Mardelle LaDorise Webb Allen Ebell, 100, departed for glory April 3, 2022, after an eight-month battle with breast cancer. A service celebrating Mardelle’s life will be held at Pine Valley Presbyterian Church Saturday, April 16, 2022 at 2:00 in the afternoon. Interment will follow at Pine Haven Cemetery followed by a reception and time to share memories at the Pine Valley Presbyterian Fellowship Hall.
Although her life ended only 100 miles from her birthplace, global travel, multiple occupations, and many social worlds came in between. She lived life to the fullest, loving the company of family and friends, and pursuing her interests with zest and an indomitable will.
Mardelle was born in New Plymouth, Idaho to Elton and Gussie Mae Kelley Webb November 30, 1921. The family moved to Pine Valley the following year, living in several places before taking ownership of the gas station on the site of the present Three-Color Building in Halfway in 1928. When Elton and Gussie divorced in 1929, Gussie ran Webb’s Service Station alone – quite a feat for a single mother in the 1920s.
Her education began at the Jimtown School continuing at Halfway Elementary and later at the Sunny Dell School. In 1932, Gussie married Edward Mehlhorn, a homesteader and president of the Mehlhorn Lumber Company. Mardelle was deeply fond of her stepfather and had happy memories of growing up on what is now the Mehlhorn Century Farm on Sunny Dell Lane, working hard milking cows, tending chickens, and feeding hogs. She was Valedictorian of her 1939 high school class, of which she was the last living member.
Music was central to Mardelle’s life from an early age. She began studying piano with Edith Grimm, adding violin, and later traveling to Baker for voice lessons. During high school, she often earned $15 playing violin for dances in Cornucopia. Aided by a scholarship and the farm cream check, she attended Willamette University for two years as a music major; it was there that she met Hiram (“Hewie”) Allen, whom she married in 1942.
Hewie became a Bandmaster in the US Air Force, and Mardelle’s life as an Air Force wife and mother began. After her marriage, she completed her Music Education degree at the University of Oregon, graduating in 1944 shortly before the birth of their first daughter, Sheila, in Chico, California. Son Gregory was born while Hewie was stationed in Cheyenne, Wyoming. During that time, Mardelle took Sheila to Denver to attend a concert by the legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony.
Although frequent relocations created hardships, the experience of two years in Japan was one of the highlights of Mardelle’s life. She taught kindergarten at the American School in Tokyo and climbed Mt. Fujiama with eight-year-old Sheila. The next Air Force assignment was in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, where daughter Cynthia was born. Hewie’s most prestigious post was as conductor of the NORAD Band in Colorado Springs, where Mardelle taught piano in the home and participated in church and community choruses. She made sure that her children heard a piano recital by Van Cliburn shortly after he won the First Tchaikovsky Piano Competition at the height of the Cold War. When Hewie had posts overseas where family housing was not available, Mardelle and the children would return to Oregon – Halfway was always the home base.
By 1963, their marriage was headed toward divorce. Mardelle made a brave move to San Diego to make a new life for herself and her children. She worked as a teacher and social worker and was active in the La Jolla Presbyterian Church and the San Diego music community. She continued to pursue adventure, vacationing in Mexico and Hawaii and loving the Torrey Pines Golf Tournaments in La Jolla. She shared Sheila’s moment on the stage of the Met Opera in New York as a finalist in the Met’s national competition, and frequently bragged about her meeting with King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium in 1978, when she attended the Queen Elisabeth International Piano Competition in Brussels, where Greg was awarded second prize.
The homecoming chapter of Mardelle’s life began in 1985 when she returned to Pine Valley to care for her mother, who passed away in 1993 at the age of 102. Mardelle was an Elder of Pine Valley Presbyterian Church, took part in the calling of two ministers, and even preached as a lay minister. On April Fool’s Day 1992 she married long-time family friend Chuck Ebell with Reverend Bill Shields walking her down the aisle and officiating at the ceremony. Chuck and Mardelle shared seven happy years, making their home in Baker City and traveling to Hawaii and across the country for family visits.
As a widow, she continued to manage the Mehlhorn farm as well as Chuck’s ranch and cattle. She remained active in AAUW and Baker Community Concerts, the Literary Lunch Bunch, and card clubs (she could be a formidable pinochle player!). She supported classical music endeavors in the area and revisited Japan on a Sister Cities trip. As her vision declined, she made the hard but voluntary decision to quit driving. During her last year, she enjoyed visits from all her great-grandchildren and the presence and support of her children. Her love of music never diminished; at 99 she went to the piano, slowly picked out and then managed to play a portion of her favorite piano piece, “Rustle of Spring,” for her great-granddaughters. In her final months she sang favorite hymns and Irish songs around the house and during rides around Baker Valley. She passed in her living room with her daughters near and facing her beloved Eagle Cap mountains.
Mardelle is survived by her three children: Sheila Allen Yeomans and husband David, Gregory Allen and husband Robert Warren, and Cynthia Thayer; granddaughter Sheryl Yeomans Jordan and husband Peter; grandson Matthew Thayer and wife Jane; great-grandchildren Edith and Anne Jordan, and Doris and Sawyer Thayer; stepson Myron Ebell and wife Tory, children Charles, Julia, Gemma, and Thomas. She was preceded in death by Charles Ebell, Hiram Allen, and her sister Helen Moseley. Mardelle often expressed gratitude to the caretakers that allowed her to remain in her home. She and her family are deeply thankful for the faithful and loving care provided by Theresa Johnson, Carrie Cummings, and Brenda Fisher, especially during her final months.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Pine Valley Presbyterian Church, the Hilary Bonn Benevolence Fund, Pine Valley Rural Fire Protection District, or Crossroads Carnegie Art Center through Tami’s Pine Valley Funeral Home and Cremation Services, PO Box 543 Halfway, OR 97834. Online condolences may be shared at www.tamispinevalleyfuneralhome.com.