TONASKET – Ralph and Leona Longanecker say they are honored to be the 2010 Tonasket Founders Day Grand Marshals.
“It’s a humbling thing to think of all the people deserving of this honor and you want to represent all those unsung people well,” Ralph said. “It takes a lot of people to make a community function and one person can change the world, but it takes a lot of people to change a lot of things in this world.”
Leona said she wanted to thank everyone who chose her and her husband for this award.
“When we went to the banquet and they announced our names, they said I was a long-term teacher in the area and that we were community leaders,” she said. “We’ve been involved in the community, but I certainly don’t feel like a community leader. I really appreciate the people who do lead the area.”
Though Leona doesn’t consider herself a community leader, Ralph has definitely been a leader several times. Ralph, who was born in Oroville in 1936 and raised in Tonasket his whole life, has been involved in several different organizations over the years. He served two years in the U.S. Army, spending one and a half years overseas, and he was in the reserves after that. He said he served on the board of directors for Regal Fruit Cooperative in town in different offices, was elected to the Washington Growers Clearing House, was a director of Grower’s Credit, was a director at large for Okanogan County, served one term with the bank of co-ops advisory board, was an Washington State Apple Commissioner for the area for three terms and was the president of the Okanogan County Horticultural Association.
“I was always interested in more than sitting on a tractor,” Ralph said. “I’ve been a Kiwanis member for over 40 years. I’ve been on my church board, I help out on some of the agricultural things the high school does with Mr. Matt Deebach and I’ve supplied a lot of the dirt to the rodeo people when they wanted to enhance their stadium.”
Leona said she is not much of a joiner but she is a member of the garden club and she volunteers at the hospice in Omak.
“I have lots of real good friends, especially in the Loomis area,” she said. “I still have this feeling of belonging in this area, it’s home now. I’ve been here 40 or 50 years and it’s home.”
The Longanecker family first arrived in the area 100 years ago with Ralph’s grandfather. Leona was born and raised in Oklahoma and moved to Loomis with her ex-husband.
“We were both teachers and we came up here to visit some Oklahoma neighbors who had moved here and they were friends with Ralph,” Leona said. “I had Ralph’s daughter in my second grade class and that’s how we really got acquainted. We’ve been married for 37 years. I spent 30 years in the Tonasket School District as a primary teacher. I had a very enjoyable teaching career and I still go up and substitute at the high school. I love my profession and I miss the kids.”
Before retiring, Ralph was a long-time orchardist. He first diagramed his orchard for a project while he was in high school and then, while he did one year of school at Whitworth College, he earned enough money to buy some trees and plant them on land his father owned. While he did his two years with the military, his father and siblings kept up his orchard.
Both the Longaneckers said they are looking forward to this weekend’s activities.
“It’s one of those yearly events where you get to see a lot of people you don’t always see,” Ralph said.