Wanda Fae Hardin Fruits, passed away Sunday night, October 13, at her home in Merrill with family and friends at her side. A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Merrill Baptist Church. Cremation was done by O'Hair Funeral Chapel.
Wanda was born to Winnie Bailey Hardin and Floyd Limmie Hardin of Gary, Texas on Aug. 2, 1930. Wanda's parents were hardworking farmers raising a family of 7 children. Wanda moved to Oregon in 1946 to live with her brother Bill and his wife Dorothy. She finished high school in Corvallis, Ore., and attended Oregon State, majoring in Home Economics and Nutrition. She later changed majors, and obtained her teaching degree at Oregon College of Education in Monmouth.
To earn money for college, Wanda worked summers for Douglas Forest Protective Association as a forest fire lookout on Ward's Butte. It was during this time she met Gordon Fruits. They met after she, by radio, carefully and successfully led him to a field being burned illegally. Her calm southern accent did the trick and they were married Dec. 22, 1950.
Gordon and Wanda started their family four years later in Roseburg, Ore., where Wanda worked as an Elementary school teacher
and Gordon worked for Oregon State Forestry. Two girls, Annie and Mollie, were born in Roseburg. The family transferred to John Day. Son Michael was born in Prairie City and daughter Martha in John Day. The family was active in the First Christian Church, where Wanda helped with music and started a children's "Cherub's Choir."
The family followed Gordon's career in forestry, transferring from John Day to Silver Lake and Lakeview, where Wanda was involved in the schools, and with music and teaching in the community. During this time, she began a writing career, also pursuing photography and painting. She taught Adult Citizenship classes and at one time taught Elementary classes in Guadalajara, Mexico. After her children were old enough to join her, she again worked as a Fire Lookout, serving through the years on eight different lookouts in Oregon: Ward's Butte, Spring Butte, Drake's Peak and Wolf, Chase, Hagar, Green, Dog and Bald Mountain.
Retirement brought Gordon and Wanda to Merrill, where Wanda continued mentoring in writing, singing with the Sweet Adelines, and using her musical talents to serve her church family worship through music.
Wanda was a free spirit and not afraid of hard work. She loved the Lord and had very strong faith. When she prayed you knew the Lord was listening and bending near. She was strong and courageous in the face of physical adversity. She taught us by example not to give up when it hurts but to sing louder and longer and move forward.
She loved music, teaching, art, reading, writing, learning, knitting, crocheting and nature.
Wanda is treasured by her family and friends for encouraging independent thought and stretching their abilities. She loved her family dearly and always put them first, including ahead of her career. She used her gifts and talents to enrich our lives and expand our horizons.
Wanda leaves behind four children and their spouses: Annie (Harry) Earls, Mollie (Danny) O'Neal, Michael (Matthew) Stahr, Martha (Mark) Tracy. Grandchildren: Paul, Luke and Joel Mitchell, Rachel Mitchell Wirt, and Natalie and Nicholas Juvenal. Great-Grandchildren: Caleb, Finnegan, Dietrich and Jaycee Mitchell, Anthony, Tyler and Christopher Wirt, and Jaidyn and Jaycee Juvenal. She was preceded in death by her husband of 60 years, Gordon Warren Fruits; and a sister, Juanita.
Our Mom, Granny, Great Granny, Aunt, Sister, the Ol' Broad, and dear friend, will be very greatly missed.
Please sign the online guest book at www.heraldandnews.com/obituaries