Will Rogers said it well, “Lord let me live until I die.” Ernest James Bolz, II (Ernie), Wenatchee, Washington, age 77 died as the result of a fall while hiking the Rogue River Trail in Southern Oregon on May 4, 2021.
He was with his lifetime best friend Dean Hiser at the time of the accident. Ernie was born to Ernest and Lorraine Bolz in Medford, Oregon May 15, 1943. He was the middle child of three. The family resided in Phoenix, Oregon where Ernie attended Phoenix Elementary School grades 1-8 and graduated from Phoenix Senior High School in 1961.
At the time of his high school graduation, he was a state officer with the Future Farmers of America. He spent his first year out of high school with the FFA as state treasurer.
The following year, 1962, he enrolled at La Verne College in Southern California. During his college years he met the love of his life, Sharon Self. They were married at Palm Springs, California on December 19,1964. Ernie and Sharon have two children Chris Bolz (Rebeccakate) of Missoula, Montana and Dr. Justina Bolz of Wenatchee.
After graduating from La Verne College Ernie attended Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California and then transferred to Bethany Theological Seminary in Oakbrook, Illinois, graduating with a Master of Divinity. Upon graduation in 1969 he was ordained as a minister in the Church of the Brethren.
Ernie and Sharon then moved to East Los Angeles, California where Ernie was the pastor of the Bella Vista Church of the Brethren. Following his tenure at Bella Vista they moved their young family to Live Oak, California.
When Escil Hiser retired as the minister of the Ellisforde and White Stone Churches in Tonasket, Washington Ernie followed in the footsteps of his childhood and adolescent pastor while Sharon continued her career as an elementary school teacher. Tonasket remained the family community until three years ago when they moved to Wenatchee.
Ernie’s ministry not only consisted of meeting the needs of the people in his parish, but also in serving the needs of people who lived near his church When he pastored the Live Oak, California congregation the parishioners built a new church that had moveable walls so it could server as community center and child care center during the week and as a house of worship on the weekends.
Ernie was a person who had a never-ending curiosity and a desire to learn and to serve. He raised goats for Heifer Project International. He served on the General Board for the Church of the Brethren for many years, stepping down from that position in 1999.
With the help of friends, he constructed the family home on the banks of the Okanogan River where he raised Bosc pears. He also served on the Board of Directors of Regal Fruit Company.
He wrote poetry, thought provoking articles for the church newsletters, and wrote challenging sermons for his congregations. In 1993 he traveled as a leader on a Brethren peace initiative to South Sudan making friends with his fellow travelers.
In 2005 Ernie was elected as a Commissioner with the Okanogan County PUD. He took office in 2006 and was re-elected to a second six-year term serving through 2016. He was recognized for his leadership and contributions to the PUD’s development of telecom, broadband services and for his support of the Northwest Open Access Network. His leadership resulted in extended high speed broadband services to businesses and residents in Okanogan County. He was also an active member of the state of Washington PUD Association.
Ernie was an avid hiker and outdoorsman. He hiked the Pasayten Wilderness in Washington, first with church youth and later with the “Geezer Hikers.” In addition to the Cascades, his hiking took him into the Sierras of California and the Bitterroots of Montana. He enjoyed inventing then making camping equipment as well as repairing his and others’ equipment. An item of pride was teaching his children to fish!
Upon their retirements he and Sharon felt privileged to travel to Germany, France, Italy, Spain and China. They also enjoyed time on the Oregon and Washington coast.
Ernie was preceded in death by his parents, Ernest J. and Lorraine R. Bolz. Ernie is survived by his wife, Sharon; his son, Chris (Becca) and daughter, Justina, as well as his grandchildren, Jazmine Grangroth, Jalen Bolz, MyaBelle Burbank, Josephine Hyde, Maxwell Francis and great grandson, Enzo Briggs, as well as his sister, Ida Marie Callison (Gary) and brother, Dennis Bolz (Joycelyn) of Wenatchee.
A celebration of life will be held Saturday June 19 @ 11:00 am at the Ellisforde Church of the Brethren, Tonasket, Washington.
Donations as memorial funds may be given to the Tonasket Food Bank.
A special ‘thank you’ to all his many friends for cards, messages and prayers that have meant so much to our family.