Richard Henry Hamilton, formerly of La Grande and Wallowa, died December 8, 2018, at a private care facility in Caldwell, ID, just two weeks after his 89th birthday. Born in La Grande on November 23, 1929, he was the second of two children born to Charles Hamilton, and Edna J. (Loock) Hamilton. He attended school in La Grande, where he was a four-year letterman, and president of the Lettermen’s Club, graduating from La Grande High in 1947.
Richard enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserve in April, 1948, and served as a Marine Corps sergeant in Korea from 1950 to 1952. During that time, he endured starvation and torture as a POW in North Korea, a subject about which he never spoke. Rice was never served in his home.
Upon his discharge from active duty in 1952, Richard returned home to marry Shirley (Frizzell) Cleaver, and adopt her two children, Rick and Lee. At the same time, he began an impressive career with the Oregon Department of Forestry. Starting as a basic firefighter-trainee, he advanced steadily to become the resident ranger stationed in Wallowa. After several years of overseeing the district, despite having no post-high-school degree, he was transferred to the Medford district, where he specialized in arson investigation, and prevention. Eventually, he earned promotion to the position of Prevention Director at the state offices in Salem. After his ‘official’ retirement, he served for many years as a contract consultant in Prevention and Arson Investigation for several agencies in the western states. He was always extremely modest about his many accomplishments. Few people ever realized that it was his voice narrating the Tillamook Burn video in the State Forestry building at OMSI.
Richard was a quiet man of unflinching integrity, who cared deeply about two things: family, and the land and its proper stewardship. A young nephew once asked him, “Uncle Richard, whose trees are those?” He said, “Those are your trees, John. They belong to you, your Dad and Mom, and your brother and sister; and it’s up to you to take care of them.” He held himself to standards learned from his stepfather, Ernie Milbert, and he expected, and received, the best from others. No one ever wanted to disappoint him. While he was firm in his expectations, he was also a man of deep compassion, with a gentle sense of humor, who knew how to forgive. Throughout his later years, he took responsibility for the health and welfare of his sister, his wife, and his daughter, among others. He joked that he couldn’t decide whether he had three wives, or three daughters.
A quiet hero who spent his life in service to his country, other people, and the land, Richard will be deeply missed by those privileged to know him well. He was preceded in death by his stepfather, Ernie Milbert, mother, Edna Milbert, wife, Shirley, stepbrother, Roy Milbert, sister, Bette Hardin, and daughter, Leitha. Richard is survived by his son, Rick Hamilton, of Riggins, ID, granddaughter, Stacy Hardy, of Caldwell, ID, grandson, Cory Hamilton, of Eugene, OR, two nephews, a niece, and several great-grandchildren. At his request, there will be no services. His ashes were spread at the same site as those of his late wife, Shirley. His family suggests that those who wish to honor his memory plant a tree in his name.