Charleen Fay Swanson Hills passed away on July 11, 2019 at her home in Oroville, Washington. She was born December 7, 1934 in Oroville to John and Areta (Walker) Swanson.
Her early years where at Swanson’s Mill on Mt. Hull. The mill was a family business with Nels and Patrinella Swanson and sons. Charleen grew up with family and the mill crew were like family. They worked hard in hard times.
Charleen attended first grade at Columbia Grade School in Wenatchee since the bus didn’t run to the mill. She lived with her Auntie Evelyn (Swanson) and Uncle Bud Yerxa. On Dec. 7, 1941, Charleen’s seventh birthday, her Uncle Bud came running into the house saying, “Turn on the radio! The Japanese have just bombed Pearl Harbor!” During the war there was rationing of sugar, food, shoes, gas and tires. The family and mill crew pooled their ration cards for supplies. As the men were called to war, the women took over various jobs of the mill and box factory. Charleen and her sister Carol, included.
The family moved to Oroville and bought a house on Cherry Street where Charleen, Carol and baby sister Judy were raised.
While working at Curtis’ Valley Dairy, a friend set Charleen up with Don Thorndike. They went to the Junior Prom and from there they married on Aug. 25, 1951 at the First Methodist Church in Oroville. Charleen was active all her school years and was Senior Class President, graduating from Oroville High in 1952.
In 1954, Don and Charleen started their family of five children, Jim, Scott, Yvonne, Sherryl and Darryl. Charleen was devoted to her family. Her home was open to everyone, taking in others at various times. She was a teacher’s aid and helped start the migrant program in the 1960s. She was involved in many youth programs and was Straw Boss over the school kids during apple harvest. In 1970, Charleen was among the 5,000 women of the 50 states to be awarded “The Outstanding Young Women of America Awards Program.”
On November 27, 1982 Charleen and Vern Hills were married in Colville, Washington. Six more children were blessed to her: Jeanette, Betsy, Tammie, John, Yvonne and James. Charleen and Vern shared 29 happy years together.
Charleen is survived by her sister, Judy Farmer; children, Scott Thorndike (Marcy), Yvonne McDougall, Sherryl (Wayne) Pretts, Darryl Thorndike (Tammy), Linda Thorndike, Susan Thorndike, Jeanette Hills, Betsy (Steve) Olson, Tammie (Allen) Payne, John (Sandy) Hills, Yvonne (John) Hoff and James (Rena) Hills; 35 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandson, numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
She was preceded in death by husband, Vern; parents, John and Areta Swanson; son, Jim Thorndike; infant daughter, Barbara; son-in-law, Ron McDougall; grandsons, Travis Thorndike, Cody Payne; infant great-grandson, Chance; sister, Carol Larson and Don Thorndike.
A memorial service will be Saturday, July 27, 2019 at 11 a.m. in the Oroville United Methodist Church. A Celebration of Charleen’s life will be at Scott’s Beach. Saturday, September 7, 2019 at 11 a.m.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed” Proverbs 31:28