Formerly of La Grande
Roderick W. ‘Doc’ Donnelly, 88, formerly of La Grande, died Oct. 12 at his home in Richmond. A private family gathering will be held at a later date. Sweeney Mortuary of Condon is in charge of arrangements.
Roderick was born May 23, 1921, the first son of Virginia Odessa Wechter and Hamilton Keyes Donnelly at his grandmother’s house at the top of the Donnelly Grade in Wheeler County. He was the grandson of a founding father of Wheeler County.
He attended grade school in a one-room school at Service Creek. He attended high school in Fossil where he boarded with several families. After he graduated in 1938, he worked on the Donnelly ranch until the fall of 1941. Between his father and Uncle George (Bags) Donnelly, they farmed 3,000 acres and ran a full band of sheep (1,200) and 50 Herefords.
He attended a diesel-electric trade school in Portland and began attending in September 1941. When World War II broke out, he wanted to enlist, but an instructor told him to wait until he graduated in February 1942. The day after graduation, he went into the U.S. Navy. He was awarded The Distinguished Cross, an Air Medal, a Philippine Liberation Medal, an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and an American Campaign Medal. He was discharged at Bremerton, Wash., on Nov. 25, 1945.
A final honor awarded to him for his service to the country was being the grand marshal of the Spray Rodeo in 2008 along with other area veterans.
After the war, he returned to the Donnelly Ranch and worked there until he decided to use the GI Bill for some college education and enrolled at Oregon State College in September 1949. While there he met Julé Darling of Portland at a dance class. He courted her and married her in 1952. They moved into a home in the “ghost town” of Richmond and ranched until 1956 when part of the ranch was sold.
They then moved to Corvallis so that he could finish his degree. When he found he didn’t like being in freshman classes, he went job-hunting and Boeing hired him for his knowledge of radar equipment. But this was in Seattle and he did not like the traffic or the weather, so he returned to OSU, where he finished his bachelor’s degree in 1960 and master’s degree in 1961. His degree was in vocational ag education.
His first job was at Imbler and he taught there until 1965. A job opened up at La Grande High School and it was a two-man department with all classes in shop, welding, electricity and auto mechanics. Both he and his wife were hired, and they moved to La Grande where he taught until 1974. He taught for two more years, one at Enterprise and one at Baker City. He worked seasonally with the U.S. Forest Service, mainly tree marking, until his wife took early retirement in 1985 and they moved back to Richmond.
They enjoyed many trips: seeing the rest of the lower 48 states that they hadn’t seen before; overseas trips throughout Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland and a drive up the Alaska Canada Highway to see Alaska. More trips were planned, but his health changed with a severe leg pain that made traveling by plane impossible.
He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Julé Donnelly of Richmond; children; David Donnelly, M.D., and his wife Rosie of Medford, Linda Donnelly of Richmond, Cindy Fairchild and her husband Scott of B.C., Canada; and nine grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to any local ambulance or library or any charity.
La Grande Observer – October 27, 2009