Raymond Jesse French was born May 18, 1927, to Rose Hirl and Herbert French at St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, Oregon. He died on September 5, 2021, at willow Creek Terrace Assisted Living in Heppner.
Raymond spent his early childhood at the family ranch on Big Butter Creek attending Lena School. His father passed away when he was 9 years old. He attended St. Joseph’s Academy in Pendleton for one year following his father’s death. The family moved to Heppner where he spent the rest of his school years. During high school he met a cute Condon cheerleader, Norma Denton. Immediately following graduation, he enlisted into the US Navy. Following basic training, he volunteered for the naval aviation program and was in Seattle Washington completing his last six weeks of bomber pilot training to ship out to the South Pacific when the WWII ended. He was honorably discharged and returned home to marry Norma on October 26, 1946. They moved back to his childhood home and built a herd of horned Herefords. They would have been married 75 years this October.
Raymond was committed to his faith, community, his industry, state and country. Some of his contributions include President of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, chairmanship of the Morrow County Livestock Growers, Heppner Soil and Water Conservation District, Morrow County School Board and member of the Columbia Blue Mountain Resource and Conservation Development Association board and USDA Forest Service Advisory Board. He served as director and then District Vice President of the National Cattlemen’s Association, and director of the Pendleton Production Credit Bank. He was a volunteer and served on the Heppner Rodeo Board. He served as an Oregon State Representative for District 59. He was elected as a Morrow County Commissioner. He dedicated service to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church from the time he was an altar boy to teaching adult bible study classes and was eventually nominated for the Wall on Honor at the church, following in his mother’s footsteps. He was a member and trustee of the Heppner Elks Lodge, member of Heppner Chamber of Commerce, American Legion, and Willow Creek Country Club.
Acknowledgement of his dedication include Morrow County Cattleman of the Year, Heppner Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Awards, Grand Marshall of the Oregon Trail Pro Rodeo, honorary member of the National Block and Bridle Club, and Distinguished Service Award as a Charter Member of the Oregon State University Withycombe Club.
With Norma’s encouragement, he enjoyed learning to dance and play golf. Television service was a long time coming to the ranch. His favorite programs were football and baseball games, Star Trek and Jeopardy. The family also knew not to interrupt Paul Harvey on the radio. He and Norma were avid fans of Heppner High School events still frequenting many sports games after retirement. He enjoyed meeting his friends downtown to visit and have morning coffee every day. While living on the ranch, a Sunday tradition included mass in Heppner, a stop downtown to buy candy bars for Norma and his daughters and a Sunday newspaper for himself—all for 25 cents!
He is survived by his wife and three daughters: Karen Wood (Joe) of Tigard, Oregon, Verina Schiller (Tony) of Round Rock, Texas and Susan French (Mathew Greenup) of Heppner, sisters: Dorothy O’Rourke, Pendleton, Oregon and Francine Evans, Irrigon, Oregon, 9 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. His parents and a brother, Joe French, preceded him in death.
With consideration for the health of Raymond’s family and community, funeral services will be held at a later date. Condolence messages may be sent to the Raymond French Family, c/o Susan French, 84176 French Lane, Heppner, OR 97836
Memorial contributions may be made to St. Patrick’s Church, PO box 633, Heppner, OR 97836 or to Willow Creek Terrace Assisted Living, 400 Frank Gilliam Drive, Heppner, OR 97836 or to Heppner Elks Lodge, PO box 494, Heppner, OR 97836.