Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Giant in the Mental

Yesterday was my Grandpa Don's birthday. He died in 2004 but it doesn't seem long ago – I think of him very often. Here's his obituary from the Whidbey News Times, written by my Uncle Perry:

Woodfin, Donald Wednesday, 08 Sep 2004

Donald A. Woodfin, 84, with his family by his side, died peacefully at his home in Rolling Hills Sept. 8, 2004.

He was born Jan. 26, 1920 in Palouse where the Woodfin family had homesteaded when Washington was still a territory.
Don’s mother died when he was eight and his father passed away when he was 13. Orphaned during the Depression, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and at 15, lied about his age and joined the Marines. Stationed in Shanghai, China, in 1936, Don became an American Embassy guard and was the first American to sight and report the Japanese invasion of China. He was also a distinguished and decorated rifle and pistol marksman.

Out of the Marines, Don traveled to Sitka, Alaska, and worked on a halibut boat, and as an apprentice carpenter. He married Jeanne Perry and with the need for expert carpenter skills during World War II, joined the Navy SeaBees and helped build air runways at Sitka and Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Moving to Vashon Island, and with a growing family, Don purchased a berry and fruit farm. With his interest in agriculture broadening, he eventually built up the largest chicken farm in the Greater Seattle area. During this time he met and became a good friend of Betty McDonald. She wrote the famous novel “The Egg and I” that produced the lovable characters, Ma and Pa Kettle. Betty paid tribute to Don in her book Onions In the Stew as “...the unforgettable Marine.” The barn, chicken house, and caretaker house he built Betty and her family are now recognized National Historical Landmarks and Don is well known to the Betty McDonald International Fan Club.

Divorced in 1954, Don moved to Moses Lake, which was experiencing a boom. He married Jananne (Nan) Goltz and began a long and successful career as a custom builder. But his interest in agriculture did not leave him, and in the early 1960s he moved his family to Ellensburg and began ranching in addition to building. The Limousin breed of cattle captured his attention and by the 1970s he had earned a respected niche in the cattle industry throughout the Pacific Northwest, when in 1976, his wife Nan unexpectedly died.

In 1978 Don married Joyce Hofelter and they moved to Whidbey Island and began what was to be a 26-year marriage. Together, Don and Joyce became a major force in Limousin cattle with Don becoming known as “the Grandfather of Limousin” across the western United States. He became the president of both the NW and Washington Limousin Associations and with Joyce, started and developed the Limousin Bull Test. Many ranchers in the West attribute their start in Limousin cattle to Don.

Don had a passionate love of life which included golf (even a few holes-in-one), the stock market, and family. He fought a courageous battle with cancer for over 30 years. This battle defied odds and statistics due to his love of life, in addition to his excellent physical conditioning. He lifted weights and exercised every morning of his life, even up to one week before he passed away. On occasion, when in hospitals, he would be performing push-ups on his bed when nurses would enter his room and be startled by his unusual vigor. This zest for life included story-telling, and as everyone knew, he loved to tell a good joke.

Don is survived by his wife, Joyce Woodfin; his son, Perry Scott Woodfin of San de Fuca and his daughters, Donna Woodfin Stahl and Margaret Lee Woodfin of Seattle; his stepson, Gary Lyle Goltz and wife Bernatta of Coupeville; his stepdaughter, Roxanne Cole and partner Jim Anderson of Snohomish; his stepsons, Bill Hofelter and wife Cheryl of Phoenix, and Rex Hofelter and wife Jacqueline of Orange County, California. There are 12 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.

To his family, he was not a particularly tall man, but he was a giant.

I think I mentioned awhile back that I was going to start posting some photos of my Grandpa, as there are a lot of great ones (he was kind of a show-off). They're all packed away though, so this is that rare thing on Pacific Standard, a post with no images. My Grandpa Don was a great person – he had so many stories, we would beg to hear them all the time – and they were all things he had lived or seen…crazy stuff you don't hear anymore. I'm really proud to have known him.

1 comment:

JMW said...

Thanks for sharing. This post inspired two feelings in me: 1) a respect, even awe, for your grandfather (I can't wait to see some of those pictures), and 2) a deep loathing of myself and what I've done with my life.