Editor’s note: Beginning with the July/August/September 2020 issue, obituaries are now available online.
1941 – 2020
George Chesley died July 11, 2020 at age 79. He was born on January 21, 1941, in New Britain, Connecticut. After graduating from Michigan State University, George was commissioned an officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers and served in the Republic of Korea with a heavy equipment unit. Upon completion of active duty, George worked as assistant director of parks and recreation for the city of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he met Joy Krische. They later married on April 20, 1968.
After earning a degree in forestry at Colorado State University, George joined the US Forest Service and served on the Lowell and Sweet Home Ranger Districts of the Willamette National Forest and the Republic Ranger District of the Colville National Forest. In 1978, he became the district ranger on Deschutes National Forest’s Fort Rock Ranger District. Under his tenure, Congress established the Forest Service-administered Newberry National Volcanic Monument, a transition in which George was directly and successfully involved with.
In 1995, the Fort Rock Ranger District combined with the Bend Ranger District to form the current Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District; George succeeded OldSmokey Stan Kunzman as Deschutes National Forest fire staff officer. In this position, he was instrumental in promoting the cooperation of federal fire and fuels management agencies in Central Oregon, and consolidating Deschutes and Ochoco national forest and the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Prineville District fire assets into the Central Oregon Fire Management Service (COFMS), which he led for several years. “In my opinion, this was one of his most significant accomplishments,” said OldSmokey Don Pederson. “Fire organizations are notoriously territorial. Getting everyone on one forest to work together is an accomplishment, but getting two national forests and a different agency, the Prineville BLM, to all work together took exceptional leadership skills.”
George applied those leadership skills beyond the federal arena with his work on Project Wildfire. “After two disastrous wildfires that burned numerous homes in Bend in 1990 and 1996, George worked with county leaders, various firefighting organizations, and other interested parties to form what was, at the time, the only group formed by county ordinance to specifically address the risk of wildfire in a community,” Don Pederson recalled. “The group was able to raise a tremendous amount of money for fuels reduction and education on defensible space. George was one of the original board of directors members, and was still on the board when he died.”
George was active in church and civic affairs. He was a long-time member of the board of trustees and treasurer of the First United Methodist Church in Bend. “At one time or another, George held just about every volunteer position at the church.” Don Pederson said. “He was a very active member of Kiwanis in Bend, and also served eight years as treasurer of the organization’s state-level fundraising program for Oregon Health Sciences University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. An Eagle Scout, George was active in Scouting in Bend while his son Shawn worked toward his own Eagle Scout rank.”
Always a forester, George was honored with the Oregon Society of American Foresters (OSAF) Lifetime Achievement Award presented at the OSAF annual meeting in Bend, Oregon, on April 19, 2018, in recognition of his lifetime commitment to the Society of American Foresters and the forestry profession. He served as OSAF treasurer from 2002 to 2012, and for years was on the executive committee of his local OSAF chapter.
George was one of the original four OldSmokey volunteer interpreters of the Pacific Northwest Forest Service Association-sponsored High Desert Ranger Station exhibit at the High Desert Museum south of Bend and continued this summer service as long as his health permitted.
George is survived by his wife Joy, their son Shawn who lives with his wife and two daughters in Alfalfa, Oregon, and their daughter Megan of Atlanta, Georgia.
OldSmokeys Dennis Dietrich and Don Pederson provided essential information for this remembrance.
1931 - 2020
On Tuesday, September 29, 2020, William “Bill” Truax went to Heaven at the age of 89. He passed away at Mt. Rainier while having a picnic with the love of his life, his wife Kathy. Bill was born September 3, 1931 in Minot, North Dakota to Theodore and Florence (Lutgen) Truax. His family moved to Edmonds, Washington, where he graduated from Edmonds High School. He attended University of Washington and received a degree in forestry before serving two years in the Army.
Bill started his career in forestry in Steilacoom, Washington, at West Tacoma Newsprint. After his first year there, he married Kathleen “Kathy” Kinzner of Tacoma, Washington, and they spent the next 62 years together raising a family, exploring the Pacific Northwest, and generously opening their home to family and friends. His 37-year career took the family to Montesano, Washington, and Corvallis, Oregon. After retirement from Boise Cascade, he and Kathy returned to Washington State and had the opportunity to take several cruises and trips all over the world.
Family was everything to Bill. He enjoyed hosting gatherings and preserved these memories through pictures and home videos. He instilled a love for the outdoors in his children and grandchildren and was proud that many of them carried on his forestry legacy. He also enjoyed researching family genealogy, loved the hunt of finding treasures at garage sales, and always liked learning new things. Above all, he loved to pass on his strong Catholic faith.
Bill was full of life and energy until his last breath. Even in his later years, he remained physically fit and could frequently be found walking, gardening, and helping his children with projects. He was an active member in the Knights of Columbus, a volunteer for the Saint Vincent DePaul Clothing Bank, a leading supporter of the Thurston and Mason County Republican Party chapters, and a recipient of the Golden Membership Award from the Society of American Foresters.
He will be remembered as a loving husband, a wonderful father, a close friend, an ardent Republican and a devoted Catholic.
He is survived by his wife Kathy and seven children: Kathy Hall (David), Steve Truax, Doug (Julie) Truax, Paul (Teri) Truax, Laurie Kinney, John (Wendy) Truax, and Tim (Teresa) Truax. He is also survived by two brothers, David and Mike (Barbara) Truax, Jeanice Bly, and Elizabeth (Ted) Templeton, as well as 15 grandchildren, four great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.