Esther Caton has been selected as the 2016 Founders Day Grand Marshal. A Tonasket native, Caton still lives on the family homestead up Pine Creek where she was raised.
“I am the third generation of my family to live on the homestead. This ranch has been in my family for over 110 years. There’s not too many like that anymore,” said Caton, adding jokingly, “We probably were never smart enough to leave.”
Born to Vern and Bertha Cook, Caton grew up on the farm and was a 12-year Tonasket student. After graduating from high school, she moved to Wenatchee that summer to attend beauty school for a year.
While there, she met her future husband Lloyd Caton; whose family had just moved to Wentatchee from Colorado.
The two were married in 1955 at the Tonasket Community Church and lived in Wenatchee until 1963. While there, the couple were blessed with four children; Lloyd, Jr. in 1957, Katherine in 1958, Rhea in 1959 and Vanessa in 1961.
The young family moved to the farm Caton’s grandfather had homesteaded in 1903 after moving to Washington State from Missouri in 1902, when Caton’s father was just four months old.
“We had some cows, sheep and pigs; back then everyone had a few of each. That’s just the way it was,” Caton said, recalling the need to haul water for everything from the garden to Saturday’s baths.
“During the war my folks had over 100 laying hens and they did good selling eggs,” said Caton. “Now it’s just a few cows and Dog, and that is plenty. I still work out there some; I don’t kill myself, but there is always something to do on the ranch. I spray weeds and patch fences.”
Along with mending fences, Caton, age 79, still keeps a garden.
“I gotta get out and do something; I watch a little TV in the evening but not much. I’m going to cut my garden way down. There’s no sense in an old lady having vegetables for the whole neighborhood, but I have to have a few,” said Caton, adding that she had been on the hunt for some more bedding plants.
Caton also takes time to volunteer at the Senior Center in Tonasket.
“I help out here a little bit, but I don’t do much. When I was working in the beauty shop I knew everyone and what their kids were doing; but not anymore since I don’t work in the public,” said Caton, who operated the Hair Handlers with a partner for almost 40 years. The beauty shop was in the old Whitestone Hotel on North Whitcomb, where Wild Rose is now located.
“My partner Patty and I were involved in hair and makeup for the Junior Miss Pageants and helped judge those; we had a lot of involvement with the kids,” said Caton.
“My husband was a bricklayer, with several buildings to his credit around here; including the post office and what used to be the bowling alley but is now Christina’s Second Hand Store. He also veneered the front of the dentist office. He had quite a few buildings to his credit.”
Along with working in town, Caton’s life included sewing her children’s clothes and canning their food.
“I used to sit up at night and sew. I made pajamas for them for Christmas every year,” recalled Caton. “I don’t know how in heck I did it without them seeing, but they knew they could open that gift every Christmas Eve.”
More sewing projects came her way via the rodeo, with her oldest daughter Kathy named Rodeo Queen in 1975; Rhea in 1977 and Vanessa in 1979.
“They usually bought their rodeo queen outfit, but if they needed something to go with it, I or someone else would make it,” said Caton, adding, “I was so involved in that Rodeo Club, if I had a brain…”
Caton said her son Lloyd, now the Comanchero Rodeo Club President, rode in the rodeo in the late 1970’s “but didn’t keep it up very long. You can break your body to pieces.”
Caton said other than helping out at the Senior Center, she was “not getting in deep with anything anymore. I’ll be 80 this fall.”
Caton was widowed 20 years ago this summer.
“He worked really hard. I really miss him; now that we’re older and can slow down, I wish he was here to spend time with,” said Caton.
She’s still surrounded with family though; with her son Lloyd on the Tonasket School Board and driving truckloads of calcium carbonate from the Wauconda Quarry to the Janis Rail Site; her daughter Rhea working at Castelda Law Office and her daughter Vanessa working as owner/operator of Rooster’s Coffee Shop. Her daughter Katherine is deceased.
Caton has also been blessed with grandchildren; the first one born in 2003.
“All my siblings, all my children and all my grandchildren graduated from Tonasket High School,” said Caton. “It’s amazing they all live here, except for a Foster child in California and a step-grandchild back east and one in Spokane.”
Caton said she was very surprised to learn she had been chosen Founders Day Grand Marshal. The Tonasket Chamber of Commerce Board makes the selection each year based on nominations or suggestions from the community.