TONASKET – Ray and Victoria Attwood of Ellisforde are this year’s Founders Day Grand Marshals. The nomination, announced at the Tonasket Chamber of Commerce Banquet, came as a surprise to both of them.
Victoria said they were invited to go to the banquet and weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary.
“But I knew something was going on when they started talking about all kinds of things we had done in our younger days,” said Ray.
“It took a little longer for it to sink in with me,” Victoria added.
“And when they asked us….well it wasn’t something we would have campaigned for, but we couldn’t say no,” said Ray, jokingly adding “I guess they are running out of people who have been around here forever.”
The two have lived in the Tonasket area almost their entire lives. They met in high school, and Victoria invited Ray out to see a movie in Oroville when her girlfriend Loretta Wilhite, who invited Dean Stansbury, had access to her father’s car.
They’ve been together ever since.
Victoria is the daughter of Victor and Golden Lasamiz, and Ray is the son of Mertin Attwood and Pearl Cooksey Dobbins.
Ray and Victoria married in 1947, living in Seattle’s Woodland Park area while Ray worked as a detective with the Burns Detective Agency. Returning to the Tonasket area in 1948, they worked on Victoria’s family’s ranch and began raising their children Craig, Janie, Andrea and Jim. Victoria’s father, Victor Lesamiz, Sr., was a Basque sheepherder.
“He came over from Spain, and didn’t speak English,” said Victoria. “He came up into this area from Oregon, driving a herd of sheep the whole way.”
Victoria said her 18-year-old mother was working as a bookkeeper in Riverside when she met the 26-year-old Victor, Sr.
“There they were, with my father speaking hardly any English. My mother said she took one look at his hands and knew he was the man for her.”
Ray and Victoria began raising cattle in 1965 on their own Rafter 12 Ranch, located six miles east of Tonasket on Highway 20 and on Highway 7 near the old Ellisforde Grange. After selling their ranch in 1979, the Attwoods went into the orchard business, raising apples until about 1992.
Ray was instrumental in the start-up of Mid Valley Bank, and served as a board member. He served in the Navy from 1943 to 1947.
Victoria attended Holy Names in Spokane her junior year before graduating from Tonasket High School and attending the University of Washington, where she took classes in costume design. She made her own wedding dress and created the first Tiger costume for the THS Tiger Mascot.
Favorite memories include performing a challenging dance at the Tonasket Theater, on top of a stage in roller skates. “You had to know how to put on the brakes!” Victoria laughed. “It was a long way to fall,” added Ray.
She also enjoyed cooking for the Basque sheepherders who worked for her folks.
Victoria always loved to dance, and she and Ray were members of the local Dinner Dance Club for many years, where they gained a reputation for “cutting a rug.”
Ray treasures memories of riding a dog sled to school with his little brother Richard when they lived for a short while in Chicken, Alaska. “We went up for the summer, but I stayed on a year and graduated the eighth grade,” said Ray. “It was a remote area, and you could only get to Chicken back then by plane or foot.”
Fond memories of growing up in Tonasket include caddying on the weekends at the Tonasket 4 Hole Golf Course, located where the Free Methodist Church now sits, going west and south towards Hwy 20. This is where he learned his love for the game.
“I golfed 40 or 50 years, and still play by myself when I can,” said Ray, recalling at times carrying three golf bags at once.
“But there were only four or five clubs in a bag in those days instead of 17, so I could pack three bags if I had too.”
As a youngster, Ray collected bottles and turned them in for cash. While in Alaska, he worked in the mining camp, helping to feed the gold miners. All through his youth, Ray worked with his mom and grandma delivering laundry. At the age of 16, he went to the Wilbur area and harvested wheat with his lifelong friend Kenny Clarkson.
“We took Kenny’s car, but he left me there on foot,” Ray recalled. “Around the second day of work, I went looking for Kenny and was told he had quit and gone home. I finished out the two or three weeks, and got a check for $400. The biggest check I ever got.” Ray’s eyes grew wide, his face glowing at the recollection.
“I went to go home, but found out the buses didn’t run on Sunday. So I went to the train station. I went Hobo style. I asked which train was going to Wenatchee, and I found a car that was carrying lumber. And there was a little spot I could fit into.”
Ray said it was nighttime when the train stopped in Wenatchee.
“It was fall and it was cold. But there were a lot of Hobos riding the trains; they were picking apples. So I asked one which train went up to the Okanogan and he pointed it out, saying he would be there in the morning to help me get on board. And he was. So I got on, and we started heading north.
“But we came to a tunnel, and I got scared, because I was riding on the top of the rail car, and I wasn’t sure how much clearance there was. I climbed down the ladder some, and rode on the side. But it was just a scare. I sure didn’t want to be taken off the top of that train!”
Ray later moved up to planes, and Victoria tells the story of him buying his first one.
“It was back east, and he flew it home as a brand new pilot!” Victoria recalls.
“The plane was in Pennsylvania, and I was a flyer of three hours,” said Ray. “I about got run over going through Chicago. I had a radio, but I didn’t have it turned on.”
Ray said the trip took three days because he had to “lay it down” two times for bad weather.
“That was a good trip. I learned a lot the hard way,” he said.
An avid trap shooter, Ray served as a past president of the Tonasket Gun Club. He was also a member of the Mason’s, American Legion, Eagles, Shriners and Oroville Gun Club.
Victoria was active in Eastern Star, along with her mother and sister. She was also an active member of the Okanogan Cattlewoman’s Association for many years, the Tonasket Garden Club, and the Oroville Golf Club, where she shot a hole-in-one while playing with Barb Forrester.
Ray said he had four hole-in-ones in his lifetime.
“That’s when you’re lucky. It doesn’t take skill, it’s just luck,” said Ray. “You might get one every ten years, and maybe never.”
An avid Bridge player, a great cook and wonderful seamstress, Victoria still has a green thumb.
Over the years, the two have greatly enjoyed attending the many sports activities at Tonasket High School.
Finally retired, Ray and Victoria love to garden and spend time with their family. They enjoy taking lunch at the Tonasket senior center, the same building Ray attended as a Boy Scout.
Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are a tremendous joy in their lives.
Their son Jim serves as the Okanogan City Clerk, and his wife Alice is Tonasket City Clerk.
“We have been phenomenally blessed in our life,” Victoria said, adding, “We feel so fortunate to have spent so many years together as a married couple.”
Founders Day is held the first weekend after Memorial Day, featuring a parade down Whitcomb Avenue, the Founders Day Rodeo, an old-fashioned BBQ with kids’ games, a 5K Tonasket Freedom Run, a 3.1 Community Fun Run and a crafts fair.
“The most exciting thing about Founders Day I am looking forward to is getting to ride in one of Ken McLean’s Model A Fords,” said Victor.