I do not know if you have an interest in this story but it does have a Condon connection and is extremely interesting. Louie IHRIG homesteaded in Condon and his wife, Margaret (MALEY) Ihrig was born in Condon. The obituary I am sending inside this email is about their son, "Jack" John Keith Ihrig who died March 27, 2006. Jack is the son of Louie Ihrig and Margaret (Maley) Ihrig. Jack's sister, Norma Fite recently passed away as did Jack's wife: Margaret Esther Ihrig. She proceeded him in death January 27, 2006. The family is devastated as you can imagine in loosing these three family members so close together.

I will put in this email, "Jack" John Keith's obituary and a very interesting article about Jack and his wife, Margaret's relationship with Oregon Governor's wife, Mary Oberst. It seems that the Governor Kulongoski and his wife were friends with Jack and that Jack's wife, Margaret was a pen pal with Mrs. Kulongoski for 13 years and Mrs. Kulongoski attended Margaret's funeral in Granite, Oregon.

Obituary of "Jack" John Keith Ihrig:

John Keith "Jack" Ihrig, 75, died of acute leukemia on March 27, 2006, at Coquille at the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Sandra and James Young.

His funeral was at the McEwen Bible Fellowship in Sumpter. Interment was at the Granite Cemetery in Granite. Pastor Mark Norenberg officiated.

Jack was born on Aug. 20, 1930, at Mitchell. He married Margaret Winslow on Feb. 6, 1956. They had four children: Vickie Jo of Nampa, Idaho, Craig Lee, deceased, Sandra Jean of Coquille and Bryan Keith of Wilsonville.

Jack enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in April 1952 and made it his career for more than 21 years. During his career he received many commendations and awards. His tours of duty included Korea and several tours of Vietnam. He retired as a technical sergeant.

After he returned from the service, he and his family moved to Redmond. He worked at Cenex Co-op until his move to Granite in 1983. He served as a Grant County deputy sheriff for more than 18 years.

Jack was a proud man who not only served his country and community but his home. He was a good family man and a friend to all who knew him.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Louie and Margaret (Maley)Ihrig; his wife, Margaret; his son, Craig; and his sister, Norma Fite.

Survivors include his daughter, Sandra Young, and her husband, James, of Coquille; daughter, Vickie Mosqueda, and her husband, Fidel, of Nampa, Idaho; a son, Bryan Keith Ihrig, of Wilsonville; a brother, David Ihrig of Olympia, Wash.; and several grandchildren, great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of one's choice through Gray's West & Co., 1500 Dewey Ave., Baker City, OR 97814.


Now for the article that was published April 12, 2006 in the Baker City Herald:

Oregon's first lady loses her pen pal

Published: April 12, 2006

Mary Oberst has a lap quilt and three hand-written letters as momentoes of a 13-year pen-pal friendship with Margaret Ihrig of Granite. Oberst and her husband, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, met Margaret and John Ihrig in 1993 during a vacation in Eastern Oregon. Mary sent a note expressing thanks for the Ihrigs' hospitality, and Margaret wrote back. After that, the women swapped letters about every other month.

Baker City Herald/S. John Collins


Of the Baker City Herald

Mary Oberst thought Granite was a logical stop for a geology-themed vacation with her husband, Ted Kulongoski.

"I'd designed a geological tour of Oregon for our vacation," Oberst said. "Geology, Granite. We had to go see what was up there. Our guide book said Granite was a ghost town."

So they left Sumpter's dredge piles and headed northwest toward Granite — which boasts a store and a lodge and a population of about 25.

"We didn't expect a friendly reception — more like ‘What the heck are you doing here?'" she said.

They wandered through the cemetery and the seemingly deserted streets until they met residents Margaret and John Ihrig, who immediately befriended the strangers and gave them a historical tour of town.

"I felt if we hung around too long, they'd adopt us," Oberst said with a smile.

When they parted later that day, the four finally introduced themselves — sans last names.

"Ted and Mary, John and Margaret," Oberst said.

That was the summer of 1993, when Governor Kulongoski was the Attorney General and the couple still lived in Portland.

Upon returning home from that trip, Oberst was simply minding her manners when she sent a note of thanks, addressed to "John and Margaret, Granite, Oregon."

"Momma always said if someone's nice to you, write them a letter," Oberst said.

To her surprise, Margaret wrote back.

So Oberst sent another note, and thus began 13 years of a written relationship that transcended hundreds of miles and differences in lifestyles and careers.

