November 7, 1933 - December 4, 2020
Leslie Gordon Wolfe passed away quietly in his sleep on Friday, December 4, 2020 at his home in Aurora, Oregon. Les was born on November 7, 1933 in Los Angeles, CA. His parents were Leslie E. and Nieoma E (Ells) Wolfe. Les’s father was a shop foreman for Paxton Truck Lines. His mother worked the assembly lines for Howard Hughes Aircraft during WWII, and later worked many years for Sears. Les’s dad was responsible for overseeing the transport of heavy equipment used during the construction of Disneyland. When all the families of the project were invited to visit Disneyland the day before it opened, his mother said that everyone was dressed for a formal affair, and it was so hot that all the women’s high heels sank into the fresh asphalt, necessitating overnight repairs before the grand opening the next day. Les grew up in Los Angeles. While still very young he and a bunch of his buddies liked jumping onto the sideboards of the neighborhood ice trucks as they made deliveries. One day he slipped and his leg got caught between the tire and fender well, tearing out a large portion of his lower left leg. Doctors first had to struggle to save his life. They then wanted to amputate his leg, but Les’s mom refused to consent. Doctors decided to try reconnecting torn muscles in a procedure seldom used. Their success was written up in the medical journals of the time. Les had to relearn how to stand up, walk, and run. He was often teased at school when he’d walk the halls on the balls of his feet as prescribed by doctors in order to build new muscles. Christmas that year was an unprecedented bonus for Les: he shared that so many people were grateful that he had survived that he received far more gifts than was usual. Les attended schools in Los Angeles with his best friend Bill Huffman. The two starred in football while at Fremont High. Les was named 1st Team All-City in 1952. At the time LA schools graduated two classes yearly. Les, Bill and high school pal Chuck Clark graduated in February, and accepted offers to play football for legendary Ducks coach Len Casanova at the University of Oregon. The three played spring ball...and then Les flunked out of school. He said in hindsight that he wasn’t mature enough to handle starting school mid-year. He returned home—as did his friends, although for different reasons—and after a summer at Los Angeles City College Les went back to Eugene. He was proud to say that he made the Dean’s List every term for the rest of his academic career. Les captained the Frosh Football team in 1953, and was playing on the 1954 Varsity—as a 5’10” 200 pound Guard—until multiple shoulder injuries that season ended his playing career. He remained in contact with Coach Casanova for decades afterward, and considered him to be a major influence on how he coached and related to his student/athletes. Les lettered that season, and also lettered as a member of Oregon’s Wrestling Squad. In the spring of 1955 Les noticed, from his seat in the back of a classroom, a cute co-ed in the front row. At a social event later that spring he saw the same young lady, approached her and began talking with her, apparently unconcerned that her date was next to her. Les relentlessly pursued her in later days in class, asking her out often enough that Laverne Stait finally relented and they began dating. They married on September 8, 1956 in Astoria, Oregon, and remained by each other’s side for the next 64 years. In 1957 Les received his draft notice and was on an Army transport ship en route to Korea when it stopped in Hawaii. While there a call was made for any soldiers who could type to step forward. A capable typist who also had experience as a typesetter, Les was taken off the transport and assigned as a typesetter for the Adjutant General in Hawaii. This was a pretty good gig for a last moment fill-in! Laverne earned enough money to pay to travel Hawaii and the two remained in Hawaii for the duration of his service. In 1959 they returned to Eugene, and Les completed his student teaching. He earned his Bachelor’s degree, and was hired to teach Social Studies and be the Head Football, Head Wrestling, and Head Baseball Coach at Harrisburg High School. (“I didn’t know anything about baseball, but they needed a coach. They basically coached me,” he said.) After one year and one football championship Les and Laverne moved to Winston, Oregon, where once again Les taught Social Studies and was the head football and frosh basketball coach at Douglas High School. He also earned extra money refereeing wrestling. The four years there were eventful. Les and Laverne developed relationships with the coaches and their families that last to this day. The Feigner family, the Richards family, and the Wells family would gather together nearly every Saturday morning for a group breakfast, which was usually announced by three families waking the fourth by loudly pounding on pots and pans in the kitchen while they cooked. In 1962 Les and Laverne adopted son Lennie, and in 1964 son Lonnie was born. Both sons followed closely in their father’s footsteps. Lonnie wrestled at Southern Oregon, and became a teacher, school administrator and wrestling referee. Lennie played baseball at Pacific and became a teacher, Head Baseball coach, football and wrestling assistant coach, and also refereed. Les earned his Master’s degree in Administration and after one year as Vice Principal at Philomath High School accepted the Woodburn High School Principal in 1965. After three fantastic years there, he accepted a job as an educational consultant for a federal organization. In 1972 the family moved to California where Les became a vice-principal at McClymonds High School. A highlight during that time was when he introduced the boys to Mack Alum and NBA legend Bill Russell at a hoops tourney. A low point was being included on a hit list produced by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the group that kidnapped Patricia Hearst. For a few short days Les had a police escort each day at school until the SLA members met their demise. While at Mack, Les earned his Educational Doctorate in Organization and Leadership from the University of San Francisco in 1978. Dad had earned the title of Dr. Wolfe, a title he preferred not to use! In the winter of 1978 the family moved back to Woodburn when Les joined the NW Regional Educational Lab, a nationally renowned think tank. The following years included tenures at Dayton, Elmira and North Marion as a school superintendent. Les finished his full time educational career as a teacher and counselor at Chemawa Indian School in Salem. In retrospect Les commented that his time spent as a teacher, developing relationships with his students, was the most fulfilling and enjoyable part of his 40+ years in Education. He was also a Life Member of the Masonic Lodge in Woodburn. The late ‘80’s brought grandkids Katie and Dan, special outings with them all over the northwest, two trips with Laverne to Scotland, and countless sporting events to watch Lennie’s teams and of course Katie and Dan’s youth, high school and college events. Les loved meeting the families of those teams, and Les and Laverne were invited by many of Lennie’s players to attend their weddings in later years. Les is survived by his wife Laverne; his sister-in-law Merilyn Dunn and his three nieces and their families; his son Lennie (Michelle); son Lonnie; grandchildren Kaitlin Daugherty (Derek) and Daniel Wolfe (Lauren); and great-grandchildren Ryann and Jaxon Daugherty and Emmett and Cal Wolfe. The family will hold a private celebration of life when the conditions permit. In the meantime, they want to thank everyone for all of their best wishes.
Leslie Gordon Wolfe passed away quietly in his sleep on Friday, December 4, 2020 at his home in Aurora, Oregon. Les was born on November 7, 1933 in Los Angeles, CA. His parents were Leslie E. and Nieoma E (Ells) Wolfe. Les’s father was... View Obituary & Service Information
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