Born on a farm east of Olex, Oregon on February 5, 1920, Alma Jean (Watkins) Tipley spent much of her life in Gilliam and Sherman Counties, attending grade school in Olex and Rock Creek Station, high school in Arlington and graduating from Wasco High School before getting her teaching certificate from Oregon College of Education (OCE) in 1942. She distinguished herself at OCE and was selected for the prestigious Collecto-Coed service society.
While a majority of her 99 years were lived in Gilliam County, she had several forays living in other parts of the country. Right after graduating from OCE, instead of taking the teaching position that she was offered, World War II had broken out and she accompanied her second husband Jim O’Meara to Columbia, South Carolina where the Army Air Corps did its B-25 combat training, and had son Mickey there in 1943. After the war they came home to Wasco and son Jim was born in 1945.
She first became a teacher when she moved to Condon with the boys in 1951. After marrying Elmer Tipley in 1954, she had son Roger in 1959, enjoyed watching her sons’ athletics and taught school until they moved to Blaine, Washington when the Condon Air Force Station closed in 1970. In Blaine, she learned to love the beach-combing, clam-digging and crabbing at Birch Bay; also doing a little substitute teaching. They moved back to their Condon home after Elmer’s retirement from Blaine Air Force Station. When Elmer had a severe car wreck in 1980, Alma Jean turned her energy toward his recovery and rehabilitation. In 1985 she also became an inspirational cancer-survivor; her uterine cancer diagnosed early enough that surgery and radiation treatments made her cancer-free.
At the Condon United Church of Christ, for over 30 years she was one of the regular organists and piano players for Sunday services, and served as treasurer. Musical to the end, even when her failing eyesight made it impossible to read sheet music, she played and sang golden oldies on the piano for her assisted living facility. Her piano playing was always done with great flourish and style.
When she was a grade school teacher in Condon Schools she was known for being a quick walker in the halls, and that speediness stayed with her to the end, assisted by her walker, zipping past slower people in the halls on her way to dinner or bingo. That energy and tenacity led to many successes. In the late 1980s she believed that Condon, Oregon needed an assisted-living facility to provide new jobs and to care for the aging population of the county. She worked tirelessly, organizing resources and motivating Gilliam County to turn that vision into a reality by building Summit Springs Village; which opened its doors in 1994.
She was quite competitive, spending hours each week playing Scrabble, consuming crossword books, and in friendly games of dominoes, pinochle and bingo. She researched and published a history of the John Day River McDonald Ferry and contributed to many other Sherman and Gilliam county historical works (all without access to a computer or the internet). Her hobbies were many and varied over the years, and many of those hobbies translated into Blue Ribbons at the Gilliam County Fair: peanut brittle, biscuits, cookies, rhubarb, canned fruit, rock collections, ...
The most widely-known of her hobbies might be the over 500 quilts that she made as gifts. Whether received by a new grandchild or by an ailing friend, wrapping up in one of her quilts feels like a loving hug. Her quilt-giving was featured in the June 2008 Ruralite magazine.
She is survived by her sister Elaine Strahm of Mesa, Arizona, sons Mickey O’Meara of Sebring, Florida, Jim O’Meara of Phoenix and Roger Tipley of Houston, step-daughter Neva Campbell of Milwaukie, and 17 grandchildren: Bill McMullen Jr, Corrina (McMullen) Johnson, Myles McMullen, Jeff McMullen, Sean O’Meara, Cammy O’Meara, Michelle (O’Meara) Bissey, Kelli (O’Meara) Leonard, Geoff Tipley, Kyle Tipley, Katie Tipley, Blair Campbell, Ann (Campbell) Adrian-Scott, Brad Bullock, Brent Bullock, Bryan Bullock, and Shannon Bullock. She also has 27 great grandchildren and 8 great-great grandchildren.
Her final chapter included a big move to Houston, Texas to live closer to her son Roger’s family. Regardless of the state where she lived, she was forever an Oregonian at heart and loyal to the Trailblazers to the end. She joined the fellowship of her departed family and friends in heaven on May 4, 2019.
A graveside service will be held on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 1:00 P.M. at the Condon Masonic Cemetery, Condon, Oregon.
Please share memories of Mrs. Tipley at www.burnsmortuaryhermiston.com
Burns Mortuary of Hermiston, Oregon is in care of arrangements.