School 17

Michael "Mick" Gray Tolar

September 8, 1938 ~ January 1, 2021 (age 82)

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Michael Gray “Mick Tolar of Hermiston, long time principal of A.C. Houghton Elementary School in Irrigon, Oregon, died on January 1, 2021 in Kennewick, Washington at the age of 82 years. Mick was born in Echo, Oregon on September 8, 1938 to Empie Ray and Bennie Lee Middleton Tolar. He considered himself fortunate to have grown up in such a loving family and in such a wonderful small town.

He was quite involved in athletics as a young man. He played on Echo’s undefeated 1953 state championship basketball team and the 1955 state championship baseball team. He was captain of the 1956 basketball team which finished second in state.

Mick enjoyed stopping to interact with any babies he might see. His love of children directed him toward a career in education. He received BS and MS degrees in education at Eastern Oregon College (now University) before continuing graduate work at the University of Oregon, where he received his educational administrative credential.

Although jobs were plentiful throughout the state in 1960, Mick wanted to remain close to home because his father was ill. Thus began his long association with the Morrow County School District, where he served for 34 years. He accepted a contract to teach sixth grade at A.C. Houghton School in Irrigon for the sum of $4500, the highest base salary of all Eastern Oregon College education grads in that year. He received an additional $200 to coach a total of four sports: junior high football, basketball, baseball and track. (Was this the beginning of merit pay?) After teaching for three years, his principal left. He was encouraged by the local advisory committee, as well as the Morrow County School Boad, to apply for the position. Refusing to do so at first, he finally succumbed to encouragement from others, and signed a one-year contract at the age of 24. He grave credit to Joyce Smith, a longtime staff member, for mothering him through the hot spots of that first year. The one-year trial stretched into 31 years as the principal at ACH before he retired in 1994. After retirement he spent some time supervising student teachers for Eastern Oregon and Portland State Universities. He especially enjoyed some time in the classroom when called upon to be a substitute teacher.

In 1966 Mick married Carol Byerly; they had three children: Patrick Gray, Megan Lynn and Aaron Jon. In December, 1983, he married Susan Lynn Lightbown.

Mick was active in numerous professionals and civic organizations over the years including charter membership in North Morrow Vector Control, Columbia View Community Church and the OESPA, (state elementary principals’ organization). He enjoyed family, gardening and fishing. He especially enjoyed traveling and meeting new people, and was fortunate to have visited 54 countries with his wife, Susan before Parkinson’s Disease brought an end to traveling adventures.

Tolar is survived by his wife of 37 years, sons: Patrick Gray Tolar (Tera) and Aaron Jon Tolar; and daughter Megan Lynn Bryan; as well as six grandchildren: Breena Renae Tolar Beck (Travis), Brooke Renee Tolar, Katelyn Marie Tolar, Zack Loyal Bryan, Cade Gray Bryan and Mya Lan Bryan; brothers Joseph Ray Tolar (Kathy) and Robert Lynn Tolar (Maria).

Mick was preceded in death by his parents and his sisters Vera Louise Gurtler and Mary Ruth Colburn. 

Due to COVID, a brief public graveside service following state guidelines will be held on Friday, January 8, 2021 at 2:30 P.M. at the Echo Cemetery, Echo, Oregon. A celebration of life gathering will be held when restrictions are lifted.

In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to the International Rescue Committee, 122 East 42nd St., New York, New York 10168-1289 ( or a charity of your choice.

Please share memories of Mick with his family at

Burns Mortuary of Hermiston, Oregon is in care of arrangements.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Michael "Mick" Gray Tolar, please visit our floral store.


Graveside Service
January 8, 2021

2:30 PM
Echo Cemetery

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