George I. Fenton Jr., longtime Umatilla resident, passed away on Nov. 21, 2019 in Kennewick, Wash. at the age of 88.
George was born near Harper on Feb. 25, 1931 to Hazel Star Northrup Fenton and George I. Fenton.
As the Great Depression worsened, the family moved to Ontario. 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 to 1953, completing his basic training in Camp Pendleton, Calif. 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. He and Joyce continued to see each other and married on June 14, 1958 in Weiser, Idaho. Both taught in Pine Valley schools.
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 elder daughter, Jonnie Joann Fenton. Kristle Starr Fenton followed the following year. George was 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, including 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 1997. One of his proudest accomplishments was the veterans 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 is survived by two daughters, Jonnie Fenton of Richland, Wash., and Kristle and husband Marvin Wyant of Umatilla; two grandsons, Jacob Vandever of Tigard and Justin Vandever of Umatilla; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and extended family members.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Joyce in 2006; his parents; two brothers; and three sisters.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 at the Hermiston First United Methodist Church, 191 E. Gladys Ave.
Burial will be at 11 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019 at Evergreen Cemetery in Ontario.
Family suggests memorial donations to the George Fenton Scholarship Fund at Banner Bank.
To leave an online condolence for the family, please go to burnsmortuaryhermiston.com.
Burns Mortuary of Hermiston is in care of final arrangements.