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LTC Dale LaFlors - On Behalf of a Grateful Nation
A memorial service was recently held for LTC(Ret) Dale LaFors, a retired Pharmacy Officer, who passed away at Madigan Army Medical Center on 3 August 2001.For those of you who did not know Dale, the following was written by the Reverend Dale Cockrum, Pastor of the First Methodist Church in Olympia, Washington, and read at the service:"Claud Dale LaFors was born on the ninth of November 1913, in Reardan, Washington, the son of Claud West and Dolly Alice Mix LaFors.Dale was born upstairs, above his father's smoke shop and pool parlor.His father also was one of the first auto mechanics in Lincoln County, who kept Reardan's only car, owned by a local doctor, in good running order.The doctor was grateful enough for his father's service that he would on occasion, lend his car to Dale's father and mother for hunting expeditions in the nearby countryside!The family kept looking to better their circumstances, and Dale remembers living for a time in Burke, Idaho, home to the Heckla Mining Company, and located in such a narrow valley that the post office was built directly over the stream that ran down the valley-there wasn't any other place to put it!A year or so later, his father took work in the copper mines of Butte, Montana, and Dale had the misfortune of sitting on a broken bottle.He quite well remembers the doctor, who came directly to their house, taking a couple of stitches in his bottom without benefit of anesthesia, with his mother and a couple of neighbors holding him down.Perhaps it was that experience that led Dale to a career as a pharmacist, helping others avoid unnecessary pain!During the First World War, the family moved to Spokane, and Dale's father ran a delivery service.Dale remembers that the truck had hard rubber tires, and so the ride was none too comfortable.When the flu epidemic struck during those years, he did double duty as an ambulance driver, though more often than not, with no vaccines and high casualty rates, all he could do was transport the bodies of the victims of flu to the morgue.His father told one particular story of how one of the victims revived on the way to the morgue, much to everyone's surprise, and, I think, heightening Dale's interest in medicine.A move to Newport followed, where mom and dad operated one of the two motels in town, the Commercial, then back to Spokane.One of Dale's fondest memories of this period of his life grew out of the summers spent with his Aunt Sadie and Uncle Eli on their farm in the Palouse.He recalls his fascination with all that went into farming.In the spring of 1921, Dale's dad finally found his niche in starting a stage line from Ione to Newport.His first stage was a beauty, built on a Reo chassis and able to accommodate eight passengers, their luggage and additional freight.Its wooden body all stained and varnished was a sight to see, and its leather upholstery cool but durable.Dale writes,"We drove into Ione, a town with a four-block long business district, a grade school, high school, two churches, a post office, train station, and now a bus station at the Pend Oreille Hotel where we pulled up to spend our first night in town.A stage on the streets of Ione drew a crowd of interested town people.A brand-new motor-driven stage was something new and startling….Everyone wanted to feel, see and touch this new conveyance never before seen in this isolated river town.I know how proud I was of this man, my father, for dreaming his dream of going into the stage line business."Dale spent his school years in Ione, graduating from high school there.His was a happy childhood, with many friends, books to read and games to play.He excelled in baseball and track.School was rewarding, and he completed high school in just three years.His father even served, for a time, as the mayor of Ione.After high school, Dale attended Gonzaga College in Spokane for one year, and then matriculated at WSU, graduating in 1937 from the School of Pharmacy.As a student, he was deeply involved in ROTC, and rose to the rank of Lt.Colonel.He was assigned as the commander of a Battalion, which consisted of three infantry companions of three platoons each-quite an honor.As you know, Dale remained a devoted Cougar all his life!While he was at W.S.U., another student caught his eye, and apparently he caught hers as well.Alletia Sleater worked in the bookstore, and knew most of the other students, but there was something about this young handsome pharmacy student that led her to invite him to the Mortarboard Dance, which was a tolo, or Sadie Hawkins-style dance.He accepted and they quickly deepened their friendship.He proposed to Alletia in his senior year, and they were married soon after, on November 13, 1937.Together, they shared over 63 years of married love.Dale's first venture into pharmacy was in Bellingham, but in the heart of the depression, he knew he could not provide for the family he wanted working at someone else's drug store, so he took advantage of his ROTC training, and entered the Army in 1939 as a Second Lieutenant, taking his first post at Fort Lewis, where he was one of the first 16 pharmacists to be commissioned in the Medical Administrative Corps (which was changed to the Pharmacy Corps in 1943, and later to the Medical Service Corps).He was also, incidentally, the last surviving member of the group prior to his death, the only one who worked at all three locations of the Fort Lewis hospital, now Madigan Army Medical Center, and the oldest working pharmacist at his retirement at the age of 82 in 1996!Dale's military career spanned 26 years, with service in locations that spanned the globe, from India to Okinawa to Germany.You can chart the growth of their family by following their journeys.Michael was born at Fort Lewis, in their first duty station.They traveled by ship through the Panama Canal to a posting in New York, and then he continued his schooling at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania.Kary was born when they were in St. Louis.Shortly after Dale shipped out for India during the Second World War, Penny was born in Edmonds, where Alletia had gone to live with her family.Penny was a full two years of age before Dale even had the chance to see her!After the war, he returned to Fort Lewis, and then to postings in Kentucky and Kansas, and Okinawa during the Korean Conflict.Alletia and their then three children joined him there for his last year and a half.Tom, their youngest, was born when they were in San Antonio in 1951, and then for three years, Dale taught in the ROTC program at the University of Wisconsin.After that, they were off to Landstuhl, Germany, and finally to Fort Baker, California.In 1962, Dale retired from the military, but continued to work in a variety of positions.For a time he was a state board drug inspector, then the pharmacist at Buckley School.He followed Tom to Alaska for a little while, working at a Fred Meyer in Anchorage, and then at Valdez.But for the most part, after his retirement from the military, Dale and Alletia have lived here in Olympia.He has worked as a pharmacist for Fred Meyer, Gilette and Guffy's Pharmacy, and the Carleton Sear's Drug Store, and most recently as a civil servant pharmacist at Fort Lewis, back at Madigan for the third time in his career.Their home is full of the mementoes of his career and the places where they have lived.But occupying center stage on one wall is a different sort of memento of one of Dale's favorite leisure-time activities-a mammoth 71 pound King Salmon, caught at Kenai on one of Dale's numerous fishing trips to Alaska.He also enjoyed pheasant hunting, especially when in Germany, and since in the Moses Lake area, and hunting for moose and elk in Canada.There were family vacations to Metaline Falls when the family was young, where they taught each other to water-ski.Snow skiing was a big part of winters where that was possible.Later, they traveled to Hong Kong and the east coast, and to Trinidad, Tucson and Texas to visit family and friends.He was enjoying the challenge of tracing his family tree, and wrote about his grandfather, a US Marshall near Pampas, Texas, as well as beginning a pretty thorough and engaging account of his own life.In writing this eulogy, I not only had the benefit of my own five years of knowing Dale, and the shared experiences of Alletia and their children, but also of 60-70 pages of his own autobiography, which I quite enjoyed!Sadly, it ends just before he entered the military, after their wedding, and while he was working in the Bellingham pharmacy.His last account is of the rather exotic clientele served by the pharmacy from the local red light district, who tipped very handsomely, and respected his marriage.I had not realized he was s