Of Cabbages and Kings
Recently Walt and Myrt Powers enjoyed an Honor Flight to Washington DC to honor veterans of WWII and women in the military. They said 34 veterans traveled to D.C., 14 of them in wheel chairs. Several volunteer guardians helped push the wheelchairs.
They visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean Memorial, the U.S. Navy Memorial, the Air Force Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. At Arlington Cemetery they visited the Women in the Marines Memorial. Myrt Powers was a charter member of Women in the Marines. Her name is listed on the memorial. The Powers witnessed, as well, the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington.
“It was fantastic,” Myrt Powers said. “We were treated in the (best) possible way. Each woman was greeted with a dozen red roses. The DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), and various schools and other donators paid for the flight. Walt and I were the only married couple in the group.”
Walt Powers commented, “Dave Earley of Cheney accompanied his grandfather, a WWII veteran, who was in a wheelchair.”
As a Marine, Myrt Powers trained Marine airplane mechanics to overhaul small aircraft parts. Myrt Powers also taught dietetics in the dispensary at a Marine Airbase in Santa Barbara, Calif. This is where she met Walt 66 years ago. A Navy man, he was a surgical technician.
“She would come in and watch patients she had special interest in,” he recalled.
A different kind of “interest” soon developed between the two. Then Walt was shipped overseas. For nine months they wrote daily love letters to each other. The letters were delivered in batches every few weeks. When Walt came home again, discharged from the Navy, he and Myrt went to Baylor University in Texas. There Myrt obtained her master’s degree. They were married 65 years ago in 1946 and came west to Oregon.
In 1954 Walt Powers applied and was approved as assistant professor of education and psychology at Eastern Washington College of Education.
“There were 997 students and 54 faculty at the college,” he said.
Myrtle Powers took a teaching assignment at Cheney Elementary School, which eventually became Betz School. The Powers had arrived at Cheney!
True to form, the Powers family did not stand still. During the years they traveled the world on various assignments. Walt Powers took his family to England where he was a Fullbright Professor at Keele University for a year. In 1960 the family landed at a missionary compound in South Korea where Walt Powers worked as an adviser to the Ministry of Education for the Republic of South Korea. There were assignments in South Africa and other countries and all the while Powers had his thumb on the business back at EWU. In 1962 as the department chair in psychology Walt Powers helped establish the Development of Elementary Counseling program. The Department of Applied Psychology has honored him by providing contributions to an endowed scholarship in his name.
Myrt Powers did not stand in the shadows. She entranced elementary children with stories of their family’s adventures, enlarging the children’s views of life. My own daughter came home from school with a wide-eyed story telling how “Mrs. Powers rode on a camel at the Egyptian pyramids.” That was only the first of it. There was the hour-long donkey ride for both of them on Santorini Island in the Mediterranian. The elephant in India and an ostrich experience in South Africa.
The ostrich encounter didn’t work very well. Myrt Powers grew up on a horse farm where the animal obeyed the rider. The ostrich didn’t much like the idea.
Throughout their many adventures, the Powers’ three young boys, Wally, Jim and Tom, made sure that everyone they met knew they were from Cheney, Washington, not Washington, D.C.
In May of 2011 EWU dedicated the reading room in the former Hargreaves Library in honor of Walt and Myrt Powers. It is officially the Walter and Myrtle Powers Reading Room, a much deserved honor to both of them.
Walt and Myrt Powers have weathered heartbreaks as well as good times. Two of their sons, Wally and Jim, are deceased. Fond memories do not take the place of the loved person. Still, they go on. Their son, Tom, is a school psychologist in the Riverside School District. His wife is also a counselor. The Powers have four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Walt and Myrt Powers continue to be active in a variety of ways. They belong to the Spokane Symphony Associates and will soon host a meeting in their home. The Powers spend five months every year in Hawaii where Walter sings in the Central Union Church choir.
“It is a huge church with a large choir and an organ,” he said.
Summers find the Powers at Priest Lake. There is one activity they enjoy without leaving home. They watch the Eagles football games from their backyard.
Walt has found himself to be a writer and has published a book entitled “Grandpa Walt’s Life Stories” for his family. This family treasure will be enjoyed for many years with stories and pictures of Walt’s own grandparents, and their heritage.
“We’ve been blessed in our lives and in our marriage,” Myrt Powers said. “We took our blue eyed, blonde haired boys around the world.”
Their adventures are vast, their influence among people of many races is beyond estimate. God Bless, Walt and Myrt Powers.
Luella Dow is a Cheney-area author who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.