market. While being responsible for many tasks, Dale was trained as a butcher.
During the 1950’s, three more sons would be added to the family: Kim, Jim, and Tim. Also, Dale and Vera, along with their children, became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. On January 1, 1957, Dale and Vera became the owners of the In & Out Drive-In.
With a drive-in to operate during the winter months, Dale realized he needed to keep the lot plowed for his customers. Dale designed and built a snowplow he attached to his 1940’s Willys Jeep, and in later years on his 1970 Chevy Blazer. It did not take long for other business owners in town to ask Dale for this service for their establishments. This would be a winter venture Dale and his sons would perform for several decades.
It was in the early 1960’s, wanting to sell chicken in his new business, a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise was secured. During this period, a daughter joined the family, Kay. Never busy enough, Dale leased the Topz Café in Baker for one year. June 12, 1965, was the day the Lethlean family was sealed for time and all eternity in the Idaho Falls, Idaho, Temple. In the late 1960’s, Dale served on the Baker City Council.
In an effort to preserve area history, Dale met with a few local residents to discuss the organization of the Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration. Along with other family members, Dale donated his equipment and many hours of service to the railroad. Dale was a Life Member of SVRR.
By the mid-1970’s, trying to keep his sons busy, Dale returned to his roots of farming and ranching. Soon the family farmed 260+ acres and had over 100 head of cattle – in addition to the In & Out Drive-In! Furthermore, to keep the KFC franchise, Dale, with the help of his sons, converted the Texaco Service Station on an adjoining lot of the block into a KFC restaurant. This building now houses Paizano’s Pizza.
In an effort to retire, Dale and Vera sold both restaurants in 1981. Upon ownership being returned, true retirement would not come for him until 2015. During intermittent times, Dale worked for the Hardware Store in North Powder, the Sunridge Inn in Baker City and Pine Creek Mining near Unity.
In 2002, after 56 years of marriage, Vera passed away. A couple years later, Dale met Darlene Friedlander. They were married in 2005 and were able to spend several years together until her death in 2013.
Dale was never an idle man. Work defined his days. In the rare instances, he could get away from work, Dale had a passion for mining, hunting, skiing, fishing, cooking and reading. Later in life, he especially enjoyed taking drives through the Baker Valley with family members.
Dale is survived by his sons, J.D. (Linda), Kim (Gladys), and Tim of Baker City; his daughters, Linda (Russ) Canham of Portland, and Kay (David) Carlson of Vale. A daughter-in-law, Shannon Lethlean. Grandchildren: Joseph Dale Lethlean, III; Julie Hale; Scott Canham; Dustin Lethlean; Michelle Coley; Jim Allen Lethlean, II; Tim Larry Lethlean, II; Melissa Culp; Josiah Carlson; Erica Hansen; Lauren Beseau; Noah Carlson; and Japheth Carlson. Great-Grandchildren: Acia, Asher, Anja, Zeniff, Ksenia, Madison, Michael, Marcus, Teygan, Kayla, Mykenzie, Paizley, Vanessa, Draven, Veronica, Alexandria, Tim Larry III, Boone, Daxton, Aria, Enoch, Isaak, Jakub, and Oliver. Numerous nieces and nephews.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Joseph Henry Lethlean and Effie Peters; uncle, William “Bill” Lethlean; wife, Vera Lethlean; son, Jim Lethlean; grandson, Kim William “Bill” Lethlean, II; wife, Darlene Lethlean; and sister, Joy Miller.
For those wishing to make a memorial contribution in Dale Lethlean’s memory, the family suggests the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the Eastern Oregon Museum of Haines through Coles Tribute Center at 1950 Place Street, Baker City, OR 97814.
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