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Remembering notable people in Whatcom County who died in 2014

Time to pause and reflect about some of the notable Whatcom County people who died in 2014.

Rollie DeKoster, Lynden coach

When Lynden High School named its football stadium “Rollie DeKoster Field” in 1989, they honored longtime coach Roland “Rollie” DeKoster, who turned Lynden into a football power. A Lynden native, he began his 28-year coaching career at his high school alma mater in 1962.

DeKoster coached baseball for 24 years, compiling a record of 282-153, winning 12 league titles and guiding the Lions to six state tournaments. He also coached junior varsity basketball for 23 years.

In 1972, he took over Lynden’s struggling football program. During his 17 years as football coach, he led Lynden to 11 league titles, eight state playoff appearances and Lynden’s first state championship, in 1980. His football record: 141-32.

DeKoster was selected to the Washington State Hall of Fame as both a baseball and football coach, and is a member of the WWU Athletics Hall of Fame. He died March 11 at the age of 79.

Joe Entrikin, aviator, business booster

A Navy aviator, Joe Entrikin was the first pilot to land in the Antarctica flying from a land base, and had a glacier named after him. After his career in the military, he and his wife, Phyllis, moved to Lynden in 1964.

In 1967 Entrikin became manager of the Whatcom County Economic Development Council and was instrumental in bringing Intalco and Atlantic Richfield to the county. He later sold real estate and, with his wife, joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Ecuador. Entrikin died April 5. He was 91.

Haines Fay, longtime KGMI announcer

Raised in Bellingham, Haines Fay began broadcasting for KGMI radio in 1946 and stayed there until 1992, working as a disc jockey, program director, news reporter, news director, and a radio and TV sports reporter. He was widely known in the community as a distinctive voice in local radio news, for his play-by-play coverage of high school football and basketball, and as the host of a daily call-in talk show, “Impact.”

Fay also served on the Bellingham City Council for eight years and ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor in 1983. He died Dec. 17 at the age of 87.

Franz Gabl: champion skier, businessman

A hero in his homeland for winning Austria’s first Olympic medal in alpine skiing, Franz Gabl left a local legacy of promoting skiing at Mount Baker, operating a popular sports shop, and helping to jump-start the inaugural Ski to Sea race.

After winning a silver medal in downhill skiing at the 1948 Winter Olympics, he became a ski coach in the U.S. and in Canada. In 1963 he moved to Bellingham, where he ran the ski shop and ski school at Mt. Baker Ski Area, started Mt. Baker’s bus program for student skiers, and founded one of America’s first summer racing camps. He also ran a ski and sports shop in downtown Bellingham.

In the early ’70s, he was on a Chamber of Commerce committee that pushed for a multi-stage community race. Gabl chaired the first Ski to Sea race, in 1973. Gabl died Jan. 23. He was 92.

Thomas Hall, oncologist, medical researcher

A former oncologist at St. Joseph hospital, Thomas Hall of Sudden Valley had a long career in medicine. He did research; he taught, including nearly 20 years at Harvard Medical School; he practiced oncology; he founded and directed cancer care centers; and he wrote more than 200 scientific articles and nine medical books or monographs.

When his schooling was halted by World War II, as a pacifist he refused to register for the military and served 13 months in prison. His time working in a prison hospital convinced him to take up medicine. He moved to Whatcom County in the early ’90s. While in Bellingham, he organized a massive prostate cancer study and, at age 91, finished his coursework for a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, even though he already graduated from Harvard’s medical school magna cum laude.

A Quaker, Hall stood in the prison chow line for black inmates to protest racial segregation behind bars, and while director of a cancer program in British Columbia he joined picketers lobbying for higher wages for the program’s workers. He died Aug. 21 at the age of 93.

Howard Harris, pacifist, professor

A lifelong Quaker, Howard Harris taught anthropology at Western Washington University from 1966 until his gradual retirement in the early ’90s. A conscientious objector to World War II, he helped start a peace vigil in 1966 in downtown Bellingham that continues to this day.

In 2005 he received the first Howard Harris Lifetime Peacemaker Award, an award named in his honor and given annually by the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center. Harris died Nov. 6. He was 97.

Sue Ellen Heflin, Volunteer Center director

A graduate of Western Washington University, Heflin served in a variety of administrative posts with arts organizations in Washington and California before she became executive director of the Whatcom County Volunteer Center from 2004 to 2012. Her last position was as executive director of Lincoln Theatre, in Mount Vernon.

Heflin also served on several boards of directors, including the Woodstock Farm Conservancy Board and the Samish Island Community Center board. She died June 26 at the age of 59.

Harold Kooy, Lynden businessman

Born in Canada, Harold Kooy moved to Lynden in 1946 when he was 21 and became a successful businessman who, among other accomplishments, created Fairway Center with his wife, Sarah.

Kooy became a meat cutter at City Market Grocery in downtown Lynden, then bought the business in 1952. He later opened Harold’s IGA Foodliner, then moved the grocery to his Fairway Center business complex. Over time, he enlarged Fairway Center and worked on its Dutch-style remodel.

