Henry Levi Yates

December 16, 1933 ~ March 20, 2022 (age 88)


Henry was born in Billings, Montana to Levi and Marjorie Yates. He was the second of five children and grew up on his parents’ ranch on the Stillwater River near Absarokee, MT.  Henry liked ranch life: helping his dad move cattle to and from their mountain rangeland, helping with irrigating, haying in summer, and feeding cattle in the winter. In addition to his ranch chores, he found time to catch trout out of the Stillwater and hunt deer in the hills.  He shot his first buck when he was thirteen.

As a youngster, he attended several one-room schools and later attended the high school in Absarokee. When he was sixteen, his parents sold their ranch and moved the family to south-central Florida, where his father had purchased land. Henry didn’t care much for Florida.  The heat, humidity, and plentiful bugs were not to his liking.  He attended his last two years of high school at Fort Mead H.S. in Fort Meade. He played football on the school’s team and made many friends.  His teammates called him “Mountain Goat”; not only because he was from Montana, but because he could climb Sand Mountain (at the time the highest point in Florida at 210 feet) faster than his teammates.

After graduating high school, he went to Jacksonville and attended business school, studying accounting.  He also worked part-time clerking in a store to help pay tuition. While there, he met a customer who said he was moving out West to a place called Burns, Oregon to work in a huge covered pine lumber mill.  The man said he had two vehicles and was looking for someone to drive one of them to Oregon, since his wife didn’t drive.  Henry had always hoped to return to Montana and knew that Oregon was a lot closer to Montana than Florida.  He quit school and his job, and drove their pickup across the country to Burns. It wasn’t too long until he also found a job at the lumber mill and spent 33 years working for Edward Hines. It was in Burns that he met his future wife Sherrill. They were married a year later.

In 1956, he was drafted in the Army. After basic training, he was stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama for two years and was assigned to the Post Engineers. After his discharge, he returned home and spent three years in the National Guard.

In the early 1980’s, when Edward Hines closed its doors, many people left but Henry stayed.  He did ranch work and worked for the U.S. Forest Service. He even spent a month in Georgia training some men to operate a Portland rip saw for Peachtree Doors in Gainesville. They asked him to stay and continue working for them, but as that would mean living in the South again, he said no. After the mill was sold to Snow Mountain Pine, he was hired as an edgerman and stayed there for an additional 10 years.

After retirement he and Sherrill traveled to Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, and the desert Southwest. He also made many trips back to Montana to visit relatives, old friends and to camp on Yates property near the Beartooth Range of the Rockies.

Henry loved living in Harney County and exploring the desert. As an avid and skilled outdoorsman, he loved fishing the Blitzen River System and deer hunting in the fall at his brother-in-law’s ranch near Crane.  He was also a skilled gardener who grew prize winning flowers and a vegetable garden that could feed an entire neighborhood, which he often did.  It was his pride and joy.

Henry was predeceased by his parents, sister Louise, and brothers Jim and Richard.  He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Sherrill; daughter Sandra Yates and husband Dave Faul of West Linn, OR; daughter Karlyn Yates-Mills and husband Randall Mills of Burns; sister Sharon Burnsed and husband Hugh Burnsed of Ft. Meade, FL; brother-in-law Allen Bailey of Lakeland, FL; sister-in-law Jean Bryan of Bradenton, FL; grandchildren Patrick Mills of Pendelton, OR and Shana O’Keefe of Grants Pass, OR;  great-grandchildren Ri and Royal Tobin of Grants Pass, OR; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins in Florida and Montana.

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