It wasn't until the fourth letter that Margaret made some mention of Ted's position.

"Margaret said, ‘Oh, that's who your husband is.' We could pretty much count on two votes from the Granite precinct," Oberst said with a smile.

Oberst will no longer sort through her mail to find a thick envelope scrawled with the words "Office of the First Lady, State of Oregon."

Margaret passed away on Jan. 27, and Oberst received the news in a note from John.

John passed away March 27; the last card he sent to Oberst reads: "If you're ever up in the area, stop by and say hi. John and the Dogs, Skip and Chucky."

After Margaret's death, Oberst penned a tribute about the friendship — the first public recognition of their pen-pal relationship.

"(Margaret) was very private about it. She didn't flaunt it at all," said Dee Schnitzer of Granite, who has known the Ihrigs since 1997. "She'd just tell me about Mary who sent calendars she'd made by hand."

In Oberst's tribute, she writes "I learned from Margaret that living in rural Eastern Oregon, tucked into the mountains, is rhythmic and rigorous, and different from city life in ways that I hadn't imagined."

The two women documented their lives through letters — Oberst told of the projects she was working on as first lady of Oregon, and Margaret wrote about town potlucks and family visits and the many quilts she'd just completed.

"I felt, pretty much, completely inactive," Oberst said with a laugh.

And Margaret never missed a holiday — she even sent cards for Mary and Ted's anniversary.

"She must have had a great date book," Oberst said.

For one birthday, Kulongoski received more than a card — the Ihrigs sent a handmade fishing rod crafted by a family member.

The women swapped letters about every other month — Margaret's usually a couple handwritten pages, and Mary's typed on official letterhead.

"I'd read every letter out loud to Ted, that was the routine," Oberst said. "I think Margaret was quite amused by the life we lead."

Oberst, though, didn't always talk about the official business of being the first lady of Oregon.

"What was coming up in the garden, how I was spending my days," she said.

One of the commonalities these two women shared were social get-togethers — potlucks in Granite, block parties in Portland.

"I'd always say ‘What'd you take to the potluck?' And she'd ask what I'd take," Oberst said.

Those gatherings differed just a bit.

"There were more people at our block party than there were in Granite," Oberst said.

But it was Margaret's stories about winter grocery shopping trips to Baker City that still stand out in Oberst's memory.

"Our house was four blocks from one grocery store, three blocks from another. If I forgot something, I'd walk back," Oberst said.

Margaret didn't have that luxury — a one-way winter trip from Granite to Baker City takes about 1ޠhours.

"It was a way for me to understand the not-so-apparent rigors of living in Granite, or any other small town," Oberst said. "I'd never thought about what that means to a woman's life — that whole sense of planning and thinking ahead. We learned a lot, there's no doubt. And it wasn't like Margaret was clueing us in — she was just telling us what her week was like."

For a while, the written word was the only way they could stay in touch. Granite didn't receive telephone service until 2000.

"Letter writing was how she kept in touch with family," Oberst said.

And Oberst was no stranger to this type of correspondence.

"I used to have a letter-writing thing with my mother, who lived in Kentucky," she said.

One day, about six years ago, Margaret sent a letter to alert Mary that a package would soon arrive. When Oberst received the box, she discovered a handmade lap quilt made from antique handkerchiefs.

"In her letters she'd mention making quilts for friends," Oberst said. "It made me so happy — I was Margaret's friend."

The letters continued even after telephone service arrived in Granite, but Oberst sometimes resorted to a phone call when a gubernatorial visit to Eastern Oregon offered a chance to visit the Ihrigs.

"We'd make a beeline for John and Margaret's, stay a couple hours, then go do what we were supposed to do," Oberst said.

Their conversations ranged from Ted and John's military service — both served in Southeast Asia, though at different times and places — to life in Granite and John's duties as deputy sheriff.

"That role gave him a lot of stories to tell, and we loved hearing the stories," Oberst said.

Their last visit to Granite was in 2003.

"I can't always arrange Ted's schedule like I want to," Oberst said with a smile.

The visits, she said, were always comfortably casual.

"We could just go in blue jeans," she said. "It was a place we could go and be who we are. If we'd shown up in suits, I don't think they would have recognized us. They were just sweethearts."


I hope you enjoyed their story as much as I did. Sincerely, Sandra & Bill Ihrig, The Dalles, Oregon - sihrig@charter.net

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