Salina, KS

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Lester Irvin Danielson

KSAL StaffApril 29, 2019

Lester Irvin Danielson was born in a log cabin, in a small mining town, Philipsburg, in western Montana in 1924. He was the youngest of four brothers. In those days, Philipsburg was a 24/7 town with the characters and saloons common to the mining era. Everyone had a nickname. His brothers were “Snoose,” “Dingle,” and “Fat.” His was “Si,” for the time as a young boy, after being hit with a rock, he cried like a “siren.” He wore a belt buckle with gold nuggets on it, until the day he passed, as a reminder of “where I come from.”
Lester was active in sports in high school and was the student body president his senior year. December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor day, occurred during his senior year and changed the direction of his life, and, of course, the history of the world. After graduation, and a brief time working in the mines, he shipped out to Hawaii, as a civilian, to join his older brother George, who was in the Navy and stationed at Pearl Harbor. He learned to “tie steel” and helped with the restoration of Pearl Harbor along with the building of dock and port facilities in the islands of the Pacific to help the war effort.

Knowing he was about to be drafted, he joined the Army Air Corps (today’s Air Force) and began training as a flight engineer on B-17, and later, B-29 bombers. While stationed outside of Salina, Kansas, he met his wife to be, Della Mae Drummond of Niles, KS. As a coincidence, his Swedish mother was from a farming community outside of nearby Lindsborg. He had scores of aunts, uncles, and cousins in the area. After the war ended, he and Della were married in Niles. He then took his new bride back to Montana, to attend college at Montana State in Bozeman. His oldest son, Dean, was born there in 1949.

After graduation, and a year teaching high school in Grass Range, MT, the family moved to Renton, WA, near Seattle, where there were greater job opportunities. Lester worked for Boeing for the rest of his career, primarily as an industrial engineer, in both the airplane, and later, rocket divisions. Son number two, Donald, came along in 1951, not long after arriving in Washington.

Della and Lester were both hardworking and industrious. They bought some acreage, and used “sweat equity” to build four homes. They also began buying duplexes built to support the war effort and soon had a successful rental business. They provided a great childhood for their two sons, who grew up playing sports, raising calves, and riding their horse Blaze. Camping vacations were an annual affair. Mixed in were trips to Kansas and Montana to visit relatives. Summers were often spent at nearby Lake Wilderness where they purchased a small cabin or later, at a summer home in Lake Chelan in Eastern Washington. They also enjoyed the friendship of a number of college couples from Montana who had also moved to the Seattle area for work opportunities. Della was instrumental in ensuring the family regularly attended Highlands Community Church. They had the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land, and later, Western Europe, during the time their son, Dean, was in the Army in Germany.

As time moved on, they would visit their grandchildren, Rachel in Spokane, WA, and Dean John and David in Modesto, CA. Della passed in 2004. A few years later, Lester moved into a retirement home in Renton. As his health declined, he moved to Elk Grove, CA, to be near his oldest son and his family. He passed peacefully, surrounded by family, from congestive heart failure in October of 2018, shortly after his 94th birthday.

Lester is survived by his two sons and their wives, Dean (Julie) and Donald (Pam), three grandchildren, Dean, David, and Rachel Danielson and two great grandchildren, Kendall and Kellan Danielson.

Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 4, 2019, at the Greenville Cemetery, Niles. Memlorials may be to the Greenville Cemetery.

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