Raymond Elmer Colbert, a life-long orchardist and community volunteer, passed away peacefully at his home on Boundary Lane in Oroville, Washington on January 1st.
Ray was born in Tonasket on December 19, 1932 to Esther Owens Colbert and John Henry Colbert. Ray graduated from Tonasket High School in 1950. He married Mary Ellen Anliker in November of 1952 and was blessed with four children, Ellen Rae Colbert, John Colbert, Cathy Colbert and Jim Colbert.
Ray purchased his first orchard in 1952, beginning his life-long career as an orchardist. He also worked for Verbeck Bros. and later opened the H.R. Spinner office in Tonasket, Wash.
Ray later owned and operated Oroville Fruits while continuing to develop and farm large blocks of apple and pear orchards in the Oroville and Tonasket area.
In 1983 Ray married Rhonda Buoy in Yakima, Wash. Robert Raymond was born June 1985 and Patrick Raymond was born October 1988. The family resides on Lake Osoyoos in Oroville.
Ray continued to expand his agricultural holdings to cherries in Okanogan County, wheat ranches in Odessa, Wash. and vineyards in Benton County. Ray later managed Chief Tonasket Growers and Regal Fruit Inc. In the fall of 2001, Ray traveled to Moldova, a former state of the U.S.S.R., as an Agricultural Specialist for the Citizen’s Network for Foreign Affairs.
In addition to the orchards, Ray raised cattle and horses and developed a nice riding arena north of Tonasket. Ray was instrumental in the growth of barrel racing events in Okanogan and Ferry Counties and assisted with many youth activities for the Tonasket Comancheros.
In the last five years, Colbert Orchards expanded into hauling fruit during harvest for growers and for fruit cooperatives. During the fall of 2012, Ray’s son Patrick managed eight trucks hauling fruit as well as hauling straw. This fall marked Ray’s 60th year as owner of Colbert Orchards.
Ray was a very active father, coaching the Chief Tonasket youth soccer team, traveling to wrestling matches, basketball games, trap shoots and numerous other academic and athletic events. Ray hauled the boys and their horses to rodeos and barrel races throughout the western United States. The family attended several Northwest Trapping Conventions in Washington, Idaho and Montana. Ray enjoyed fishing, trapping and hunting with the boys and with Patrick’s encouragement developed an extensive gun collection.
Ray was actively involved in community service organizations. He was a past member of the Tonasket Chamber of Commerce, Tonasket School Board and Ski Patrol at Sitzmark Ski Hill. He was a current member of the Washington Pilot’s Association, Tonasket Car Club, Comancheros and a 54-year Tonasket Kiwanis member.
During Ray’s 12 years of service as Okanogan County PUD Commissioner he served as County Chairperson, Washington State PUD President, State Legislative Chairperson and also served on the Board of Directors for Washington Public Power Supply System. Ray served on the Board of Directors for Okanogan County Farm Service Agency and was recently honored by Tree Top, Inc for 40 years of dedicated service as Tree Top Board of Directors.
Ray had a passion for flying. He was licensed in fixed wing planes, float planes, power gliders and helicopters. For years Ray gave helicopter rides to curious friends and neighbors and later offered free airplane rides to kids at the annual Father’s Day Fly-In. Ray, John, Bobby and Patrick enjoyed motor home trips to the annual Experimental Aircraft Association air show in Oshkosh, Wisc.
Ray loved motorcycles and enjoyed frequent Harley rides with sons, Robert and John. He greatly loved the annual Wilbur Ellis ride each summer – a great ride with great friends
Ray loved life and for each season had specials activities he enjoyed – skiing, snowmobiling, water skiing, motor boating, sailing and bicycling. Ray loved traveling to new places, experiencing new adventures and meeting new people.
He was honored as Tonasket’s Grand Marshall, received special recognitions from the Tonasket Kiwanis, Tonasket Comancheros and Bulls and Barrels.
Ray is survived by his wife, Rhonda Colbert, children, Patrick Colbert, Tonasket; Robert Colbert, Oroville; Jim (Cory) Colbert, Chelan; Cathy (Michael) McCarty, Bellevue; John (Julie) Colbert, Tonasket; Ellen (Tom) Swensen, Ketchum, ID; Esteban Ibarra, Tonasket; sisters Mary Beth (John) Appel, Oakview, CA; Lucile Hammond, Seattle and brother Don (Jean) Colbert, Tonasket. He was blessed with numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and five grandchildren.
Ray was preceded in death by his father John Henry Colbert and mother Esther Owens Colbert.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, Jan. 12 at 11 a.m. at the Ellisforde Church of the Brethren. Please share your memories by signing Ray’s online guest book at www.berghfuneralservice.com. In lieu of flowers, the family request donations to be made to “Ride for Ray” a youth/family activity planned for the summer of 2013. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 39, Oroville, WA. 98844.
Bergh Funeral Service of Oroville/Tonasket in care of arrangements.