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Dee Richard Eberhart, 97, longtime Kittitas Valley resident, passed away on Sunday, May 22, 2022 at the Prestige Post-Acute Care & Rehab Center in Ellensburg. A graveside service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at the IOOF Cemetery, 1900 Brick Road in Ellensburg.
Dee was born on July 10, 1924 in Los Angeles, California. He was a child during the Great Depression, often telling of moves in an overloaded 1929 Plymouth. In 1933 the family migrated to Washington state from Aurora, Nebraska, where they settled in Toppenish on the Yakama Nation Reservation. Dee attended public school with many Yakama friends and worked a variety of summer jobs, including fruit picking. Turning 18 in 1942 made WWII service inevitable.
Ten days after graduating (1943), Dee reported for duty, moving from Fort Douglas Utah Reception Center to basic training at Camp Roberts, California to the Army Specialized Training Program at UCLA. He was accepted into Air Corps Cadet Training at Buckley Field, Colorado. On April 1, 1944 the Army clawed back tens of thousands for the infantry where the bloodletting and need for replacements was greatest. Dee was rolled out of the Air Corps and into the 42nd Rainbow Infantry Division.
He deployed from Camp Gruber, Oklahoma to serve as a rifleman and first scout in France, Germany, and Austria (1944-1945) with the 7th Army. He fought in the Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland, and Central Europe campaigns. On April 29, 1945, his 3rd platoon in Company I, 242nd Infantry Regiment was attached to the 1st Battalion 222nd Infantry for the attack against Munich. They liberated Dachau Concentration Camp that same day and on to Munich the next. After VE Day, he served in the Army of Occupation in Austria until going home for discharge at Fort Lewis, Washington, April 8, 1946.
On return to civilian life with the help of the GI Bill, Dee attended the University of Washington where he received a BA in Geography and Economics with honors. That was where he met his future wife of 69 years. He earned a masters (1950) at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and began a doctoral program. This was discontinued following the death of his faculty advisor. During this time, he also taught Geography at Ohio State University and East Tennessee State College.
Seven years after meeting his sweetheart, Barbara Boulton, they were married May 2, 1953. He served in the Cold War with the CIA in Washington, D.C. (1953-1954). This preceded the launch of his career with Larry Smith & Company, International Real Estate Consultants in Seattle and later San Francisco. He became a partner, and director of its subsidiary, Winmar Holding Co.
Dee joined the Geography Department at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington prior to the birth of their seventh child; this job did not require non-stop business travel. While at Central (1965-1986), he was promoted to Full Professor and named Distinguished Professor of Geography in Public Service (1980). After retirement, he received the Emeritus Professor award.
Dee gave generously of his time and knowledge to local, state, and national commissions and councils. He worked with Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Task Force to spearhead renovation of the central business district. He was proud to further the goals of the Washington Agriculture and Forestry Foundation while serving on its Board of Trustees (1988-1994).
He established area orchards which helped jump start a revival of fruit growing in Kittitas County. The appeal of orchards for Dee was rooted in what he saw growing up in the lower Yakima Valley during the Great Depression. While hard times were experienced by all, orchardists appeared to fare better than most.
Dee was a keen observer of events. He held memories of the war in precise detail. As a veteran, he was driven to find his buddies in the 42nd Rainbow Division. He became active in the Veterans Association and helped found the Rainbow Division Veterans Memorial Foundation. For decades, Dee and Barbara attended the annual and mid-year national reunions, as well as Northwest and California chapter events. They both served in leadership roles, Dee with the Veterans’ Association and Barbara with the Auxiliary. They traveled to Europe with friends and family countless times to participate in anniversary remembrances. Dee became a close friend and relation (through a daughter’s marriage) of survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent generations of their families. He was on the 42nd Division Veterans’ committee to dedicate a Memorial Plaque at Dachau Concentration Camp beside the Jourhaus Gate, “...in everlasting memory of the victims of Nazi barbarism” (May 3, 1992).
Closer to home, he was a volunteer for the Speakers’ Bureau with the Holocaust Center in Seattle to educate students and communities about humanity and lessons of the Holocaust. In 2020, for the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Dachau, The International Dachau Committee (CID) awarded Dee Eberhart its highest honor, the General André Delpech Prize. In a presentation made virtually, General Jean-Michel Thomas, CID President, stated, “This award honors the merits of those who have devoted themselves particularly to the objectives of this committee, either directly for the memory of the deportation in this camp, or more generally by fighting against fascism, racism and anti-Semitism and any other discrimination on political and religious grounds.” He continued, “You fought for liberty and you fought for history. You are a true example.”
The Yakama Tribal Council thanked Dee for his military service and his ongoing efforts to educate younger generations (March 13, 2020). Dee spoke to tribal leaders while standing at the tip of the spear--about the importance of his tribal friendships and the positive influence the Yakama culture had on him; it helped prepare him for what he experienced in the war and throughout his life.
Yakama Nation Veterans wrapped a Navajo Code Talker Pendleton blanket around him in recognition of his service, dedication, and ongoing efforts to educate the world about the atrocities of the Nazi regime.
Two collections of Dee Eberhart’s poems, Relics of War (2000) and Illusions: World War II Poems (2004) relate to his military service and infantry heritage. In place of flowers or memorial contributions, the family asks that you take the following poem to heart:
Be alert and full determined,
so that never again
will anyone anywhere ever again
be forced once more
to return to Dachau.
- From “Return Again” in Relics of War: World War II Poems by D.R. Eberhart
Dee is survived by wife, Barbara, four daughters, three sons and twelve grandchildren.
Johnston & Williams Funeral Home and Crematory of Ellensburg has been entrusted with caring for Mr. Eberhart and his family. Online condolences may be left at www.johnston-williams.com
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