Bernice Pope passed away peacefully Sept. 20 in Bend, surrounded by her three daughters. Bernice had been in failing health for the last year, living at Valley View Assisted Living Center in John Day.
“Bunny”, as she was known since she was a child, was born Nov. 13, 1932, in Burns to Willard and Hazel Laythe. Bunny’s roots in Harney County started in 1896 when her grandparents, Charles and Mary Turner, homesteaded on the east side of Steens Mountain, in the area of Andrews. Charlie Turner was a Swedish immigrant who grew grain and raised cattle. The Turners had three daughters, and Hazel, the oldest, was Bunny’s mother.
Her father, Willard, was a WWI veteran and later worked as a mechanic at Burns Ford Garage. Bunny and her older brother, Charles, went to school in Burns until they moved to Tillamook in 1942, when she was 9 years old. Her father worked on construction of a large blimp hanger, that, at that time, was one of the largest wooden structures built in the world, and later he also worked on making the blimps for the U.S. Navy. In 1945, her dad died in Tillamook, and when Bunny was 12, she and her family moved back to Burns. During the summers of her high school years, Bunny worked for various ranches in the south end of Harney County. She helped care for children and cook for the haying crews. For two years, her sophomore and junior years, she attended Mount Angel Academy, a Catholic school near Salem. Being homesick, she returned to Burns her senior year and graduated from Burns High School in 1950. She attended business school in Portland for six months, then returned to Burns to work for her aunt, Alice Johnston, in her dress shop, The Vogue.
In 1950, she met Richard McCulloch of Burns. They were married in 1951, and had three daughters, Christine in 1952, Kathy in 1953, and Jo in 1954, which kept her very busy in their early years of life and many years after! The family enjoyed fishing, camping, boating, hunting, rockhounding, and making many trips to Fish Lake to fish and camp, with many fond memories.
After her divorce in 1971, Bunny worked several years at Edward Hines Lumber Company in Burns and Mt. Vernon. In 1973, she met Jim Pope of Mt. Vernon, and they were married, residing at Jim’s home in Mt. Vernon. She gladly gained two sons, Doc and Doug Pope, and their families. In 1984, Jim and Bunny moved to Burns, purchasing The Bontemps Motel. After operating the motel for 10 years, they sold it and retired in 1994, when Jim’s health declined. Bunny was always there to provide him with excellent care. In 1999, Bunny’s beloved husband, Jim, passed away, and she moved to a small house in Burns, where you would always find her working in her the yard, with her black lab, Scrum, at her side, living happily until 2015. She and her family decided it was necessary to move to an assisted living home, The Sunshine House in Burns, where she made several Harney County lady acquaintances into very close friends, and they became amazingly special to her. In January 2016, Bunny moved to Valley View Assisted Living in John Day, to live closer to her daughter, Kathy. Bunny loved her apartment with beautiful views, and cherished the time spent with her daughter, Kathy, with prayers, reading the Bible, going for walks, and many lively discussions (with a sense of humor) on all aspects of her colorful life. Visits from her daughters, Christine and Jo, were like a celebration — robust, always with a lot of laughter and love in the air when all sisters and their families got together. Those were the best times in her later life! She also enjoyed numerous new friends who she had acquired there and all held a very special place in her heart. As she would say, they are just like family to her.
Bunny had many hobbies over the years. She took pride in her yard and enjoyed flower gardening, tending to her raspberries and garden plants. She canned her fruits and vegetables, made the best cookies, and received awards at the fair for her sourdough biscuits. She always enjoyed reading, especially Christian and history books, and was ready for visits from her family and friends at any time. She was a loving, kind, caring mother, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother, mother-in-law, and friend to all, who will be greatly missed. She was a devoted Christian, and unselfish and giving, concerned only about others, and never about herself.
Bunny is survived by her daughters, Christine (John) Hodges of Fields, Kathy (Randy) Gillam of Canyon City, and Jo (Roger) Crisafi of Bend; stepsons, Doc Pope of Mt. Vernon, Doug Pope of Boardman, and their families; grandchildren, Shannon Carroll, Silas Crisafi, Kalei Lucas, Jodi Myers, Randa Webb, Erik Gillam, and Becky Pearson; great-grandchildren, Aanikka, Kyas, and Athena Hodges, Ashlee, Sydney, and Sophie Brockway, Claire Webb, Hazel and Fletcher Gillam, Silas and Jonah Carroll, Audrey and Marisa Crisafi, and Anela, Lilliana, and Treyden Lucas.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Hazel and Willard Laythe; husband, Jim Pope; brother, Charles Laythe; and grandson, Cody Hodges.
Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, at Pioneer Presbyterian Church in Burns. There will be a graveside burial after the funeral service.
Donations in Bunny’s memory may be made to the Harney County Historical Society, c/o Western Room, 18 West “D” St. Burns, OR 97720. LaFollette’s Chapel is in charge of funeral arrangments.