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Marlee Lillian Henry

November 23, 1924 - September, 29, 2013-


Marlee HenryFormer Madras resident Marlee Lillian Henry passed away Sept. 29, 2013, in Springfield, with family members at her side. A memorial service for Marlee will be held Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 3:30 p.m., at the Rodriguez Annex, 134 S.E. E St., in Madras.

Marlee was born Nov. 23, 1924, in Seattle, Wash., the third child of five to James and Gladys (Culp) Gurley. The family had just moved to Seattle and purchased a hotel after selling their apple orchard by Mount Hood, in the Hood River Valley, when Marlee was born. 

When the depression hit, they lost the hotel and all the money they had saved in the bank. The bank wouldn't let them withdraw the money.  The three oldest children, including Marlee, were sent to the Children's Home in Seattle in order for the family to survive. The family lived in a tent for a while until James was able to secure a job with the Works Progress Administration building roads, parks, bridges and schools and uniting the family again.

They later moved back to Oregon, where Marlee lived the majority of her life. She is a fifth generation Oregonian and the great-great-granddaughter of Ira and Anna Elizabeth (Mandler) Wells, who came to Oregon in 1847, and the great-granddaughter of Dr. Orrin Verus and Ann (Baldwin) Gurley, who came across the Oregon Trail in 1864. On Dec. 31, 1945, she married John Hamilton Ray, in Portland. He had just served three and one half years during World War II in Gen. George Patton's 7th Army in North Africa and Sicily, and then under Gen. Mark Clark's 5th Army in Italy.

John worked in heavy construction, building dams and roads throughout Oregon and Washington, including The Dalles Dam and others. To this union were born six children. During that time, the family moved wherever John's job took them. In October 1960, his job took them to Madras, where he worked on the construction of Round Butte Dam. John passed away on Nov. 20, 1961, leaving Marlee with six children, the youngest age 6, and the oldest 14. This tragedy could have been a blow that separated the family, as when Marlee was a child, but Marlee was determined to keep the family together and persevered, finding work in child care, at the KFC Restaurant and the Stag Restaurant.

In 1966, while working at The Stag, she met her second husband, James Jackson Milham Henry, a World War II vet who was an underwater demolition team expert while serving in the Navy in the South Pacific. They call them Navy Seals today. He became the love of her life and a good father to her younger children. In 1969, they purchased a small farm in Gateway, where Marlee had a garden and the family had horses, chickens, pigs and a milk cow. James passed away on Nov. 19, 1995. In 2007, Marlee moved back to Madras to be closer to her two daughters and their husbands, Shirley and Butch Ayres and Carol and Bob Fox. Because of failing health, she lived the last four years of her life in the loving care of her youngest daughter and son-in-law, Donna and Lloyd Freed, in Eugene. Marlee's hobbies included painting, quilting, knitting and enjoying the company of her grandchildren. The last several years of her life were spent making quilts for family members and friends and keeping her mind active with computer games.

She was preceded in death by a daughter, Maxine Lillian Heckathorn, and a son, Robert Allen Ray. She is survived by three daughters and their husbands, Shirley and Butch  Ayres, and Carol and Bob Fox, all of Madras, and Donna and Lloyd Freed of Eugene; a son and his wife, Gary and Vicki Ray of Larkspur, Colo.; 30 grandchildren; 44 great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; a stepdaughter, Sheri McClain of Stanton, Ore., and stepson, James Jackson Milham Henry Jr., of California.