Community loses 'Mr. Tonasket,' Roy Stotts

Roy Stotts

Roy Stotts

TONASKET – If there’s a heaven, paved streets of gold now have Roy Stotts behind the grader.

Stotts, an active community volunteer in city government and numerous Tonasket civic and public safety organizations, died of natural causes on Oct. 2. He was 85.

Chair of the city’s streets committee for most of his 47 years on the Tonasket City Council, Stotts said in a 2005 interview, he counted the 1978 repaving of all seven miles of Tonasket city streets as one of his greatest accomplishments.

“I know streets,” he said. “I understand them.”

“We have some of the best streets of any town in the county right here in Tonasket.” Stotts went to work for the Washington State Highway Department in 1949 (he would be promoted to lead man (foreman) in 1959) on projects including a repaving of SR 97 from Riverside to the U.S. – Canadian International Border.

Retiring in 1972 from WSDOT, he worked as a self-described “blade man” or grader operator for more than 20 years with Lloyd Atcheson Logging. Paving roads in Moses Lake was a favorite project from that time, he said.

“He was a helluva guy,” Keith Barnett of Highlandia Jewelers said. “I believe he was Mr. Tonasket. He was still plowing snow when we moved here.” Mayor Pat Walter, a more than 15-year Antwine Ave. neighbor and friend of the Stotts family, ordered flags lowered to half mast at Tonasket City Hall Oct. 3 through Monday’s funeral service in honor of the former councilman’s more than 40 years of service to the city.

“Roy was an old-timer and it is a great loss to everyone, especially his wife, Ellen,” Walter said. They “watched the north end of Antwine and Cindy and I watched the south, keeping three families of boys in line.

“He always had the best garden in town.

“When his house caught on fire (in 1997) the whole neighborhood pitched in to rescue his belongings.

“He will be missed by a lot of people.”

Roy Gilbert Stotts was born April 14, 1922, in Curlew, to Zilpah and Ben Stotts. He grew up on a farm one of five siblings including: two brothers, Pete and Raymond and two sisters, Rose and Pansy. He later graduated from Curlew High School.

He arrived in Tonasket during the summer of 1943 to work construction. Medically disqualified from military service during World War II, “a 4-F-er,” he said, Stotts had undergone his second surgery for a ruptured appendix earlier in the year. He had first suffered a ruptured appendix and undergone an operation at the age of six.

“I’ve had everything,” Stotts said at age 83 of his successful battles with illness.

He roomed with fellow bachelor, Duke Reinhardt, before meeting and marrying Ellen Burbery at what she recalls was a “wild and wooly dance” in 1944. The two married in Coeur d’Alene, Feb. 10, 1945.

In 1947 the Stotts built the same Antwine Ave. home they lived in for more than 60 years.

The couple raised three children: a son, Bill, and two daughters, Barbara and Beverly.

Eighteen-year-old Bill Stotts died in an auto accident on his way to college in 1963.

Most recently Barbara Mann moved to Moscow, Russia, during the late summer of 2007 to take a nursing position. Beverly Montanye is active in the Tonasket Comancheros among other organizations and is married (the couple have adult children) to Ken Montanye. Mann returned from Russia for her father’s funeral services.

A volunteer with the county-based Tonasket Fire Department as well as an EMT volunteer, Stotts also helped found the Tonasket ambulance service, driving the emergency vehicle for many years.

“He was more than just a councilman,” Dale Clarkson said, who served with Stotts on the fire department, ambulance service and city council.

Stotts became a charter member of the Tonasket Eagles in 1947, later serving as house manager for several years and chapter president from 1976 to 1977. He was instrumental in helping the chapter obtain their current building, house manager Jack Rawley said.

“He held every office down there,” Rawley said. “He was a trustee when he passed away.

“If it wasn’t for Roy we would not be where we are today.”

In later years Stotts was known for making almost daily visits to North Valley Nursing Home (now North Valley Extended Care) with special visits paid to his boyhood elementary school teacher, Mrs. Hougland, who taught him at Curlew Elementary School.

And although he also hunted, fished and gardened, his true passion never wavered: he continued to be a man of the streets and was known as the best ‘blade man’ in the county. Two years ago, at the age of 83, Stotts showed no signs of slowing down. At the time he said he was contemplating taking a job driving the grader for a Turtle Lake project.

“I’ll be out there next year,” Stotts said of his love of street maintenance. “I don’t give a heck.”

Upon his December 2005 retirement from the Tonasket City Council, city officials surprised Stotts by officially changing the name of School Ave. to Roy Stotts Ave. He also received a congratulatory letter from President Bush.

“He was truly a community-spirited person and we’re gonna miss him,” City Clerk/Treasurer Alice Attwood said.