Death: James W. Eardley


James W. Eardley was born July 15, 1926, at Denver, Colorado, the first child of Walter B. and Pearl Wessels Eardley. The family moved to Baker (now Baker City), Ore., in 1937 when Walt’s father James W. Eardley died and Walt and his brother, David, took over operation of the James W. Eardley lumber yard.

I and four others (three of whom were members of the Baker High School basketball varsity) joined the V-5 program (later changed to V-12) March 1, 1944, intending to become Navy pilots. Many in Baker were angry that we joined the Navy soon before district playoffs, which we were heavily favored to win. Many thought we could have won the state title that year. Instead, we were sent to school at Willamette University, Salem, Ore. I flunked out the following fall. I had learned every play for every position on the football team, but couldn’t master chemistry and a couple of other subjects. I served at Great Lakes, Ill., and Treasure Island, Calif. I was awaiting shipment overseas when my arm was badly cut in an accident that hospitalized me at Santa Cruz. I was discharged at Treasure Island July 19, 1946, and returned to Baker.

I went to work for the Baker Democrat-Herald newspaper (now the Herald) January 15, 1947, as a bookkeeper. Six months later, when the regular bookkeeper returned from the TB hospital at The Dalles, I became a reporter.

Playing for the Baker VFW basketball team in 1948-49, I was named an all-star when we won the state championship. At the national tournament at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, the team won the sportsmanship trophy, I made the first field goal of the tournament, but we lost by one point to Pennsylvania and by two points to Washington.

I unwittingly joined the Army Reserve (I thought I was signing a guest register) one night in Baker. When the Korean War came along, I was called to active duty Oct. 1, 1950, at Ford Ord, California. I attended an Army school briefly at Indianapolis, Indiana, and attended the famed 500-mile race there is 1951 with my father, who happened to be in town. I was discharged at Fort Ord Oct. 15, 1951.

I returned to work at the Baker paper. That bothered me because it meant I was knocking my brother Dick out of a job. He had succeeded me when I went into the Army. Fortunately, he soon found another job.

I was married Aug. 9, 1953 to Barbra Jean Stewart of Fairfield, Idaho, at Fairfield. We had met in Baker, where she was the high school girls’ PE teacher. We remained in Baker until February 1956, when I went to work for the Twin Falls Times-News. I was there only 21/2 months before joining the East Oregonian at Pendleton May 10, 1956.

I became managing editor, and later associate editor, before resigning at the East Oregonian June 1, 1983, to become the editor and manager of the Valley Herald, a weekly newspaper owned by the East Oregonian at Milton-Freewater. That lasted until April 6, 1984, when by mutual agreement I left the paper.

I was unemployed until Dec. 10, 1984, when I went to work for Agri-Times, a regional farm weekly in Pendleton.

Have served on city council since Jan. 1, 1989. Coached Little League several years, was president of the Babe Ruth baseball association, Pendleton Lions Club, Blue Mt. Officials Association. Was a Webelos scout leader a few years. Refereed high school and college football and basketball from 1943 (when still in high school) until 1983.

Survived by wife Barbra, sons Lance (born 3/14/59) and spouse Carolyn, Link (born 4/20/61) and spouse Pat, one grandson, TJ, with spouse Jennifer, and 4 great-grandchildren: Jaidyn, Caleb, Kelsee, and Sienna.

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