George I. Fenton Jr., 88, of Umatilla passed away on November 21, 2019 in Kennewick, Washington. George was a longtime Umatilla resident, where he served in the public schools and on the city council.
George was born near Harper, Oregon, February 25, 1931, to Hazel Star Northrup Fenton and George I. Fenton. He was the youngest of six children. George routinely told dramatic stories of early ranch life. He vividly remembered the fresh water spring on the ranch and meals with the ranch hands. However, as the Great Depression worsened the family moved to Ontario, Oregon.
George attended school in Ontario, where he played football and baseball. He also worked for the Moore Motel, the City of Ontario, and the local movie theater. He graduated in 1949 and briefly attended the University of Oregon and Eastern Oregon College in La Grande before being drafted during the Korean War.
He served in the U.S. Army from 1951-1953, completing his basic training in Camp Pendleton California. He served in the Sixth Infantry Division where he was a clerk-typist at Ordnance Battalion Headquarters in Nancy, France. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant.
Following his military service, he used GI benefits to complete his bachelor’s degree at Eastern Oregon College of Education. At EOC, he met his beloved wife, Joyce Joann Kroenlein. George graduated in 1957 and began work in Halfway, Oregon.
He and Joyce continued to see each other and married June 14, 1958, in Weiser, Idaho. Both taught in Pine Valley schools. George often reminisced about those early years when Pine Valley School quadrupled in size due to the construction of dams on the Snake River.
George enjoyed his time in the classroom, teaching business and social science as well as coaching. He earned a master’s degree in business and social science from EOC in 1960 and became the principal of Pine Valley High School in 1961. He continued to pursue additional education, including post-graduate work at the University of Nevada, Reno-Las Vegas in educational administration, finishing in 1964.
He and Joyce enjoyed an active outdoor life, fishing and hunting in the Wallowa Mountains near Halfway. George loved being outdoors and working on antique cars. In Halfway, they raised a huge garden and cultivated roses. He continued his love of gardening and antique cars throughout his life.
In 1966, they began a family with the birth of their eldest daughter, Jonnie Joann Fenton. Kristle Starr Fenton followed the following year. He was also an amateur photographer and took hundreds of pictures of his family and Pine Valley throughout the years.
In 1978, he became Umatilla Junior-Senior High principal. In the Umatilla Public schools, he moved through many administrative positions, retiring as Umatilla School District superintendent in 1996. He served on various committees for the Oregon School Activities Association and was active in the Oregon Small Schools program.
He was involved in various community groups include the Lions, Elks, Kiwanis, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Phi Delta Kappa.
Following his retirement, George was elected to the Umatilla City Council and began serving in January of 1997. One of his proudest accomplishments was the Veteran’s Memorial at the Pioneer Memorial Cemetery in Umatilla. He served on the council until 2015, including short periods as mayor pro tem. He was active in the Hermiston Methodist Church, bringing his budgeting experience to the financial committee.
During retirement, he spent hours with his family and grandchildren. He was a constant fixture at sporting events with his camera. He deeply loved and cared for his family. He lost his beloved wife, Joyce, in 2006. He was also preceded in death by his parents, two brothers and three sisters.
He is survived by two daughters, Jonnie Fenton of Richland, Washington, and Kristle, husband Marvin Wyant of Umatilla; two grandsons, Jacob Vandever of Tigard, Oregon; and Justin Vandever of Umatilla, Oregon; many nieces, nephews, cousins and extended family members.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday November 30, 2019, at the Hermiston First United Methodist Church (191 E. Gladys Avenue Hermiston, Oregon). Burial will be at 11 a.m. Monday December 2, 2019, at Evergreen Cemetery in Ontario, Oregon. Burns Mortuary of Hermiston is in care of final arrangements.
Family suggests memorial donations to the George Fenton Scholarship Fund at Banner Bank. To leave an online condolence for the family, please go to www.burnsmortuaryhermiston.com.