Gayle Vernon 'Dude' Marks

Gayle Vernon 'Dude' Marks

Gayle was born in a homestead near Imnaha, Oregon, July 31,1922. He passed from this life January 17, 2013, following a prolonged illness. His life spanned 90 years and went from a time that revolved around oil lamps, wood cook stoves (everything without electricity), hand planting and harvesting of crops to the modern age.

Gayle was the fourth child of Jacob Bluford and Ethel Mary Marks. To family and friends he was known as “Dude” from the age of 2. Growing up in the Imnaha River valley he graduated from high school in Enterprise, Ore. During high school and shortly thereafter he worked for U.S. National Bank in Enterprise until enlisting in the Marine Corps following Pearl Harbor. He achieved a sharpshooter rating and served as a sergeant in the South Pacific, notably on Palmyra and Majora atolls.

Honorably discharged at the end of WWII, he entered Oregon State University where he received a degree in agricultural economics and met the love of his life: Joy Faulkner. They were married in 1946 and celebrated a loving union of 67 years this past Sept. 7th.

Following graduation from OSU Gayle was offered a position at the Farm Bureau in Hermiston. Joy and Gayle moved to Hermiston that year to spend the rest of their lives in the area. To Gayle it was nearly like moving home, to Joy a bit of a shock, seemingly “moving from the land of ever rain to the land of never rain.” When the Farm Bureau was purchased by Pendleton Grain Growers in 1950, Gayle became branch manager in Hermiston, a position he held for 40 some years.

Gayle was a member and president of the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce and the Hermiston Planning Commission during dynamic growth times in the 1950s and ’60s. Under his leadership the Hermiston Chamber undertook on the task of making the “Hermiston Melon” a brand name to be recognized. Beyond coordinating that effort, with a long-time friend, he built a 14-foot watermelon replica out of chicken wire and concrete that was used in parades and events around the area, promoting Hermiston melons. He was a pioneer in circle irrigation for crops in the area.

Gayle was a cashier and auditor for the Umatilla Sage Riders, a charter member of Elks Lodge No. 1945 and a member of the American Stock and Share Educational Society.

As a member and president of the Hermiston Rotary Club he managed ticket sales and cashiering for the Umatilla County Fair for more than 40 years. Involved in too many Rotary activities to list, that club honored him by making him a Paul Harris Fellow in 1983.

Dude was a member and chair of the Hermiston Rural Fire Board for decades and a member of the Oregon Fire District Directors Association, who honored him with their Distinguished Service Award. He was admitted to the Hermiston Fire and Emergency Services Hall of Fame in 2005.

Gayle was an avid hunter, fisherman and hiker, climbing most of the high Wallowa Mountains over the years. He was passionate about his card playing, especially pinochle or cribbage, and excelled at any card game you put before him.

Gayle is survived by his wife Joy at the home; sons Tom of Hermiston and Rod of Umatilla. Tom’s son Jacob, his wife Meghan and son Benjamin live in Seattle, his daughter Katelyn lives in Omaha, Neb. Rod’s daughter Amy and twin sons Derek and Devon live in Umatilla.

A family inurnment at the Hermiston Cemetery will be held Wednesday at 9 a.m. with a public memorial service at the First Christian Church at 11 a.m., with a meal following at the church. At the family’s request, in lieu of flowers contributions to Hermiston Agape House (one of Gayle’s favorite causes) are suggested.

Please sign the condolence book at

Burns Mortuary of Hermiston is in care of arrangements.

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