Van Atta, William E. – Obituary

William E. Van Atta, 55, died June 21, 2007, at the home of his son in Aurora.

His memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Friday at the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario. Services are under the direction of Lienkaemper Chapel, Ontario.

He was born on June 7, 1952, at Walla Walla, Wash., to Laura Belle Jackson and William C. Van Atta. Although Bill was blind at an early age, he was able to accomplish more than many of us with our sight, his family members said.

He married the love of his life, Bonnie Lee Kessell on Aug. 21, 1971, at Boise and for 36 years they were never apart. Together they raised their sons, Jason and Brandon.

Bill attended college in La Grande when it was Eastern Oregon College and earned his doctorate of jurisprudence from the University of Oregon at Eugene in 1975. Bill and Bonnie arrived in Ontario in 1976 where he worked for Oregon Legal Services, then going on to the juvenile department.

He enjoyed a fulfilling and successful legal career. His legacy will be the hundreds of people who remember his kindness and encouragement in their time of need.

Bill also was an accomplished musician. He was proud of his Oregon pioneer heritage. Bill and his longtime friend, Dan Coleman, traveled and sang songs of the Oregon Trail as the Prairie Dog Music Co.

According to his family, Bill was the first blind person in Oregon to shoot a deer and a bear and was known from brandings to hometown parades for his horsemanship. He was a licensed pastor, devoting time to rural ministry, providing music and sermons for rodeo services across the country and producing a monthly audio tape, the Pony Express to encourage those who lived and worked in remote areas.

Bill was also very active in the FFA Alumni at both the state and local levels, and his leadership and participation in various community projects was among his greatest joys.

Survivors include his partner and loving wife, Bonnie; and his children, Jason and Soni Van Atta of Ontario and Brandon and Jill Van Atta, and grandchildren, Jordan and Bradi, of Aurora.; his mother, Laura; brothers and sisters-in-law, Jim and Patty Van Atta, Terry and Shirley Holt, and Mike and Tammy Holt; his sisters and brothers-in-law, Lynda and Gannett Pitkin and Chareese and Walt Becinski; and many dear friends.

Memorial contributions may be made to Rodeo Bible Camps of Idaho, Cambridge, Idaho; Malheur County Fairgrounds or Malheur County Library.

Lienkaemper Chapel, Ontario, is in charge of arrangements. Condolences may be made to the family at

Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, July 26, 2007
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor

MLA Source Citation:

White, Judy Wallis. Baker County, Oregon Obituaries. Published by Copyright 1999-2013, all rights reserved. Web. 30 January 2015. - Last updated on May 18th, 2011

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