Oct. 7, 1920 Dec. 25, 2010
Violet N. Wilson Shirley passed away quietly at home Dec. 25 from congestive heart failure at 90 years of age. She was lovingly attended by her devoted daughter, Sunny Lyons-Grabenhorst and son-in-law George Grabenhorst, as she joined our Lord and Savior on the greatest birthday of all.
Violet was born at her uncle Buck Wilson's ranch on the Imnaha River in northeast Oregon. She was the fourth of eight children, and was the daughter of Leonard William (Pete) Wilson and Ethel Belle Couch.
She was preceded in death by five brothers, James, Allen, Don, Dan and Charles Wilson; and two sisters, Marjorie Chadwick and Katherine Brown.
Violet grew up on Saddle Creek Ranch in Hells Canyon, where she assisted her family riding herd over the cattle, and anything that involved being outside on a horse or tending to the daily ranch life chores in the canyon. She graduated from Enterprise (Ore.) High School. She married Lee Franklin Shirley in 1938 at Pendleton, Ore., and moved back to Imnaha, then on to Joseph, Ore., to raise their three children: sons Leonard D. and Chester L.; and daughter Sunny A. Shirley.
In Violet's young married life she cooked for logging crews, in restaurants and on wheat and cattle ranches in the '40s. During World War II, she drove the Imnaha to Joseph stage and freight truck for 11/2 years. While in Joseph, she was in the Rebekah Lodge for 15 years and served as a past noble grand.
After living in Toledo and then Hood River, Ore., Violet and her daughter moved to Salem, where she worked as a psychiatric security aide in the forensic section of the state hospital for almost 25 years.
After retirement, Violet started volunteering at the Kirkwood Historic Ranch and Museum in Hells Canyon at Lewiston, going back to the one place in the world that always held her heart. Violet volunteered for 18 years, from 1986 through 2004, receiving the Idaho Forest Service volunteer of the year award along with other certificates of appreciation. Violet's vast knowledge and love of the history of the canyon enriched many visitors' experiences when stopping by the ranch. She loved to spend hours each day regaling people with her stories of growing up in the canyon. She would spend long days planting flowers and irrigating the vast lawns, along with all manner of keeping the ranch and surrounding areas picture perfect. She was also well known to "do away" with more than a few pesky unwanted skunks that would have the audacity to wander into her domain.
Mother loved the quote "I have miles to go before I sleep," and felt she had many friends and family to help while she was here. She did that grandly and now can rest in peace at last. We are all richer for her life and her love.
Violet is survived by her three children; and three grandsons: Lane D. Lyons, Pete Shirley and Bobby Shirley. She also leaves eight great-grandchildren and a large extended family.
There will be a celebration of life the last full weekend in June during the Wilson family reunion at Joseph. Arrangements are by Virgil T. Golden Funeral Service of Salem.