Kenneth William Sturgill, 86, a lifetime Baker County resident, died Sept. 3, 2005, at St. Elizabeth Health Services.
His memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 2120 Second St. Deacon Connie Boone will officiate. Burial will be at Mount Hope Cemetery. There will be a reception afterward at the family home.
Visitations will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Gray’s West & Co., 1500 Dewey Ave.
Kenny was born on April 4, 1919, to Cecil and Jessie Sturgill at the old St. Elizabeth Hospital in Baker City. He was educated in the 5J school system, and was a 1937 Baker High School graduate. He served four years in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Harris, completing 13 invasions in the South Pacific during World War II.
A descendant of a wagon train pioneer family that settled in Baker County in 1868, Kenny was steeped in the philosophical spirit of “can do, make it do, do it over, or do without.” Kenny spent his entire life just “doing it” for his family, his friends, his community and his country.
After returning home from the Navy, Kenny married Barbara Clabough. They raised two sons in Baker County.
The pioneering heritage of the Sturgill family served Kenny and Barbara well as they began their married life on the family farm in a three-room house with no electricity, no telephone and no indoor plumbing — just a well-worn path to an outside hand pump, and another to the outhouse. Starting at an early age, they instilled in their two sons the same pioneering “can-do” spirit and neighborly helpfulness.
When the boys were still quite young, Kenny took a job with Production Credit Association, where he worked for 28 years, and the family moved into a somewhat more modern house on the corner of Chestnut Street and Valley Avenue.
Later, in order to have room to accommodate 4-H animals, they moved to Cedar Street, which became the family home as long as he and Barbara were able to care for themselves. Since Barbara’s death in June of 2004, Kenny had been living in elder care centers, most recently Meadowbrook Place.
Kenny was an active member in many aspects of the Baker County community, including the Baker County and Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, which honored him in 1964 as Baker County Father of the Year and Oregon Father of the Year.
The honor was due in large part to his dedicated service in the Baker County 4-H and FFA programs, in which both his sons were involved for as many years as they were eligible. He willingly arose each day at 5 a.m. to drive his sons to the outskirts of town where their animals were kept to help feed, water and work them. He then returned home for breakfast before heading off to work.
He willingly spent endless Saturdays and several evenings a month instructing, coaching and mentoring dozens of youth, including his sons in raising show animals. His dedication was clearly evident in his scheduling vacations around 4-H Show and Sale Week so he could be there from dawn to all hours to lend a supportive hand and to do every chore connected with the annual Baker County event.
During his sons’ youth, there wasn’t a sports or extracurricular activity in which the boys were involved that Kenny, his wife, Barbara, his parents Grandpa and Grandma Sturgill, and his sister, Cecille, were not front and center to cheer and encourage all the youth to do their best.
Being involved in his sons’ lives was very important to Kenny. He served as a dedicated and innovative Cub Scout master and was an active member of the PTA, where he was known to be a willing worker at special activities. He helped with the Youth Hunter Safety program and taught his sons how to handle a gun properly and then took them pheasant hunting on the family farms.
For many years, after spending the day at his regular job, Kenny would faithfully attend to the various night janitorial jobs he performed to supplement the family income. An important side bonus to these night jobs was having one or both boys accompany him, thereby teaching them honest work ethic and how to earn and manage money.
Kenny also served in the community of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church where he was a teacher, Sunday School superintendent and a lay reader. He served as the treasurer of the vestry for more than 20 years.
After his sons were grown and away from home, Kenny became involved in the Elks Lodge, the Lions Club and other organizations where he willingly assisted in any area where he was needed. He also was active in the Me n’ You Dinner/Dance Club and his expertise in handling livestock was put to use in establishing the petting zoo at the Baker County Miners Jubilee.
Kenny’s greatest contributions to people in Baker County might best be described as that of selfless humanitarian. He was a dedicated helpmate and caregiver to his wife, Barbara, and he was always there to lend a helping hand to friends and neighbors. He was a great role model to his own sons, numerous other youth, friends and neighbors. He was truly an inspiration to all who knew him.
Kenny was selected as Baker County Unlimited 2002 Legacy Man of the Year.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara; his parents, Cecil and Jessie Sturgill; and his sisters, Cecille Sturgill and Lettie Higgins.
Survivors include his two sons, R. Blair and his wife, Carolyn, and Robert W. and his wife, Peggy; grandchildren, Kirsten Sturgill Murphy, and her husband, Brian Murphy, Kathy Sturgill Carter and her husband, Sam Carter, Robert Sturgill Jr. and his wife, Debbie, Jenny Sturgill, Brett Sturgill and his wife, Hailey, Christopher Sturgill and his wife, Kira, and Michael Sturgill and his wife, Danielle; great-grandchildren, Joshua, Elizabeth Christine, Madison and Makaila; a sister, Fran Chaves; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of one’s choice through Gray’s West & Co., P.O. Box 726, Baker City, OR 97814.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, September 9, 2005
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor