Senior feature: Reata Horney
Ranch housed foster children
Culver area resident Reata Horney, 74, was born in Fruitland, Idaho, but had connections to Central Oregon. Her mother, Bernice Peck was born in Culver to homesteaders. In 1920, the Peck family moved to the Snake River Valley, where Bernice met and married Hubert Miles, Reata's father. Reata attended school in Ontario until age 13, when they moved to Portland and she graduated from Cleveland High School where she sang with the Cleveland Choral Cadettes.
While on a fishing trip to Central Oregon with her aunt and uncle, Reata met Erwin Horney, who was home on leave from the Marine Corps. They married in 1946 and lived in Culver, then moved to his parents homestead where they farmed 160 acres. They have two daughters, Jackie Finley of Madras, and Judy, who passed away from cancer in 1985; and granddaughter Connie Gregor of Dundee.
In the 1960's, Reata and her husband started Circle H Youth Ranch, a nonprofit organization which they operated for the next 30 years. They took in 35 to 40 homeless foster children from all over the state. In 1973 when the old ranch house became too small, community volunteers helped the Horneys convert the excavated area that had held their ranch's spud cellar into a 7,000-square-foot, two-story ranch house, designed by Reata and Erwin. The spacious home has seven bedrooms, an industrial sized refrigerator and freezer, dorm-style bath and shower rooms downstairs, and is furnished with items people donated and Reata refinished. "I need a power riding vacuum cleaner to do the rugs," she joked. Rita is still close to three foster sons, Larry Neidigh of Portland, Alan Miller of Madras, Dennis Miller of Seattle, and four foster grandsons.
The ranch became a home for many others. In 1975, when Vietnamese boat people were coming to the U.S., Circle H Ranch housed two young men who (were being sponsored by the First Baptist Church), a Chinese refuge, and later relatives of those three. "I've been involved with that for years and we have lots of them scattered around the country that we still keep track of. We've gone to their weddings and have held weddings here," she said.
Elsewhere in the community, the Horneys helped bring Youth For Christ from Portland to the Madras area, and when there was no local child care center Reata helped start Madras Day Care, which eventually became the Children's Learning Center. They were members of the Oregon Association of Juvenile Judges and did volunteer probation and parole work, and in 1991, Reata was presented with the Oregon Association of American Mothers Bertha Holt Award.
In 1985 Erwin developed health problems and eventually Alzheimer's Disease and passed away Sept. 30 of this year. For several years their ranch house became a care center as Reata cared first for her ill daughter, then her parents, Erwin's parents, and finally her husband.
Today, Reata continues to be busy and her phone is constantly ringing off the hook. When she has any time for herself, she enjoys oil painting, working on miniature doll houses, organizing and copying old family photos, being a member of the Jefferson County Historical Society, and charter member of the Culver Garden Club.
Of her outlook on life she said, "We trusted God for everything we needed and he's been real faithful to see we have the things we do -- and sometimes more than we need."