Cover photo for Virgil David Gaskill's Obituary
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1940 Virgil 2024

Virgil David Gaskill

July 7, 1940 — January 3, 2024


 Virgil David Gaskill was born on July 7, 1940 to Edward Leo Gaskill and Irene Loretta Oliver-Gaskill in LaGrande Oregon. Irene gave birth to three boys, Lucky, Virgil, and Gary before tragedy struck the young family. Irene died when Virgil was just three years old.  Edward struggled to raise the boys and many family members stepped in to lend a hand. Virgil told many stories of growing up and living with different family members, like his Grandma Oliver and his Uncle Orvil and Aunt Betty. 

Later Virgil’s dad, Edward met and married Betty Schaefer in 1946. Together they had, Francis, Norman, and Leona. Making Virgil the second oldest of 6 children.

Virgil attended Clackamas Elementary where his love of music was encouraged. He told the story of being taught to play the fiddle by his fourth-grade teacher. Seeing his love of music, she graciously gave him her fiddle, allowing him to continue developing his skill.

He attended Clackamas High School where in his sophomore year, Virgil’s family fell on hard times. He quit school and took a job to help his family financially. During the day, he worked as a farm hand in the fields and at night in a kitchen café peeling 100 lb. sacks of potatoes.

In 1958, while in California he met Earleen Adams at a dance they both attended. They were married in Kennewick, Washington on January 24th, 1959. Their first home was in Lodi, California where their son Ron was born in 1960. The family then moved to Oregon in 1961 where their daughter Loretta was born in 1962.  

Virgil worked several different jobs in his lifetime. In his younger years he was a farm hand in California, a dairyman in Cornelious, Oregon, and a cattle ranch foreman in Ritzville, Washington. After moving to the Portland area, he took a job as a machinist at Boise Cascade before moving on to the vending machine world. He started out as route driver for Serv-o-mation delivering and filling vending machines around the Portland and Vancouver area. He told stories of the fun college machine restocks with many college students watching him work, waiting for a free hand out. Which he would occasionally do. Then, the not so fun restocks at the prison where he was escorted in and out of locked gates by an armed guard, being watched over while he worked. He worked his way up to a vending machine technician. This had Virgil working nights, away from his family often. Earleen and the kids would visit him at work, bringing him dinner and good conversations. Occasionally after dinner, dad would treat Ron and Loretta to a free hot chocolate from the breakroom. After an employee strike at Serv-o-mation, he was hired by Canteen. He started as a route driver, quickly moving up to technician and then to Route Supervisor. He then moved on to Vend Products where he was hired as the Warehouse Manager and Truck Boss where he stayed for many years until he retired. Virgil was a fair, hardworking man who was well liked by his employees and respected by his peers. And he expected the same hard work from his employees saying, “give me an honest day’s work and I will give you an honest day’s pay”. Virgil retired from Vend Products in 2008. 

Music was a large part of Virgil’s life and he came by it honestly. During family gatherings it was common to find Virgil playing his fiddle, with his father playing the spoons, his uncle’s: Orvile and Leonard playing fiddle and harmonica with their wives playing piano, while they all took their turns singing and harmonizing. It was a wonderful treat to all who were able to listen. He also really enjoyed playing music with his bothers, Lucky and Gary who both played guitar, Lucky also played the piano.  Virgil had an exceptional ear for music. Over the years, in addition to playing the fiddle Virgil taught himself to play the acoustic rhythm guitar, lead guitar, mandolin, harmonica and the steel guitar. 

Earleen shared Virgil’s love for music and they both shared that love with those around them.  In 1965 they started a band named the Rhythm Ranch Hands. Their first gig was at the Carver dance hall. Virgil in his western shirt and white cowboy boots, playing lead guitar and Earleen’s skirts and white go-go boots, playing bass guitar, with a drummer, became a familiar sight in the music community. They not only played in night clubs, honky-tonks, grange halls, CB clubs, Yacht clubs, Moose Lodges and Community Grange Halls. They also played for weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties, and celebrations. They became known as one of the best dance bands for any event, in the greater Portland/Vancouver area. Most Friday nights and Saturday nights were booked months in advance, with every other Sunday being reserved for dance club days. Local western dance clubs, like D Street Corral and Banks would host local bands to play one or two hour sets throughout the day. The Rhythm Ranch Hands were always there providing music as dancers circled the floor. Rain or shine, snow, or ice, you could count on them to be there.  Virgil and Earleen passed their love of music on to their son Ron and in 1973 he joined the band at the age of 12, as their drummer. And it was not uncommon to see Virgil’s nephews, Rick and Rob joining the bands gigs, along with other family members and friends. Virgil was very willing to share his love of music with anyone who wanted to join them on stage. Some of their many accomplishments included being a backup band for recording artist, Tommy Collins and they even cut a record (vinyl 45 for those of you who remember those) with Ray Gibson. The Rhythm Ranch Hands officially retired in 1984.

