Earl Withrow Warren, born December 9, 1922, passed away at age 90, following a heart attack, June 2, 2013.
Earl was born in Dodson, Mont. Earl's mother, Kathryn, was a pianist good enough to have won a piano in a contest in California before her mother moved their family to Montana. Earl's father, Jerry, carried freight for Wells Fargo between small towns in northern Montana, first in a horse-drawn wagon, later in a truck. Jerry was on the road nearly every day and young Earl was on his own in town.
As Earl told it, life in Dodson was a Tom Sawyer kind of existence. Every morning he went to his Uncle Ira's livery stable and chatted until Ira told him to move on because there was work to be done. Then he wandered Dodson, conversing with anyone he met, often trying to sneak into school and being expelled by the principal because he was too young.
Sometimes young Earl rode with his dad on the shorter freight routes. This gave Earl familiarity with small Montana towns: Zortman, Sandusky, Havre, even Great Falls, and as far as Butte.
When Earl was seven, the Warrens came to Oregon. Drought and depression wrecked Jerry's freight business and he needed work. Because Jerry's brother, Frank, had found work in Ashland, Ore. several years before, Jerry moved to Ashland too.
In 1931 (Earl was eight) Kathryn passed away because of a ruptured appendix. Earl was devastated by the loss of his mother.
During his early years in Ashland, Earl was often on his own and built his sense of family life around his cousins and school friends. Earl started school in Ashland but Jerry eventually agreed with his mother-in-law that Earl should not be deprived of a home life with a motherly influence, so Earl went to live every fourth year in Coalinga, Calif. with his grandmother (who had also relocated from Montana).
Earl's Coalinga family was headed by his uncle, Buell Withrow, who worked for the local newspaper, composed songs, played all sorts of instruments, and was the paid director of the town band. Buell nourished Earl's love of music. Earl learned to play brass instruments in Buell's band starting with the tuba (which had to be rigged on a pole carried by two men in front of Earl when the band marched. Earl was too small to carry it).
When he was 15 and back in Ashland, Earl met his future wife, Eunice, at a school dance after an Ashland/Klamath Falls football game. Earl, a sophomore football player, was smitten. Because he had never seen Eunice when they were grade school students, (Eunice had attended Neil Creek Elementary School, outside of Ashland) Earl assumed she must be from Klamath Falls. He spent the evening educating her about Ashland, and she happily let him ramble on about things she had known since she was a baby. Eunice became Earl's family and they were inseparable.
While in high school, Earl was elected president of the class of 1941 and his relationship with the other class members continued, along with his sense of responsibility for their annual reunion, until he moved to Arbor Place in 2012. He kept close track of where his classmates were and what they were doing for 70 years.
Eunice and Earl married June 14, 1942, a year after Earl's graduation and just before he left to join the Army Air Corps. In the Army, Earl was the bugler for various training camps. He trained for the Signal Corps and completed flight training. Earl's lifelong love of airplanes reached its peak during his service as a B-17 radio operator in World War II.
After the war Earl built several different careers in the Rogue Valley, including time as a station agent for West Coast Airlines in Medford, as a chainsaw repairman for Southern Oregon Equipment (between Medford and Central Point), and as owner of a chainsaw sales and repair shop in Shady Cove. When Earl had the opportunity to become an Air Traffic Controller in 1957, he moved to foggy Arcata, Calif. He returned to sunny Medford in 1958 where he started his 20-year career in the Medford control tower.
One of Earl's proudest associations was with George Milligan (whom he met while working for West Coast Airlines), and with Mercy Flights which Milligan dreamed up, and to which Earl immediately subscribed. As Earl told the story, he was the first paying member of Mercy Flights, but the printer who produced the membership cards took membership number one for himself and Earl was stuck for almost 70 years with number two.
Earl began to grow roses in the early 1970s. A friend who worked in the Medford Control Tower with Earl started a mail order rose nursery near Newberg and Earl took the opportunity to buy, plant, or give as gifts, dozens of varieties of roses, many of which still thrive at his Medford home.
A disabling heart attack in 1978 brought an end to Earl's career as an Air Traffic Controller. In retirement, he and Eunice took long trips in their camper to national parks in the Northwest, to western Canada, to Montana and across the United States, visiting a legion of relatives, and renewing friendships that dated back as far as the 1920s.
Throughout retirement, Earl and Eunice enjoyed attending every event one of their children or grandchildren participated in, while also tending their expansive garden, keeping connections with friends, and being affectionate sweethearts. Their family and many friends were blessed to have seen a true love story played out every day of their lives.
In early 2012, at the age of 89, Earl and Eunice moved to an assisted living apartment at Arbor Place. Arbor Place gave Earl a new set of friends to entertain with old stories, and a new set of routines.
As Eunice's Alzheimer's disease gradually stole her away, Earl was her primary caregiver and never left her side. He took extraordinary care of Eunice, and continued to spend his days with her even after the disease forced her to move into the Memory Care wing at Arbor Place. Eunice and Earl celebrated their 70th and final anniversary together with a party of friends and family June 14, 2012.
At Eunice's bedside when she passed away January 13, 2013, Earl promised he'd be with her soon. While he continued to enjoy his family and the storytelling that was so much a part of his character, it was clear to everyone that he just wasn't whole without his sweetheart.
Earl never met a stranger and none of us ever expect to meet anyone like him again. His family and friends mourn his loss deeply. However, his three daughters-in-law (Judy, Angela, and Sally); eight grandchildren (Emily, Tyler, Kate, Jenny, Rachel, Eric, Mark, and Dave); and five great-grandchildren (Hannah, Dylan, McLean, Canon, and Stella) join his three sons (Dave, Tim, and Sean) in celebrating the reunion of Earl with his beloved. As he inscribed on their gravestone, they are Together Forever at last.
A memorial service for Earl will be held at 2:00 p.m. June 30, 2013 at Litwiller-Simonsen Funeral Home and Crematory, 1811 Ashland St., Ashland, OR 97520. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts be made to Ashland High School, Mercy Flights or a charity of your choice.