YAKIMA - Walter Stanley Lange passed away on Good Friday, April 18, 2014 at sunset, in the home where he was born, lived and died.
Walt was born the last of 11 children to Joseph and Adolphine Lange on February 17, 1928. His early years were spent with older brothers who introduced him to his love of the outdoors. Fishing and hunting became constant companions throughout his life. Love of Labradors continued all his life and we were never without at least one. He was a first generation American and proud of his German-Russian heritage.
Walt began his baseball career at Yakima High School under the tutelage of John Zaepfel, who converted him from a catcher to a fireball pitcher. He went on to play for Yakima Junior College, and still holds the record for pitching four complete double headers and winning all eight games for coach Bim Hoff. He was invited to try out for the Yankees and of course became a lifelong Yankee fan. A big regret was that he missed being introduced to Babe Ruth by one day. He was drafted into the United States Army during the Korean police action and was stationed for two years in Germany. While stationed in Germany he played baseball for the 242nd Barons, entertaining American servicemen in Europe and playing with such notables as future Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. Walt was pleased to see Yakima getting The Pippins, a baseball team that utilizes college players and had looked forward to watching them play.
Upon his discharge and return home, he purchased his parents home and orchard property and began farming. He and Evva were married in 1961 and together they raised their two sons, all working together raising apples, cherries and peaches. The freeze of '64, which split apple trees in two, caused him to replant the entire orchard. In what he referred to as being ''young tree poor," he went to work at Boise Cascade on the night shift and continued farming during the day to support his family. He never really retired from farming. When Taylor Ranches replanted the farm to Honey Crisp, his final dreams were fulfilled, in keeping the ranch intact as an orchard and not a bunch of houses.
He was an avid water skier and many summer days were spent as a family and with friends in the basin area or Rimrock Lake where all fished, skied and camped. Having been brought up during the Depression, Walt practiced conservation and recycling long before it became the "in thing." Walt's recycling practice became a family joke as we always came home with more aluminum cans then we went with.
He introduced Craig and Joe to hunting and fishing at a young age. He was especially thrilled to share his love of fishing with his grandchildren; something they all enjoyed throughout his life. One of his biggest thrills was when they were fishing the Columbia River and he hooked a sturgeon. When they finally got it to shore for a picture it turned out to be bigger than the boat. His parting conversation to guests was always, "And, how's fishing?" Fishing trips were always special, and times in Alaska with family and friends continued to be highlights in his fishing experiences, although his early youthful experiences tramping the Cowiche Creek rated just as high. He was interested in the rehabitation of the Cowiche Creek to salmon return and extremely pleased that it has finally been accomplished.
In later years, Walt began raising pheasants, quail and chuckers, which he would turn loose in the area or in a habitat where they could survive. He took great pleasure in this endeavor. He was an avid collector of apple box labels and any kind of baseball cap. He was a Master Gardener. His love of the land and respect for Mother Nature was a constant in his life and reflected in his farming practices.
He was a champion checker player, which Evva learned early in their marriage, as he would get her down to one piece while he still had most of his on the board, then ask "do you want to turn it around?" then promptly beat her with the one piece. He particularly looked forward to times at the beach digging for razor clams where he and sister Helen would compete in who could get their limit the quickest.
Walt and Evva enjoyed travel; Hawaii during the winter months and Walt's many fishing trips to Alaska and British Columbia. They spent times visiting Europe where they reconnected with German cousins. Many of the foreign visitors they entertained over the years became family, including Barbara, Christina, Monica, Pia and Madelyn, Swiss maidens, who called Walt their American Father.
He was a member of Washington State Farm Bureau, Pheasants Forever, Veterans Fruit Growers, Tree Top, Yakima Co-op, Central Washington Agriculture Museum, Washington State Hort. Association, Westpark United Methodist Church (formerly United Evangelical Brethren, originally a German speaking church), an original and retired Volunteer Fireman of the West Valley Fire Department, Parker Youth Foundation, Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
He was preceded in death by his parents, sister, Lydia Krell and brothers, Edmond, Hugo, Otto, Arthur, Halmuth, Bernhard, Herbert, and Ernest.
Walt is survived by his wife, Evva, sons Craig (Ovella) of Camdenton, Mo. and Joe (Jennifer) of East Wenatchee, three grandchildren, Jessica, Kristian and Karmen Lange, one great-grandson, Hunter Miller, sister, Helen Lange of Kaneohe, Hawaii and numerous nieces and nephews.
His family would especially like to thank all the blood donors who provided Walt with four more years; Jacque's love and concern, along with her expert health care, lifelong friends who either preceded or survive Walt; the entire staff from receptionists, volunteers, nurses and doctors at North Star; Alex Hernandez and family; and the many faithful neighbors and friends who walked along on Walt's journey through life.
Memorials may be directed to North Star Lodge, Camp Prime Time, Parker Youth Foundation or the donor's preference.
A Memorial service will be held at Rainier Memorial Center, 2807 Terrace Heights Rd., Yakima on Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. Full military honors will be conducted by William Wharton Post #379 VFW and Washington State National Guard. Keith & Keith Funeral Home are entrusted with arrangements. To celebrate the life of Walter and share a memory visit www.keithandkeith.com.