VonRay Alex Waldrop, age 86, a resident of Big Lake for 63 years, passed away peacefully surrounded by family and friends at Skagit Valley Hospital, Sunday night December 30, 2018. He is now home with his heavenly father and reunited with his “sweet thing” and other family members.
VonRay was born April 4, 1932 in Fifty-six, Arkansas to parents Nimrod S. and Lula (Dale) Waldrop. He was the youngest of 2 brothers and 5 sisters.
The family farmed cotton while in Arkansas and later moved to California for a short time waiting for the eldest brother to return home from WWII as a prisoner of war for 5 months; then back to Arkansas. Later they moved to Toppenish, WA where he continued his education until he decided to quit school and go to work with family in the logging industry. The family moved to Prineville Oregon, later he enlisted in the U.S. Army in Bend, Oregon with a close friend.
VonRay served during the Korean War as a Corporal in Hq. Btry. 501st. AAA Gun Bn. When the war was over, he was sent to Hanford, WA by request to be close to home and finish out his service time. There he met his soon to be future wife Audrey (Hill) Bagby and as he said “two beautiful young daughters”.
They moved to Sedro-Woolley, WA and were married on September 21, 1954 and moved to Big Lake where they purchased their only home in 1955. They had another daughter and son together. The family also lived a few years in Hollis, Alaska.
VonRay was always so proud of his service. Later in life he said he would go back if they would take him. It was very important to him to teach his 4 children to respect the American Flag, and how to treat it. He always flew his flag proudly at his home.
He spent several years working as a logger until he decided he wanted to learn how to run heavy equipment. Self-taught, he began his long career working on the new I-5, North Cross State Highway, Alaska pipeline, the Cherry Point refinery and locally the Skagit River Park and Janicki Playfields in Sedro-Woolley to name a few. He worked for Janicki Industries for many years until his retirement 20 years ago. He loved working his D-9 Cat and other machinery. It was said he could cut a grade better than any blue print. In October he received his 55-year pin from the Operator Engineers local 302.
He loved the outdoors, hunting with his hound dogs (cougar, bear, raccoon) as well as fishing. UW Huskies and Arkansas Razorbacks were his favorite teams along with the Seahawks, watching in his favorite recliner. He could sing and loved country music. At one point he was in a band and would practice at the family home. He was the lead singer and guitar player, his #1 fans were his family.
VonRay was a member of Viewcrest Assembly of God, and a lifetime member of the George Baldridge Post 43 American Legion in Sedro-Woolley.
He loved his family so much and many of them as well as friend had nicknames, he would give them. He would come up with funny sayings or different words to describe something, always keeping his family laughing. One of his CB handles was Arkansas. His signature was two thumbs up, something he passed on to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They all know what it meant, all is good and ready to go! One of his favorite spots outside was in his chair looking out over their beautiful flowers and garden area where he worked tirelessly, then across the valley, and up at Cultus Mountain and the best of all, one of the most beautiful views of Mount Baker in the area.
VonRay is survived by his daughter, Shirley Watkinson (Lloyd) of Burlington; gandchildren, Tanna (Dennis) Kluss of Coeur D’Alene, ID, Forest Van Dorn in California, Scott (Marisa) Reetz of Sherwood, OR, Zach (Tina) Watkinson of Seattle, Wade (Meghan) Watkinson of Seattle, John Kallerman, Julie (Kallerman) Stewart, Janet (Kallerman) Engholm and Jody Kallerman, all of the Sedro- Woolley area; 14 great-grandchildren and 5 great-great-grandchildren. His sisters, Eurshel Booth of Mountain Home, AR and Jackie Chisum of Yuma, AZ; Sons-in-law, Ruben Saldivar and Jerry Van Dorn, both of Bellingham and numerous nieces, nephews and extended family. He also loved Julie’s dog Shaggy. He was preceded by his parents; his wife, Audrey; daughters, Ruby Van Dorn and Ellen Saldivar; son Jimmy Waldrop; son-in-law Jack Kallerman; sisters, Emma Simmons, Arettia Taber, and Vespie “Irene” Cloquet and brothers John “Buck” Waldrop and Arnold Waldrop.
Special thank you to his grand-daughter Julie who spent the last two years helping care for Grandpa after his stroke and most recently Janice, a family friend, and also, the staff at Skagit Valley Hospital who took special care of him.
Graveside Services with Military Honors will be held at the Sedro-Woolley Union Cemetery, Saturday January 5, 2019 at 11:00 am with Pastor Dennis Spinnie of the Big Lake Church of Nazarene presiding. A fellowship gathering will follow at the Big Lake Fire Hall. Memorials or donations can be made to a charity of your choice.