Obituary of Nathan Eugene Hafer
NATHAN EUGENE HAFER was the firstborn child for Raymond Eugene and Orvalla Lavelle Hafer on January 15, 1958. Raymond and Orvalla grew up near one another across the Grande Ronde Canyon near Promise, Oregon. They married in 1956, and once the Bureau of Reclamation established water in Eastern Washington, they moved to Washington state and began working their first 80-acre farm. Two years later, Nathan was born at Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco, Washington. In 1963, they sold this land, and the family of six, as they had grown with two brothers, Justin and Randy, and his sister, Holly, moved up the road 15 miles to farm 320 acres on the east end of the Wahluke Slope just in time for Nathan to begin Kindergarten at the Othello School District, where he attended through graduation.
Nathan surely enjoyed life on the farm from raising bummer lambs, calves, and more to building their childhood treehouse in the big locust tree where they all spent hours hanging out in the fort. As young boys with farm tools and machinery nearby, a few mishaps were sure to befall during those formative years from an ax injury to his thumb and the skin peeled right off his hands while trying to operate Dad’s grinder, which retrospectively provides foreshadowing for Nathan’s knack of inventing clever methods to safely work. He participated in 4-H showing pigs, sheep, dairy, and steers. At the rodeo one year, he caught a heifer calf during the kid scramble. He named her, Fair Girl. Ahhh…but Nathan’s affinity was for the equine. He loved his horses and later his mules. They had a little Shetland pony named, Popcorn, and he was the only one who could make her tow the line. See…Popcorn enjoyed bucking off her riders and running back home without them, yet that trick didn’t work on Nathan. With burgeoning lessons of how to handle a horse, he eventually went the next step to Little Chief as the first horse he broke to ride.
A loving memory of the family was in the late ’60s when they attended the Baptist Church in Basin City. His mother taught Sunday school, cleaned the church preparing for Sunday services, and most memorable…their baptism. The baptism was at Ringold in the Columbia River. The church organ was transported to the river, and as it was played, family and friends alike, all sang in celebration. Orvalla, Nathan, and his two brothers committed themselves to Christ and were baptized together in the Columbia River.
During his Junior High years, he started to play football one season. The first opponent he hit during play, the young man was injured and carried off the field. Nathan never played again. Early on and throughout his life, he was so very tender-hearted and never wanted to cause harm. He still participated in sports, yet often on the sideline filming football and basketball games for the school. During those years, he developed a keen interest in motorcycles as it was the main form of transportation on the farm to change water and offered fun entertainment in the sand dunes. Nathan became quite adept and soon started racing at the Ephrata raceway. Continuing into high school, his adventurous spirit drew him to trying the world of high school rodeo where he enjoyed riding bulls.
At the age of 19, Nathan bought a harrow bed and began custom hay stacking. On one such occasion, he was on a farm near the potholes putting up hay with a team of guys. At about 10:00 a.m., it was fairly dry, so the others stopped bailing and went to town for breakfast. Nathan stayed and kept stacking hay and came across a rattlesnake he had to deal with. Being a fun-spirited prankster, he placed the expired rattlesnake in the twine box of the bailer and set himself up to watch for their return. Upon opening the box, the unsuspecting recipient slammed it shut nearly taking a finger or two all the while hurriedly backing away yelling, “Nathan! I am going to get you back!” They had fun recalling this story throughout the years…of course, it was usually with a good 25 feet between them. After high school, Nathan continued steadily working in the farm industry and developing his pack of mules.
Nathan’s love of horses continued into his adult life. He first began owning quarter horses and eventually gravitated more towards mules. He often spoke of July, his big yellow beloved mule he raised, broke and partnered with for team roping and mountain riding and packing. RK came next, not as big as July, yet they were a team to be reckoned with at any team roping event, occasionally taking home the winning purse. Nathan loved the mountains and planned regular trips to the Blue Mountains and the Eagle Caps as his favorite destinations. Once he had his two sons, as soon as they were able to sit on top of the pack-saddle on their steady mule, Molly, they were off on mountain adventures. Between his horses and his Jack, Showtime, the ten mules they have today are all bred and raised by Nathan. On one packing occasion with the Boy Scouts, one of the leaders was injured breaking his leg in the wilderness. Nathan prepared a make-shift splint and secured his leg then carefully hauled him out of the mountains.
He hunted all of his life, and his mules played a big part in the hunting voyages. And, at times, what started out as a hunting trip turned into a grand camping excursion with lots of yummy grub with his brilliant dutch-oven cooking delights (his cobblers were a treat!)…and yes, perhaps a rodeo, because he usually took along a green broke mule where much bucking and exuberant antics may erupt. The talents he learned from his life experiences surely came in handy.
Coupling his creative, inventive side with life as a mountain, mule packing, cowboying fella, he took an interest in crafting leather where he made saddles pack-saddles, chaps, halters, tack, and so much more. A tradition of his mom was to purchase a sewing machine for each of her children when they married. Nathan’s machine sewed leather. This talent afforded many ways he found to help people as he was just as often working on his own projects as he was repairing and crafting leather goods for others.
Nathan met the love of his life, Jamie Renee Dietrich, at his Uncle Chet’s fall cattle roundup at Eden Bench in the Blue Mountains. Within two weeks after the roundup, Nathan visited Jamie at college and took her on their first date to the Ellensburg Dairy Queen. They dated for the next two and half years and on a return trip from the annual family reunion at Promise, Nathan proposed and she said, yes. They married on February 27, 1999, at the Nazarene Church in Othello. Four years later, they welcomed Connor James Hafer on October 9, 2002, and then Cody Ray Hafer on January 4, 2005. Nathan was smitten. All the mountaineering/hunting/and other adventures were set aside until they could experience them together as a family. He loved his family and devoted the rest of his life to them. Nathan was a stay-at-home parent and loved every second he spent as a husband to Jamie and father to his sons. The only hiccup along the way was messy pampers…yet in true creative, Nathan-fashion, a simple solution emerged. Water…give’em a quick shower.
The values Nathan learned from his own father and mother; he portrayed and passed on…respect, humility, care for others, and to lead a wholesome, faith-filled life.
And what a life they had together. Their boys were active, and they spent their time lovingly supporting them in school, sports, showing animals…all the things Nathan and Jamie experienced in life growing up with their own families are passed on to them. Of course, Nathan never lost his teasing, prankster spirit…his boys and all their friends were good scouts and expected this levity from their Dad.
These last few years, Nathan, Connor, and Cody spent time working on the family farm. They bonded over bending wrenches, mechanic’ing, learning the different lines of equipment and each tools’ purpose to move dirt, till the ground, plant crops, and more. They with other family members all worked together to install a high-tech sprinkler system on the circles…each had their own job to perform and collectively, they completed an important enhancement for the farm’s crop production. This is how Nathan worked to prepare his sons…teaching them important life skills, working cohesively, and loving family and others.
Nathan’s latest venture found him in Mississippi helping his dear long-time friend when Nathan became ill. After hard-fought several days, at the age of 63, Nathan passed away in the early morning hours on September 20, 2021, with his sweetheart, Jamie, nearby. This kind-hearted, humble, wilderness-loving faithful father and husband bequeaths a spirit of tenderness, devotion, and long-lasting love.
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