WALLOWA — Joe Town has spent most of his 90 years in Wallowa, and most of those years serving the city in one fashion or another.
He recently retired as a longtime city councilor and, most recently, as City Council president.
He said Wednesday, Jan. 5, that a stroke he had in April is causing him troubles.
“I’m not doing too bad for an old man,” he said. “It’s limiting my total abilities.”
Born in North Dakota, Town served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He was an electronics technician aboard a destroyer, but didn’t get close to Korea.
“I spent most of my time in the Mediterranean monitoring Russian radar,” he said.
He and his wife, Maxine, both were teachers. They moved here from Alaska in 1975. She taught first and second grades for 20 years at Wallowa Elementary School, while he taught all math, physics and chemistry at Imbler High School, some 34 miles away.
Those may have been tough subjects for many, but Town was pleased with his students.
“You’ve got good kids to work with,” he recalls.
The Towns had two children. A daughter now lives in Hawaii with their two granddaughters. A son died of cerebral palsy in his 40s, Town said.
The couple retired in the mid-1990s and decided to stay in their home.
“I built an A-frame house here,” he said. “We decided to not move after we retired and just stay here.”
Town began his service to the city with his first term on the council in 1977.
“I got involved and chaired a lot of Senior Center projects for many years,” he said.
His first stint in office lasted until 1985. He returned seven years ago.
Between that time, he continued working on the city’s budget committee.
“The most important thing was starting the Wallowa Senior Center Endowment Fund with the Oregon Community Foundation,” Town said. “It has grown to over $140,000 and returns about $6,000 a year for operation of the center.”
Helping start the entree program to support nutritious meals countywide was another long-range endeavor, he said.
Although he’s never served as mayor, being council president is the same thing when the mayor is unavailable.
City Recorder Carolyn Harshfield said Town will be hard to replace.
“The city is truly going to miss him,” she said in an email. “He used to be a math teacher and was amazing helping with the city budget.”
Mayor Gary Hulse agreed.
“He has been a super big help with the city of Wallowa,” Hulse said. “He’s volunteered with many things.”
At the council’s last meeting Dec. 21 — which also happened to be Town’s 90th birthday — the councilors presented him with a cake and a plaque honoring his service to Wallowa.
“That was my birthday. They said you have to come to the council meeting,” Town said. “We just talked a bit about some of the things that have happened since I’ve been here.”
During that time, they recalled that the City Hall was moved to its current location from its former site across from the Post Office, the Wallowa Senior Center was built in 1995, the new fire hall was put in after 9/11 and Kevin’s Tire Shop that was faced with being forced to close down at its old location moved to a building that he now leases from the city on the truck route.
“We saved those jobs,” Town said of the tire shop move.
Hulse and others will truly miss working with Town.
“He’s been super good to work with,” the mayor said. “He’s a great guy and will be greatly missed on helping out with the City Council.”
But for Town, it’s been enough.
“It’s 45 years,” he said.