Thelma (Stoner) Evans - Ratley
Thelma (Stoner) Evans - Ratley, the daughter of John Wesley and Iva Ethel Alwilda (Baldwin) Stoner was born on June 22, 1920 at the home of her maternal grandparents near Stayton, Oregon. She passed away on September 4, 2012 at her home of age related issues.
A child of the Great Depression, Thelma had a very generous heart and a stubborn, ornery streak that didn’t allow life’s adversities to take advantage of her. From the age of five to the age of eight, Thelma, her mom and dad, and sisters Corinne and Donna moved from one logging camp or sawmill camp to another in the Northern Oregon coast range. During the winter when she was five they were living in the sawmill town of Shannon, Oregon and staying with her grandfather Baldwin in Birkinfield, Oregon. Grandfather Baldwin ran the newspaper and a shoe repair shop there. Her Dad found work at Hammond’s Lumber Co. Thelma started first grade here and, even though they moved to three different camps during that year, she was able to finish the first grade at one school.
In 1928, the damp weather and constant fog caused her Dad’s asthma to get worse and it was decided that he needed to live in a high dry climate. As soon as school was out the family packed up and moved to Bend, Oregon, setting up their two tents (one was a kitchen and the other was the bedroom) in her uncle’s yard. Thelma’s dad worked in the hay fields with his brother while Thelma and her sisters picked berries and helped pull weeds from the irrigation ditch, often spending more time in the water than they did pulling weeds. When the haying was over they headed south for the winter, settling for a short time in Fallon, Nevada where the climate helped ease her dad’s asthma. However, the high desert area was bad for her mother’ heart condition so the family travelied through Tonopah, Nevada, then on to Needles, California where the boarded a ferry to cross the Colorado River into Arizona. It was in Parker, Arizona where Thelma saw her first cotton fields. The stocks were higher than her head and were falling over from the weight of the cotton boles. It was here that the family spent their first winter away from Oregon picking cotton.
After the cotton harvest, they pulled up stakes and headed for Anadarko, Oklahoma where one of her Dad’s sisters and her family had a large farm and Thelma began second grade at Prairie Dale School. Thelma’s dad worked on the family farm breaking horses, branding cattle, shoeing horses, and working in the fields. In the summer one of their seasonal windstorms the area, blowing down a large tree in the front yard, bending the windmill tower, and blowing the sliding door off the barn. It was found a couple of days later in a pasture a half-mile away. Thelma’s mom declared that Oregon was heaven compared to Oklahoma so they packed up and left going as far as Roswell, New Mexico and were again hired to pick cotton. Thelma and her sister Corinne were told by the foreman of the camp, that he expected them to pick half as much cotton as their Dad, but try as they might, the most they could pick was 150 pounds a piece while their Dad often picked up to 400 pounds. She was paid the princely sum of 15 cents a day.
After the harvest, the family loaded up again and traveled to Arizona where her dad went to work down in the mines. They lived in six or seven different Arizona mining towns wherever he could get a few months’ work. In one camp, they were given a two room shack to live in. It had a cookstove and a fire place, but no door. Thelma and her sisters attended school, walking three miles on a trail along a creek to reach the Groom Creek Scholl which was set up in an abandoned Ranger Station. When the mine was closed and the family was out of money, they and her uncle and his family returned to the cotton fields. After the winter harvest was over, Thelma’s dad and his brother found temporary jobs building a road, but the job lasted only eight days. Leaving for Oregon, they got as far as Wickenburg, Arizona when almost everyone in both families came down with the measles and they were quarantined there for a week. One of Thelma’s cousins six month old daughter died as a result of measles.
In early summer they arrived at Thelma’s Grandma Baldwin’s home in Stayton, Oregon where they stayed a couple of days and, for the first time in a long while, were able to wash their clothes in a water that was not alkaline. Her Dad was having a problem finding work so, in discussion with the family, it was decided they would move to Shelton, Washington where his parents lived and there was the possibility of his finding work in one of the sawmills. In May of 1933, Thelma’s dad did find a job at one of the local sawmills, but a month later the mill went on strike. Again out of work, he was hired by the WPA which was building a roadway along Hood Canal. Meanwhile, Thelma and her Mother, sisters and cousins spent the summer at a berry camp in Sumner, Washington picking strawberries, raspberries and loganberries. After berry season the family joined the whirlpool of migratory laborers traveling to Yakima to pick fruit and harvest hops. For two more years the family stayed in Eastern Washington, working in the hop fields, fruit orchards, and potato fields. In the winter her Dad cut wood to keep food on the table and Thelma and her sisters were again able to attend school.
It was in one of these migrant fields that Thelma met Cliffred Evans. After dating nearly a year, they were married in 1938 in Yakima, Washington. She continued working in the fields until the outbreak of World War II. Thelma and Cliffred moved back to Shelton where they built a small house close to her parents home near Dayton. Thelma did most of the roofing and siding, and put up the walls and cupboards inside the house. When women began entering the workforce in great numbers at the onset of the war, Thelma went to work at the Naval Shipyard in Bremerton there until just before her son Roy was born.
Thelma is survived by her son Roy and his wife JoAnne (Cookie) Evans; brother Perry (0llie) Stoner; four grandchildren, and numerous great and great great grandchildren. Thelma was preceded in death by her husband Ray Ratley and four of her five children, daughter Marilyn who died at birth and her sons Melvin, Donald and Kenneth Evans. Her parents and sisters Corinne Horn and Donna Morehouse and brothers Wesley, Jack and Ray Stoner are also gone. She was also married to Cliffred Evans from 1938 until 1971 when they divorced. A celebration of her life will be held at Hope Chapel on Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 11:00 with burial to follow at Shelton Memorial Park. Memorials can be made to Children’s Hospital, P.O. Box 50020 Mail Stop S200, Seattle, WA 98145 or the Paralyzed American Veterans of America, Donation Processing Center, P.O. Box 758532 Topeka, KS 66675-8532 The family was served by McComb Funeral Home.“Then my place became home with my beautiful son. In time three more little boys joined our family. Being mother to four boys was a full time job with a lot of fun and a lot of love. Little boys grow up and leave home to make homes of their own.”