Mike Bushfield, Eureka, MT, is the winner!
Ray Coon is the answer for Clearwater History Trivia #600, a special feature to celebrate the history and heritage of Clearwater Country. Watch each day for another clue.
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Monday: Bald Mountain Ski Area
Tuesday: Museum supporter
Raymond F. 'Ray' Coon was a long-time Idaho logger who was born in Lewiston and lived in Clarkston, WA, until his family moved to a farm in the Melrose area near Peck when he was six. His father passed away when he was 11 years old. He received his elementary education at Garner School and graduated from Peck High School in 1942.
His obituary says he enjoyed basketball and making mischief, such as the time the boys rigged the bell to ring in the adjoining classroom to irritate the adjoining classroom teacher.
He attended his last 'Peck Breakfast' with his two remaining classmates, Lee Owens and Wally Rugg, a few days before his death.
After high school, he enlisted in the Marines. He was part of the 9th Marine 3rd Division that was sent to Iwo Jima and Guam during World War II. He received a purple heart for his service. After military service he married Isobel Garner, the neighbor girl and sister of his best friend, Allan Garner. It was one of the best decisions he ever made. Although she was generally a silent partner, she made everything work in the background from keeping the books to cooking for the crews and raising the kids. They raised four children and at the time of his death Oct. 16, 2015, had seven grandchildren, as well as great grandchildren and step grandchildren.
He returned to the family farm temporarily until he was able to purchase a military surplus TD-14 and begin his construction career building ponds in the region. In 1952, he began logging with Clint Graham in the Big Canyon area hauling logs to Smith and Nelson's Pataha Lumber Co. Later, Ray and isobel bought out Clint's share and continued logging as R.F. Coon Logging.
They logged for Twin Feathers Mill, Potlatch, near Kamiah before moving to Pierce in 1965, when Jaype Mill opened. His friend, Dean Huffman, was a part of the business early on, and was joined by nephew, Kenny Coon, when they formed R.F. Coon Logging, Inc. They typically employed upwards of 60 people.
He was a logging contractor for more than 60 years. He took great pride in his crews and their accomplishments. He was a strong voice for land stewardship and was an original member of the Forest Practices Act receiving the Forest Products Commission's Crown Award. He was one of the founding members of the Associated Logging Contractors, formed to help independent loggers have a united voice when dealing with contracts and legislative issues.
He served as president of ALC and was a founding board member of the Associated Loggers Exchange providing workman's compensation at a reasonable cost, a position he still held. He was looking forward to the 50th anniversary celebration of the ALC which would take place in April 2016.
Throughout his life, Ray had a love of Caterpillar tractors. He collected nearly every model of antique Caterpillar farm crawler tractor made. He developed a friendship with Ted Billups who assisted with restoration work. He was an early member of the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club and Lewis-Clark Antique Power Club and enjoyed watching equipment run at threshing bees, parades and fairs. He was especially proud of Isobel's Rumely Oil Pull that he had Ted restore from the ground up. It has been driven in many parades in the area along with some of Ray's restored antique Cats.
Ray's oldest brother, Bill, restored a Model T Ford for him in the 70s, and Ray nearly had completed restoring a Model A since moving to Lewiston. He always tried to make old things run again and would often repair toys for the great-grandchildren.
He saw the value in old parts and it was hard to see those parts sold for scrap, always hoping the right person would come along that needed just that part.
He loved the development of new equipment and revisions to the old, he converted his 550 John Deere tractor into a high drive. His close friend Bill Maki developed his original Maki carriage used for line skidding in Ray's shop.
Ray was a major supporter of the J. Howard Bradbury Logging Museum which his longtime friend Bob Allen created. Ray spent time and money disassembling the Whiskey Butte lookout to add to the museum but was stymied by the inability to provide liability insurance to have it on display. He was recognized by the museum with a special photo pin in 2015 which he considered a great honor.
Ray was a member of the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association advisory board for many years. He served on the Pierce City Council for one term. He was a supporter of Pierce and Timberline scholarships and athletics, the Pierce Community Center, the Sixth Grade Forestry Tour, 4-H, and Bald Mountain Ski Hill, where he provided the snowplowing for many years and equipment to improve the ski runs. He was a member of the Elks and the Veteran of Foreign Wars.
He was born Nov. 27, 1924 and died at the age of 90 on Oct. 16, 2015.
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