Life long Wasco County resident and farmer, Dan C. Petroff Sr., passed away at home on October 14 at age 97.
Dan was born as the second of three children to George and Ethel (Engel) Petroff at the old The Dalles Hospital on February 1, 1919. He was raised in the greater Fifteen Mile area on both the Roberts Ranch and later the old Wilhelm Place.
Farm life was filled with chores for young children; sheep to be herded daily, hogs to be fed and wrangled, horses and mules to be carefully tended. Starting at about four years old Dan would head out alone each afternoon to herd the various livestock off the hillsides and down to the barn.
These were the times when first graders rode horses alone several miles to attend one-room schoolhouses. Dan attended Douglas Hollow grade school; his teacher boarded with the Petroff family. Dan recalled many late nights when he could hear his teacher stomping her foot in frustration downstairs as his dad George beat her at yet another hand of cards at the kitchen table.
High school was held in town at the old The Dalles High School. School buses had not been “invented” yet, so many times Dan would stay at a boarding house during the week in town and get a ride home on weekends. Eventually the school district purchased a large sedan car and carried students from the Fifteen Mile area into high school. Dan recalled not having enough seats for everyone to sit in the car; students sitting on each others laps with lunch pails ready to attack any unwanted pokes.
On the first day of high school Dan met two fellow students who would become his life long friends; Ed Sharp and Gene Adkisson. These three became a nearly inseparable trio through high school high jinx, farming lives and into used equipment auctions in later life.
In high school Dan was in the first class to enjoy the Future Farmers of America program. His favorite teacher, however, was a young English teacher named Miss Margaret Gates who was just beginning her long teaching career here in The Dalles. Dan and Ed Sharp and Gene Adkisson graduated in the DHS class of 1938.
Dan worked with his dad on the ranch until joining the Army in 1940. WWII was on the horizon and troops were being formed and trained. In the summer of 1941, Dan returned to the ranch to help his dad farm. Uncle Sam needed food to feed the soldiers too.
Meanwhile, wheat ranching practices had seen little change; mules were still the power source of choice along with large crews of ranch hands. After the war, Dan convinced his dad that tractors and “modern” equipment could replace the mules and much of the harvest crew. With some extra hard business calculations, he also convinced his dad that hogs were no longer the “cash crop” that they had been. Finally, the hogs were gone!
Dan married Nelda May Shaw in the summer of 1941. They were married for nearly 60 years until Nelda’s death in 2000. Over the years, Dan worked with Nelda and his mom and dad to build up the Petroff ranch in the Fifteen Mile area. Family is still farming there today.
Early on in retirement, Dan and Nelda enjoyed seeing some of the country beyond eastern Oregon with travels together to Hawaii, New Orleans and Florida.
Dan was a “natural” at mechanical engineering and repair.
In the 1970s he built his dream farm repair shop at the ranch. He spent his retirement years scouring equipment auctions from Southern Oregon through northeastern Washington with his good friend Ed Sharp. His shop was one of the best furnished in the area. Every day that Dan spent in his shop was a good day, save for the annual elk-hunting trip. Those were the best days!
Dan spent the last ten years of his life in The Dalles with frequent drives into the countryside of his beloved eastern Oregon. Rides in “the Buick” were highlights of the day. Long time companion, JoAn Henricks, finally got her wish to drive a vehicle for him.
Dan was a good and generous man, highly intelligent, a loving husband, father and grandfather. He will be sorely missed.
Dan was preceded in death by his wife Nelda, brother Ivan, sister Bernice, and parents George and Ethel.
He is survived by: children; Dan “Chuck” Petroff (Darlene), Ardis Petroff Kahrs and Joe Petroff (Pat); grandchildren: Shelly Fulton, Laurie Petroff Light (Steve), Ivan Petroff (Vicki), Anna Marie Petroff Byers, and Josh Petroff; ten great-grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews and cousins and his loving companion, JoAn Henricks.
Graveside services for Dan will be open to the public and held at Oddfellows Cemetery in The Dalles at noon on Tuesday, October 25, 2016.
Celebration of Life will also be open to the public and follow at 1 p.m. at Freebridge Brewing at 710 East 2nd St., The Dalles, where food and beverages will be provided.
Family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Heart of Hospice Foundation, Hood River, Ore., or to the charity of your choice.
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