Obituary for Harry Chester Bleile
March 29, 1925 – July 27, 2021
Harry Bleile passed away, filled with gratitude and surrounded by love, at his home on Tuesday July 27, 2021. He lived a vigorous and interesting life and surprised us all when he began to decline about nine months ago. He told us that “life is trying to leave my body” and when his efforts to regain his strength were unsuccessful, he was accepting, trusting, and curious.
Harry was the second son born to Earl and Marian (Kropscott) Bleile. He grew up in the small sawmill town of West Fir, Oregon along the Willamette River where he and his older brother, Earl, attended a 4-room school, shared a paper route, and fished the nearby river and log ponds. His younger brother George, who developed a serious spinal deformity, was born when Harry was 10. Harry attended Oakridge High School and was an Eagle Scout. WWII began as he was starting high school and his last semester he studied independently while he served as a US Forest Service Fire Lookout. He joined his brother Earl at Oregon State the following semester and pledged the Sigma Epsilon fraternity. On the day before his 18th birthday, he volunteered for the Air Corps. He served as a navigator for the 8th Air Force, 351 Bomb Group, which was based in England. After V-J Day, he returned to Oregon State. where he met the love of his life, fellow student Frances Crawford.
In 72 years of marriage, they welcomed two daughters, two granddaughters, and four great-grandsons into the family and built wonderful communities of friends in their 14 years in San Bernardino, 50 years in Redding, and nearly seven years at Eskaton Village Grass Valley.
In Redding, Harry and Frances built a house on the bank of the Sacramento where they lived for 47 years.They loved the natural beauty and rhythms of the river- otters, geese, skunks-and warmed up more than a few canoers who had flipped in the riffles up stream from them. They had a marvelous organic garden and persimmon trees that fed friends and family. When the granddaughters arrived, they began growing giant pumpkins – the largest one weighed 109 1/2 pounds.
Harry blessed many with his open-hearted and adventurous nature. During his years in Redding, he was active in the Center for Spiritual Living and the Men’s Group, Rotary, and was a Founder of the Forest Museum and the plant-a -tree program at Turtle Bay.
Harry had a 52 year career in lumber sales. In the early years, a job with Sterling Lumber took Harry and Frances to Redding where they lived until Harry was recalled to the Korean War. Through a series of improbable events, he was assigned to the Special Air Mission based in Germany. His duties took him to many European Capitals exposing him to different cultures and a world he found fascinating. As they were newly pregnant, Frances went to Portland to stay with her parents until Harry returned 6 months after Nancy’s birth. They relocated to San Bernardino where Harry worked as General Manager for a family owned lumber company. Mary Jo arrived in 1957 to everyone’s delight. In 1966, Harry and Frances moved back to Redding with their two girls. Harry took the position of Marketing Manager for Kimberly Clark Forest Products Division, a job with business in Japan, Europe, and Australia. Later he moved to P&M Cedar where he was proud to find a market for what had been waste from the mill. He sold bark to cal-trans and the landfill, material to the cogeneration plant, and in a year where the lumber market was down, he made more profit for the company using what had been waste, than the lumber sales did. He worked for P&M until he was “downsized ” when he was 75.
Almost seven years ago, they moved to Eskaton Village Grass Valley, an assisted living community near Nancy and her husband Sam. At Eskaton, he enjoyed new friendships with residents and staff, exercise classes, local outings on the Eskaton bus, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute classes at nearby Sierra College.
Throughout the decades, there were annual Thanksgiving gatherings at Pismo Beach, travel to National and State Parks, international destinations, Oregon State Beaver reunions, and entertaining friends old and new on the river and at Eskaton.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers. He leaves behind Frances, daughters Nancy (Sam) and Mary, granddaughters Devon (Ivo) and Anne (Shannon), and great-grandsons, Ben, Harry, Rowan and Wesley. A memorial will be held via zoom on Saturday, August 21 at 3:30p. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org. In lieu of flowers, donations may be directed to https://my.rotary.org/en/donate Polio Fund.
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