Cherished community leader Dixie Gatchel, age 96, passed away on February 6, 2021.
Dixie was born in La Grande, Oregon and graduated from high school there in 1942. Dixie did venture off to California to attended San Jose State College and eventually to Portland, Oregon where she would meet Clay Gatchel.
Dixie and Clay met when he stopped in Portland to visit while on his way north to Alaska after having served three years in the military. It was Dixie’s mom that suggested she show Clay around Portland and Dixie obliged. They hit it off and three weeks, yes, three weeks after the chance meeting, Dixie and Clay were married! As newlyweds they spent their honeymoon in a rain-soaked tent at Longmire on a slope of Mount Rainier.
The Gatchels employment took them to New York and then Florida to live for a while but eventually they returned to the Pacific Northwest. They settled in the Renton/Issaquah area where they lived for 25 years until a tree fell on their home.
They chose Puyallup as their next home and moved to an apartment on the South Hill. This is where their connection to the Foothills Rails-to-Trail Coalition and its Courtesy Patrol began. Eventually, the Gatchels would move to the apartment in downtown Puyallup, where Dixie recently passed away. Dixie and Clay shared a total of 57 years of love and adventure as a couple before he passed away in 2005. She was especially thankful for the final years that she and Clay were able to spend together as goodwill ambassadors on Courtesy Patrol along the Foothills Trail.
Dixie would go on to join Ernie Bay, Bob and Diane Kastama and Friends of the Riverwalk to partner with the City of Puyallup to work on getting the Riverwalk Trail built.
A few of Dixie’s many other contributions and accomplishments over the years: Dixie failed trying to climb to the summit of Mount Rainier ten times, but she never gave up and eventually succeeded on three occasions. Persistence with a Purpose!
The Gatchels began volunteer service with Mount Rainier National Park in 1985. In 1992 they were asked to take on a huge challenge – growing the Park’s Volunteer In Parks (VIP) program. Overtime Dixie and Clay managed to get hundreds of people to join the program which equated into thousands of volunteer hours.
The VIP program went international in 1994 when students from Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan traveled to Mount Rainer Nation Park to volunteer time for specific projects. In addition to managing volunteers, they wrote a newsletter and helped to develop partnerships with REI, Target and many other companies and organizations.
Their hard work and dedication did not go unnoticed for their outstanding work with the Mount Rainier National Park VIP program, a ‘Take Pride in America Award’ presented to them by United States President George W. Bush.
In 2018 Dixie was presented the Rainier-to-Ruston Rail-Trail Relay – Founders Award for her 16 years of dedication at the Puyallup Station, and leadership in Friends of the Riverwalk to complete a link between the Puyallup Riverwalk and Foothills Trail.
There is an inscription on a sign near the memorial swing bench which was dedicated to Dixie on June 25, 2019 in Puyallup’s Van Lierop Park that reads, “In appreciation of her tireless volunteer service within the trail community and to the City of Puyallup. Her vision and tireless advocacy helped shape the Riverwalk Trail and other regional trails in neighboring communities” and “THANK YOU”.
One of Dixie’s, favorite sayings is also on the sign, “Happy Trails!”