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Harold Wayne Churchill

April 17, 2014

Harold Wayne Churchill

On April 4, 2014, the Churchill, Lewis, and Hughes families, lost a great man. Harold Wayne Churchill, known since grade school as “Church,” age 104, was born on Nov. 11, 1909, in Hopkins, Mo. The eldest of seven children, he spent his early years in the farming community of Fort Morgan, Colo., where he graduated from high school. He then farmed for himself and his grandmother, worked as a chemist at the sugar mill in town, and during the depression was an itinerant worker, picking fruit, logging and occasionally living in hobo jungles as he drove his 1929 Chrysler “Hulda” all over the west. Just before World War II he settled in Los Angeles, going to work for North American Aviation in the Purchase Labor department. When the war broke out, Church enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was deployed in the Lighter-than-Air Division as a mechanic. He was based at Moffett Field and later Homestead, Fla., where he participated in submarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico. North American recalled him to assist in their part of the war effort, much to his disappointment – he loved the Navy. FDR was the first president he voted for, and he was proud to say he voted for him all four terms.
At a party in Los Angeles, he met Kathleen Carpenter (Katie), the love of his life. Church’s date had gotten sick and couldn’t make it; Katie’s date saw the chemistry between the two of them, got mad, and left. Church and Katie married on June 23, 1945. They settled in Lawndale and had two daughters, Kathie and Ruth. Later places of residence were Westminster, El Segundo, Oceanside, Fallbrook, and Bishop.
Church worked for North American for nearly 30 years, after which he retired and worked some more. He sold real estate, remodeled kitchens, built a truck stop, and did all sorts of handy work. He was a kind, gentle man who listened well and appreciated a good story. Louis L’Amour was his favorite author. He was Gaga or Granddad, and Uncle Church, Papa Church, and more to his nieces, nephews, and friends of his daughters – always willing to listen and share a tale of his own. He helped his grandchildren with first-hand reports of the Dust Bowl for their social studies classes and was even known to dress up as Elvis to humor a family friend.
He enjoyed traveling and drove the family all over the U.S. and Canada visiting friends and relatives. After retiring, he and Katie added Alaska, the Panama Canal, the British Isles, New Zealand and Australia to their travels and made annual trips to Portland, Ore., to visit friends and fish for salmon. Over his lifetime, Church was the proud owner of 39 cars – mostly used – but he named only one of them. He was quick to help his neighbor, whether it was a roof that needed replacing or a dripping faucet; and so long as he was able, he was active in his church.
In Bishop, he had many good friends and became somewhat of a fixture at the local Senior Center, where he sat at a table with seven women – they called it “Harold’s Harem.” He lived on his own after Katie passed away on May 7, 2003, until 2011, when he broke his hip. He lived with his daughter Ruth and her husband Lynn the past three years. His last days were spent at the Bishop Care Center, where he received thoughtful and gentle care.
Harold/Church was predeceased by wife Katie, his parents, Lloyd and Vanchie Churchill, and siblings Lynn, Harlan, Raymond “Bud,” Ruth Guido, and Harvey “Bob.”
He is survived by daughters and sons-in-law, Kathie and Michael Lewis of Genoa, Nev., and Ruth and Lynn Hughes of Bishop; grandchildren, Travis and Melanie Hughes, Mike and Jodi Hughes, Lindsay Hughes, and Erin Lewis and Chris Drysdale; great-grandchildren, Cameron Brooks, Madeleine, Emma, Emerson, and Collette Hughes, and Sophia Reno; his sister, Lorene Carroll of McCook, Neb.; countless, cherished nieces and nephews, including those who adopted him as their own; and many wonderful, special friends who will miss him.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, April 26 at First United Methodist Church, 205 N. Fowler St., Bishop. The family requests that donations be made to the Bishop Senior Center in lieu of flowers.

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