Myrtle Creek native William Leonard Rice, died October 26, 2019, in Myrtle Creek. He was 91 years old.
The son of Myrtle Creek pioneers James Austin and Ellen (Alben) Rice, he was born in Myrtle Creek on May 6, 1928. He grew up on the family’s sheep ranch outside of Myrtle Creek, and in town, where his father and uncle opened a mercantile in the late 1800s. The building still displays the Rice Bros. & Adams sign. Bill spent summers on the family property on Lees Creek, where he and his dad hand-built a log cabin in the late 1930s that still stands. He worked as a lineman for Southern Pacific Railroad in his early teens.
Bill graduated from Myrtle Creek High School in 1946 with his future wife, Clementine Young. He attended Southern Oregon College in Ashland, where he spent much of his time riding fast British motorcycles on long road trips. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving in the 747th Amphibious Tank and Tractor Battalion in Okinawa, Japan, from 1951 through 1953.
On November 11, 1953, he married Clementine in Myrtle Creek. They moved to Corvallis, where Bill attended Oregon State University, graduating in 1959 with a degree in geology. Their oldest two children, Susan and William (Doug), were born in Corvallis. He worked for Reynolds Metals in Portland, and then moved to Bellevue to work for Northern Pacific Railroad’s land division. Their daughter Signe was born in Bellevue.
The family then moved to Spokane, where he spent more than 25 years working as an economic geologist for the U.S. Bureau of Mines. He and Clem moved home to Myrtle Creek upon his retirement in 1989.
In retirement, Bill took great pride in his volunteer service on BLM’s Southwest Oregon Resource Advisory Council. He was active in the Collectors Club and Douglas County Historical Society, where he and Clem were hosts at the Lane House in Roseburg. He was a longtime member of the Douglas Small Woodlands Association and supporter of the Myrtle Creek Library.
Bill was a learned man with a lifelong passion for books. His grandson recalls telling him about a book he was studying in college, only to discover that his granddad knew it better than his Yale professor. Bill loved Ernest Haycox westerns and everything by Rudyard Kipling and poet Ogden Nash.
Bill had an encyclopedic knowledge of many subjects, including historic firearms, BSA and Velocette motorcycles (which he rebuilt from boxes of parts) and steam locomotives, which he loved to ride. He told many wonderful – and occasionally terrifying – stories of scrambling into metal mines throughout the American West for his work. A fount of local knowledge, Bill could look at a 1908 map of Myrtle Creek and tell you exactly who lived in each of the 50-some houses.
He is preceded in death by his wife, Clem Rice; his son, William D. Rice; and his sister, Marianne Rice, who died in infancy. He is survived by his daughters, Susan Rice (Rocky Corliss) of Bellingham, Wash., and Signe Newman; daughter-in-law Megan Monson of Myrtle Creek; his grandchildren, Cassidy Rice of Portland and Riley Rice of Lander, Wyoming; and a favored niece, Tina Ashworth of Myrtle Creek.
At his request, there will be no service.