Thomas Leroy Pethtel, 87
Thomas LeRoy Pethtel, longtime and beloved resident of Kamiah, Idaho, died of cardiac arrest at his new home in Idaho Falls, Idaho, July 18, 2020. He was 87.
Roy was born on Sept. 15, 1932, near Meridian in Southern Idaho. In 1944, his parents bought WP Ranch in Kamiah. This was the beginning of a long-term family legacy in the Clearwater Valley.
While his parents moved north to establish the ranch, Roy remained behind with relatives to finish out the school year. During this time, he had his first encounter with God while he lived with his aunt and uncle. At the end of the school year he joined his parents in Kamiah to complete his education.
Throughout high school, he enjoyed football and was an accomplished musician, using his saxophone in a family band know as “The Buddies”, to earn money for clothes and school needs. The Buddies played dances from Riggins, Idaho to Moscow, Idaho, 54 nights a year.
After graduation, with the advent of the Korean War, he joined the Navy and became a machinist’s mate. Graduating at the top of his class, he was able to choose his duty station. He chose the USS Norfolk, which was an experimental ship, the first of its kind (“Destroyer Leader 1”) stationed out of Philadelphia. It was the first ship to have air conditioning in the crew quarters and was a favorite for the admirals to complete their sea duty. This ship was later instrumental in addressing the Cuban Missile Crisis.
While in Philadelphia area, he met his future wife, Mary Lou, at a YMCA dance sponsored by the USO. On July 4, 1953, they were married in a small chapel at Broad Street Memorial Methodist Church. Their first child, Mary Ellen, was born there. Two years later, after four years in the Navy, the family returned to Idaho. After moving home, Roy and Mary Lou had seven more children: Martin, Tim, Kelly, Tad, Leslie, Toby and Lettie.
Roy worked the ranch with his father, Tom, eventually taking over as president of the corporation. He also worked for Don Simmons of Simmons Sanitation. He worked for the Kamiah school district as bus superintendent, served on the local school board, drove school bus, served on the chain gang at Kamiah football games, and ran the time clock for basketball games at the high school.
He and the “gray-haired construction crew” did countless hours of community service with the school in building projects that included the new Middle School, the bus barn, the sky box, and the pole vault uprights. In addition to school building projects, Roy was instrumental in building the facility for Clearwater Valley Assembly of God.
After many years of hard work, he retired, but continued to serve his family, friends and community in many ways. Last year, Roy and MaryLou moved to Idaho Falls to live with their daughter, Lettie.
In 1980, a family medical emergency reminded Roy of his experience with God as a young man and he and MaryLou became members of Clearwater Valley Assembly of God, eventually becoming a Gideon with the Grangeville Camp from then to this day.
As a Gideon he held various positions in the organization and was part of distributing the Word of God throughout the local community and the world. The fifth grade Bible distribution was particularly dear to his heart.
He is survived by children: Bob and Mary Ellen Goddard, Martin Pethtel, Tim and Jody Pethtel, Kelly (Kathryn) Dunn, Tad Pethtel, Mike and Leslie Gorman, Toby (Mark) and Kathy Pethtel, Josiah and Lettie Bass, and 25 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.
To ensure that many in the family can attend, a memorial will be held over the Labor Day weekend for both Roy and MaryLou (who passed on Feb. 15, 2020) at Clearwater Valley Assembly of God, on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, at 2 p.m.