Kooy worked in the grocery business for more than three decades, retiring in 1978. He died July 17 at the age of 89.

Kay LeMaster, Nooksack Valley coach, educator

Kay LeMaster graduated from Western Washington University in 1958 with a master’s degree in education, then taught and coached in Washougal, Meridian School District and Mount Vernon before settling in as a teacher, coach and athletic director for Nooksack Valley School District.

In 1974 he was named “Coach of the Year” after Nooksack Valley High’s boys basketball team won the 1A state title. In 2003, the school gym was named Kay LeMaster Gymnasium in his honor. LeMaster died Oct. 14. He was 84.

Terry Mangan, Bellingham police chief

Terry Mangan served 11 years as Bellingham’s police chief in the 1970s and ’80s. A proponent of community policing, he went into law enforcement after being a Catholic priest.

In Bellingham, Mangan was perhaps best known for helping to crack the notorious Hillside Strangler case by linking the murders of two Western Washington University students to a string of similar killings by Kenneth Bianchi in California. After Bellingham, Mangan was police chief in Spokane and an FBI leadership instructor. He died Dec. 22 at the age of 76.

Paul Olscamp, WWU president

Paul Olscamp was president of Western Washington University from 1975 until 1982. He became president at 37, the youngest in Western’s history. Before coming to Bellingham, he was vice chancellor for student programs and professor of philosophy at Syracuse University.

During his time in Bellingham, Western changed its name from a state college to a university. It was a time of enrollment growth, despite rocky state funding for Western and other universities. Olscamp restructured university governance, oversaw the creation of the College of Fine and Performing Arts and the College of Business and Economics, established awards for excellence in teaching, and supported student reviews of campus teachers. He died Oct. 14 at the age of 77.

Don Smith, funeral home owner, civic leader

Born in Bellingham, Don Smith moved with his family in 1949 to Lynden, where he became a community stalwart in several realms. He purchased Gillies Funeral Home in 1975 and ran the business for nearly 40 years.

Smith also served on the Lynden City Council from 1978-1981, was a Lynden Fire Department volunteer for 10 years, and served on the Lynden School Board for 19 years. He died March 3 at the age of 67.

Jim Talbot, developer, fishing industry booster

A Seattle resident, Jim Talbot had a major impact on Bellingham. He oversaw major expansion of Bellingham Cold Storage, a business started by his father, developed plans for the Barkley urban village, and came up with an unusual way to support the region’s fishing industry.

Talbot reached agreement for a joint seafood venture with the Soviet Union in the middle of the Cold War. The venture, U.S.-USSR Marine Resources Company, hired American boats to catch fish and and deliver them to the Soviet fleet, allowing the Soviets to continue to process fish around U.S. territorial waters. The arrangement helped hundreds of area fishers, as well as Bellingham businesses that sold supplies and gear to the Soviet fleet. Talbot died Nov. 29. He was 87.

Malcolm ‘Mal’ Walton, Bellingham coach

Mal Walton moved to Bellingham in the late 1950s after four years as an infielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league organization. At the age of 26 he was hired to coach Bellingham High’s baseball team. He held the position until 1990, leading the school to the state playoffs three times, including a third-place finish in 1980.

He also coached the Bellingham American Legion Post 7 baseball team for 11 years, winning six league championships, a fourth-place finish at state and a runner-up performance in 1984. He also played for Joe Martin’s Bellingham Bells from 1959 through 1967, winning state MVP honors in 1964 and later coaching the Bells for five seasons.

Walton was a member of the first class inducted into the Washington State American Legion Hall of Fame in September 2012, and the first class inducted into the Washington State Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1988. He died Sept. 18 at the age of 81.

Winton Wefer, fire commissioner

Winton Wefer lived most of his life at Lake Samish and led the way to protect the community from fires. A forester and logging supervisor for Georgia-Pacific for 37 years, he was a member of numerous forestry-related groups, and taught 40,000 sixth-graders during conservation tours.

Wefer was an organizing member of the Lake Samish Volunteer Fire Department and lobbied for the creation of Fire District 9 to serve the Lake Samish area. He served as a District 9 commissioner for more than 50 years, long enough to see the district become part of South Whatcom Fire Authority. Wefer died April 7. He was 87.

Bruce Wolf, Blaine councilman, arts supporter

An ophthalmologist from Alaska, Bruce Wolf and his wife, Sandy, retired to Semiahmoo and quickly became involved in community activities. They helped found the Blaine Jazz Festival, now called the Drayton Harbor Music Festival, and Wolf won election, then re-election, to the Blaine City Council. He stepped down from the council in 2007 after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Wolf worked to improve downtown Blaine, in part by raising $190,000 for “Vigil,” a life-size bronze sculpture of two women and a young boy that pays homage to Blaine’s fishing heritage by honoring those who stayed on shore. Wolf died Dec. 21. He was 73.

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