Milo “Roy” Bartlett was born Oct. 31, 1927, in Orofino, the only child of Golda Mary (Mitchell) Bartlett and Milo Reno Bartlett. When the Great Depression hit northern Idaho several years later, the family moved to Mercer County, Ill., to stay with relatives. It was here that he began school.
Roy continued his education in Orofino, but later attended Lewiston Orchards Elementary. In 1937, the family bought a home in south Clarkston. He would spend the majority of his life on the same property.
Roy was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1946. He served with the 38th Regimental Combat Team/Mountain Infantry in Colorado. At the time, this was the only mountain and winter warfare combat team in the Army. Here he developed his love for skiing, which would continue later in his life.
Returning to Clarkston High School after his honorable discharge, Roy graduated in 1949. He and Jean Ellis were married Dec. 23, 1950, in Clarkston. They were blessed with three daughters. All of his girls were grateful to be by his side at the time of his passing Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019.
After graduation, he began a 41-year career working for Potlatch Forests Inc., later called Potlatch Corp. Working on the mill pond, he was able to pursue his interest in log rolling, or log birling, as it is also called.
In 1951, he competed for the first time at Orofino Lumberjack Days. He encouraged his sister-in-law, Bette (Ellis) Jordan, to participate. Under his guidance, she won five world championships. He continued to compete and coach for 37 years while traveling extensively to logging shows. His list of championships is rivaled only by that of the many birlers he coached to almost 70 major titles. He appeared during the Montreal World’s Fair in 1967 and again in 1974 at the Spokane World’s Fair. He also performed birling demonstrations for a season at Knott’s Berry Farm. He appeared on many television shows, including NBC News, CBS Sports Show with Curt Gowdy and ABC Scholastic Sports America, to name a few. He worked on the log drives for Potlatch in 1953-54. Roy was a member and past president of Local 3-364 IWA (Woodworker’s Union).
Astronomy was another interest. When his mentor, Frank Moser, passed away, Roy inherited his many telescopes to add to his collection. He donated one to Asotin School District. Along with George Cook and Elmer Reeves, he built an observatory that is located in Tammany. With staff from Lewis-Clark State College, they hosted star parties for a number of years.
An interest in geology was evident if you were in his presence for any length of time outdoors. He was a walking encyclopedia of our planet and how it evolved.
In 1976, Roy and Jean began square dancing. They were members of both the Square Devils and Twin City Twirlers. Originally a reluctant participant, he would continue to dance even after his beloved wife had to stop. He never missed a dance into his late 80s. He was also a capable “caller,” with a strong voice.
Retirement brought about time to pursue his love of fishing on the banks of the Snake and Grand Ronde rivers. Northern pike minows did not stand a chance when Roy was in pursuit of collecting bounty money. He began the “family fish-in,” held the day after Thanksgiving, as son-in-laws were added. As the family grew, there was hardly a spot big enough.
A documentary film, “Queens of the Roleo,” premiered at the Center for Arts and History in downtown Lewiston on Oct. 4, 2014. This was very special for Roy, as they even closed Fifth Street between Main and D Street for a log rolling pool to be constructed. Former students demonstrated the skills learned by “The Famous Roy Bartlett,” as he like to be called. The film went on to win many awards and was shown around the U.S. at film festivals.
Roy had a personality and wit that was unforgettable. His passion for his family, his hobbies and his convictions were evident in the way he led his life. Being an only child, he got to pick his brothers and had many lifelong friendships. He was a perpetual student, lecturer and philosopher who enjoyed classical music, despite the protests of his immediate family.
Roy is survived by his wife of almost 69 years, Jean; daughters Gail (Greg) Richardson, Lynne (Dave) Funke and Melanie (Dan) Stellmon; grandchildren Gabe (Tobi) Richardson, Kyle (Carrie) Funke, Andrew Funke, Jaclyn (Shawn) Reiner Gahr, Joe (Kayla) Reiner, Mark (Breanna) Reiner, Andrew Stellmon, Christian Stellmon and Roland Stellmon; and six great-grandchildren, Laramie, Isla, Haeley, Nolan, Blair and Opal, with the seventh expected in March.
Roy was a faithful volunteer at the Asotin County Food Bank for many years. The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Asotin County Food Bank, in memory of Roy Bartlett, at 1546 Maple St., Clarkston.
No service is planned. However, there will be a celebration of life at a later date.