Isleys pull up stakes, move to John Day

Arleigh and Glenna Isley of rural Joseph are giving up this front yard view to be closer to grandchildren in John Day. (Photo by Rocky Wilson)

Two people with long roots planted in Wallowa County are moving to John Day to be near their grandchildren.

Though they have lived in Grant County before, Arleigh Isley and wife Glenna Tippett Isley, are both descendants of grandparents who homesteaded in Wallowa County. Now they are selling off their home, outbuildings and 50 acres of their 220 acre farm to "build some memories with our grandkids," as Glenna puts it,

Arleigh, 69, spent 26 years working as an OSU Extension agent in four different Oregon counties, including Grant County from 1979-1984 and Wallowa County from 1985-1993. He also worked in Lake County from 1969-1976 and Jackson County from 1977-1979.

He worked for four years in the mid-1990s as Wallowa County Judge as the head of the county court, now the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners.

The Isleys have been active in their communities wherever they have lived, being energetically involved in Rotary, Grange, Stockgrowers, 4-H, the Northeast Oregon Health Education board and the Grande Ronde Model Watershed. They have always raised livestock.

The grandparents of granddaughters Arleigh and Elanor DesJardin, ages three and six, they have located a John Day home on the same block as daughter Irene and son-in-law Patrick DesJardin. Irene teaches English at Grant Union High School in John Day and Patrick teaches math, physics and chemistry at Prairie City High School.

The DesJardins will not have to look far for babysitters.

Arleigh graduated from Joseph High School in 1951, while Glenna is a product of the Enterprise school system. They met in 1952 and Glenna became a teenage bride the following year.

Arleigh was a licensed guide and packer in the Wallowa Mountains from 1949-1956, then worked for the Forest Service. With three children he determined the need to get a collegiate degree and went to college, graduating in 1969 from Oregon State University with a degree in ranch management. After seven years as an Extension agent in Lakeview he returned to OSU and got his masters degree.

Glenna jokingly claims that she got a PHT degree at OSU: PHT standing for "Putting Hubby Through."

She worked as a medical transcriber in Lakeview and Medford, then began 13 years of work with the Oregon State Employment Division. She worked up to the position of office manager during a stint which brought her from John Day to La Grande to Enterprise.

Arleigh has always had a gentle way with horses, and relays the time while living in Grant County when peers, as a joke, brought him an unbroken colt for his children to ride. He claims that within 15 minutes he had the horse down on its knees.

In addition to daughter Irene, the Isleys have a second daughter, Jennifer Isley, who is the Union County executive director for the U.S. Farm Service Agency. A son, Timothy, was a college graduate in architecture from the University of Oregon and passed away 11 years ago from a brain tumor.

Through the years Arleigh has appeared before the International Stockgrowers Association in San Antonio, Texa,s to give a horse packing presentation. He has lectured the National Association of County Commissioners on the management of natural resources. He remains a charter member of the Wallowa County group which created the pro active Wallowa County/Nez Perce Tribe Salmon Habitat Recovery Plan which has received national notice.

In recent years he has traveled many miles lobbying against the reinstatement of wolves in Oregon. He begins, "Deer and elk herds cannot cope with a new predator. We are losing our big game herds right now to predators," before Glenna coaches him off of his soapbox.

The Isleys have already made many trips from Joseph to John Day and back, and the furnishings in their Wallowa County home are getting sparse. A load of plants was shipped this week.

Arleigh admits that age is a factor in the move from the county they have called home since 1985. "We just can't run this ranch anymore to the level of satisfaction that pleases us."

So Wallowa County's loss is Grant County's gain. The move will be complete, says Arleigh Isley, "when the last pickup load goes."

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