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Alta Marie Stapleton

Alta Marie Stapleton

Alta Marie Stapleton

Alta Marie Stapleton passed away peacefully and in her home the evening of July 28th. Alta was 90 years old. Alta was a resident of East Gresham since 1966 when she and her husband, Dean Stapleton, moved to the property they had purchased and built their home on.

Alta became a very prominent gardener and was featured in the Gresham Outlook in 1972. Alta was a member of the Powell Valley Garden Club from 1968 to 1994. Alta served as secretary. In 1994 Alta co-founded the Friendship Garden Club. Alta’s home garden was always open for visitors with a sign along the road which said, “Visitors Welcome”. She enjoyed that her garden had local visitors as well as visitors from many areas in the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. She typically sent seeds and plants home with her visitors along with some of her gardening knowledge and advice. One time she sent a quart of dill seed to Guatemala with a visiting missionary. Alta also had a large worm bin from which she helped others start their own bins. Students and teachers from MHCC, hosted by Peter Clause and David Douglas High School students also visited Alta’s garden.

For a second time, on May 14, 1994, Alta’s garden was highlighted on the front page of the Outlook with the title, “Alta Stapleton Likes to See Strangers in Her Yard”. In 1998 Koin6 featured a news story about her beautiful garden. In 1999 a friend of Alta’s called her and said, “Alta, there is a picture of your garden in Birds and Bloom magazine.” Alta had never heard of the magazine, but went out and bought one, immediately. The photographer was Steve Terrill.

Alta was very accomplished at shorthand. Her first job, in 1942, was as a secretary at Rapid Transfer and Storage Company. She continued this career with State Farm Insurance Company, Eli Lily and Co, and as a legal secretary for Jones, Chamberlain and Arthur. In Gresham, Alta worked for the inventory department at J. Frank Schmidt and Co. She also worked for Gresham Safeway as a floral specialist. She retired in 1987.

Early in Alta and Dean’s marriage while they were living in Portland, Dean was offered a job in Monterey CA. Dean said, “No way.” Then he was offered double the salary that he was making in Portland. He responded, “We will be there in 2 weeks.” While living in Monterey, Alta assisted with the Girl Scouts and modeled for a well known department store. About three years later Dean and Alta returned to Portland so that they could care for Dean’s ailing father, for whom Alta was the primary caregiver.

In 1992, a young Japanese woman, Toshie Nishikawa, was at the Gresham Chamber of Commerce looking to be tutored in English. Alta happened to be there at the same time hoping to find somewhere to volunteer. The two were introduced, and Alta became her English tutor for 2 years. A wonderful friendship resulted. Toshie’s baby was named Kyohei Dean after Alta’s husband, Dean.

Alta was born, Alta Marie Keeler, on April 27, 1924 the second oldest child. Alta’s early years were on a 100 acre farm in Happy Valley, Clackamas Oregon. Her father, Joseph ‘Duke’ Keeler farmed the property. At 5 years old when Alta’s mother, Laura Mae, became ill, Alta and her two sisters, Mildred and Winifred, moved in with their Aunt Grace who raised them. Alta had one brother, Freeman, who died when he was 20 years old. He had recently returned after serving in the Merchant Marines during WWII.

Mr. and Mrs. Jonathon Lee took little Alta Marie and many other children to Sunday school every Sunday, piling more children into their car than there were seats. Alta still possesses a collection of stickers, pictures and other prizes she won for her accomplishments in Sunday school. These good people are remembered as the ones who introduced her to the Savior and passed on their love for Jesus to Alta. Mrs. Jonathon Lee was also Alta’s God Mother.

Alta was also a long time member of her beloved Pleasant Home Methodist Church.

Alta graduated from Franklin High School in 1942. On Dec 8, 1941 Alta’s shorthand class went into the school auditorium to hear the broadcast of a very important speech to be given by the President of the United States. Her class was to write the speech out in shorthand. It was during this class exercise that Alta found out about the bombing of Pearl Harbor which had happened the day before. The speech she was listening to and writing in shorthand was President Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy Speech”.

She also often remembered, with tears even in later life, her dear friend, schoolmate and neighbor, Don Newman, whose “young life was cut short” on the beaches of Normandy.

Alta was 23 years old when she attended what would become a very important Halloween costume party. There was a young former GI at the party. “He was a pretty obnoxious fellow” Alta would say when she recounted the story. He was wearing a kilt with short pants on underneath. He kept lifting up the back of the kilt during the party. Each time he did a hidden message was revealed. On the back of his short pants was written, “Kill Roy was here.” Alta had little appreciation for the young man’s sense of humor. He was very disgusting as far as Alta was concerned. However, a couple of days later this young man showed up on Alta’s doorstep with his friend, Joe Teresi. He was brought along for moral support, Alta surmised. This young man, Dean Stapleton, was now well dressed and very polite. “He was handsome, too”, Alta always said. He asked Alta out for a date and Alta was soon swept off of her feet. They were married 5 months later on March 22, 1947. They were married for 59 years until Dean’s passing in 2006.

Alta was preceded in death by her husband, Dean; brother, Freeman; sister, Mildred; and nephew, Gary. She is survived by her sister, Winifred; cousin, Jean; and great niece, Cindy and niece, Geraldine. She is also survived by many wonderful and dear friends. She is also survived by many gardeners who have shared Alta’s love of gardening. Many of these friends have plants in their own gardens from starts or seeds given to them by Alta. Also, Alta is survived by the Friendship Garden Club which continues on today.

Thank you very much to the caregivers and staff from Adventist Home Health and those from Adventist Hospice who helped provide such excellent and wonderful care for Alta.

A funeral service will be held at 10:00AM on Tuesday, August 5th at Bateman’s Funeral Home in Gresham. A reception and graveside service will follow.