In the late 70’s Virgil and Earleen bought a ski boat and soon after a camp trailer. Many summer nights, after work you could find the family on the Columbia or Willamette River, just enjoying the water. Every July, a week was spent at Mayfield or Rife Lake in Washington state camping and boating with friends and family. A favorite saying of his was ‘A family who plays together, stays together.’ Virgil gladly spent hours pulling anyone and everyone around the lake on skis or a tube. Even strangers, if they asked to take spin. He also loved teaching others to ski. Making many great memories throughout the years.

They had several boats in the years following, growing in length and amenities with each new purchase. First a cuddy cabin, then one with a galley.  In 1995 Virgil and Earleen went to the Portland boat show where they saw a beautiful, 10 foot wide by 28 foot long, Bayliner cruiser, featuring a full galley and bathroom, that would sleep up to six people. Virgil later told his son Ron about the boat saying how great it would be to stay all night, right out on the water. No camping fees and fish whenever you wanted. But it was so big and wide that his pickup would not pull it. Ron jokingly commented “Dad if you buy the boat, I’ll buy the truck to pull it”.  A week later Ron was at a dealership buying a one-ton Dodge dually diesel pickup to pull the boat Dad had purchased. Virgil did eventually purchase a one-ton older ford pickup that would pull the oversize, wide load.

Every summer for a number of years, they would tow their wide load boat 3 hours up the freeway to Rife Lake, in Washington State, to spend 2 weeks living on the water. Virgil and Earleen loved having their grandchildren, Julie and Mike come stay with them for a week. Every morning, once the “signal” was heard that meant Gramps was awake, everyone would get up and take care of the first order of business. Gramps with his morning cigarette hanging out of his mouth, Mike by his side and mascot (a chihuahua, named “Little Guy”) loaded into the dingy and they paddled to shore for Little Guy to do his business. What a sight to behold… Ron, Loretta and many family members, like Virgil’s brother Gary and his son, David along with their families would join them throughout these times. Some staying on the boat with them, some bringing their own boat to tie up alongside, while others camped in the campground. Many hours were spent fishing and tubing during the day. In the evenings they would return to a quiet cove, tie up side by side to swap fishing stories and share a meal together. 

Virgil and Earleen had many wonderful adventures on the “Julie Ann” with family and friends. They traveled through the San Juan Islands every other year, for several years with George & Angie Smith from the Riverside Yacht Club, of which they were members.  They enjoyed salmon fishing with Art & Linda Riggs. Also crabbing on the Oregon coast with their son Ron, friends Barb & Art Hill, and Steve & Geanette Gates. They would catch and eat as much crab as a person could, before icing them down in preparation for freezing to bring home. They loved to share their catch with everyone.

In 2000, Their son, Ron, started his own business delivering cars and Dad would often join him in his big rig, hauling cars for dealerships and delivering them in the western states. They would spend several days on the road, sleeping in the truck, sharing truck-stop meals and always came home with some type of story of their adventure. There is one story that always seem to stick out above the others. Seems that after a long, hot day of gathering and loading cars for delivery, Dad and Ron climbed into the truck sleeper bunks for some rest. In the middle of the night Dad got a leg cramp and tried to jump out of bed to get some relief, forgetting he was on the top bunk. Ron was awoken by Dad hanging upside down by one leg, arms flailing, yelling, “Help me, help me.” Ron was laughing so hard, that he was very little help to Dad’s predicament. 

Around 2005, Virgil and Earleen realized true musicians never really retire as they found another outlet to share their talents.  That is when they started volunteering their time, playing music at the Estacada Community Center, raising money for the Meals on Wheels program. Every 1st and 3rd Saturday you could find Virgil sitting behind his steel guitar entertaining the community with a band once again.

Virgil was a fun-loving man who cherished his family above all else. He was a loving husband and father, who raised his kids to be hardworking and honest. And a grandpa who loved playing with his grandchildren and great grandchildren, even getting into trouble with them along the way.  Gramps was always fun to be around. Although he wasn’t as strong in his golden years, he was always there for family and friends with a warm hug, happy heart, and the ability to make you laugh at moment’s notice. Even near the end of life, the care facility staff commented on how they loved his sense of humor and the smile he always had for them as they entered the room.

Last year, when asked what his greatest accomplishments were, he simply stated “my kids”.

For the past 50 years Virgil and Earleen made their home in Damascus. Virgil was 83 years old when he passed away on January 3, 2024, surrounded by his family and friends; Just 21 days shy of their 65th wedding anniversary. 

Virgil is survived by his wife Earleen; son, Ron, and his wife Donna from Portland; Daughter, Loretta, and her husband Scott Vollmer from Caldwell Idaho; half-brother, Norman from San Luis Obispo, California; grandchildren; Julie and her husband Ron Plumondore from Boring; Mike and his wife Nicole Vollmer from Kuna Idaho; and Candy:  Five great-grandchildren; Emily, Gracie, Emma, Walter, Kaitlyn, and many nieces and nephews. He will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Virgil David Gaskill, please visit our flower store.

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Saturday, April 27, 2024

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