John Radinovich, 96, passed away peacefully Feb. 23. He had been in failing health for the past year after a stroke, which left him bedridden. However, John’s spirits stayed high. Determined he would walk again, he always said, “Tomorrow I’m going to walk outside and split some wood.”
John was born Oct. 11, 1919, to John and Mary Radinovich in Crosby, Minn. He was the third of nine children. He attended school until the seventh grade, but by then their family had grown to seven children. Times were hard, so he quit school to help support the family.
At 16, he went to work for a government program called WPA, building roads with a pick and shovel. When he was 19, John and his best friend, Frank Ravnik, jumped a train in late September and headed for Nevada. When the train would stop, they would jump off and buy soup and oatmeal for five or 10 cents a bowl. They ended up in Mill City in September of 1939 and went to work in a tungsten mine. The open pit mines were safer, but the underground mines paid 10 cents a day more. He worked there for nine months. In June of 1940, the two friends headed for Alaska. Stewart, Alaska was the first place they landed. From there, they took a train to Anchorage, where they worked mining gold in the open pits. They then went on to Homer, Alaska, working in construction and underground mining chrome. He then got a job surveying in Seldovia, Alaska. While on a mountain glacier, he slipped and slid down the mountain, breaking his arm. It took two days to get to a hospital to get his arm set and cast. His next job was in Haines, Alaska, building the Haines cutoff, which joined the Alaska-Canadian Highway. He then went on to White Horse, Canada, and worked on the oil line in Norman Wells. During his time in Alaska and Canada, he lived in quonset huts and never went to town until the job was finished, therefore saving money.
John went back to Crosby, Minn., in 1944, landing a job making ice. Snow was plowed off the lakes, and men would cut the ice out of the lakes and transport it to ice houses, where it was packed in sawdust to keep during the summer months.
In 1945, on his way back to Alaska, he stopped in Spokane, Wash., where Edward Hines had a hiring hall. He decided to take a job with them, and they paid his bus fare to Seneca. The cost of the trip was taken out of his first check, but if you stayed for 30 days, they paid your money back. Very few stayed. John stayed for 21 years. He worked one year driving Cat, and during the first spring break-up, he worked with the Swedes building the railroad line. They told him, being big and strong, he needed to stop driving Cat and start falling timber. Cat drivers were paid $1.10 an hour, and fallers were paid $1.25.
He started with an electric chain saw, powered by a D4 Cat. A picture of him and Malon Cowgill can be seen at the Big Bear Lodge. He then went to the two-man, 12-horse Diston. He had many partners on the two-man saw — Jack Gray, Jack Hoar, Malon Cowgill, Eric Bjorkman, Jay Boswell, Herb Ashcraft, Benny Lindley, and his last partner was Alec Rementeria. He always carried the heavy end of the two-man saw. Edward Hines went to the one-man saw in 1962.
While in Seneca, John met the love of his life, Grace Lohf. They were married Sept. 3, 1946, in Burns. They had three children, Kerry John, Kristie, and Kevin. They were married for 57 years, until Grace passed away in 2003.
In September 1966, John and Grace moved their family to Hines. John continued to fall timber, even after having five knee replacement surgeries. He broke his first one by stepping in a badger hole while looking up in the air with his power saw on his back, second one by slipping and falling on the snow while elk hunting. On his fifth knee surgery, he decided that was enough, and he retired in 1982 after 35 years of falling timber. Edward Hines was also closing their doors, which made his decision easier.
John and Grace were very active in their kids’ sporting events, going to every activity, no matter where it was at, hauling cheerleaders and other kids, whoever wanted to go.
After moving to Hines, they had many adventures with their friends, whether it was camping, hunting, snowmobiling, motorcycling or traveling, they all had a great time together.
In 1970, he started selling Scorpion snowmobiles on the side, out of his garage. The machines were made in his hometown of Crosby. He was a good mechanic and could fix anything.
In 1983, John and Grace joined the health club, where John went five days a week, lifting weights and exercising until he was really sick. He continued to do this even after having a heart attack and stroke, but, at the age of 93, he said he better give it up.
After retirement, John and Grace started going to Arizona, leaving the cold Harney County weather for where they could lay in the sun, play tennis, and visit. John mostly enjoyed eating in all the restaurants, a favorite past time.
John was a very compassionate and giving person. From the time he left home for Nevada, he saved his money and sent it home to his mom and dad so they could support the family. He did this in later days also, buying houses for family members to help them get started. Helping his family and friends was something he did his entire life. No matter what anyone needed, he was always there. He was the first to show up and the last to leave.
John was a very hard worker. He never liked to be idle, so he was always working. In bad snow years, he would help shovel snow off the tennis courts and the roof of the Catholic Parish hall, but he truly enjoyed spending time in the woods and, most of all, cutting firewood. John also loved getting together with family and friends, visiting and having a good meal. He never met a stranger, he talked to everyone, and always had that big smile on his face.
John is survived by brothers, Andy of Canyon City and Paul of Deerwood, Minn.; daughter, Kristie (Mike) Thornton of Meridian, Idaho; son, Kevin (Cheryl) Radinovich of Hines; grandsons, Jason (Stacey) Radinovich and Matt (Stephanie) Radinovich of Hines; granddaughters, Heather (Vade) Bailey of Burns and Tiffany (Nate) MacRostie of Bend; great-grandchildren, Zach and Zane Bailey of Burns, Mason and Logan Radinovich of Hines, and Brayden and Isaac MacRostie of Bend; and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Grace; son, Kerry John; sisters, Mary Vukelich, Kate Larsen, Josephine Radinovich, Alyce Mae Perpich, and Delores Cyrus; and brother, Ed Radinovich, all of Crosby.
He requested no services. Donations in John Radinovich’s name may be made to the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center, 17 S. Alder in Burns, and/or Harney County Home Health and Hospice, 415 N. Fairview in Burns.