The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Gilbert 'Gil' Ward Little

Feb. 16, 1932 - April 16, 2023


April 26, 2023

Provided photo

Gilbert 'Gil' Ward Little

Gilbert "Gil" Ward Little, 91, of Albany, formerly of Sweet Home, died April 16, 2023, in Albany. Gil was born Feb. 16, 1932, to Herbert Ward and Evangeline Bertha (Willet) Little at his grandparents' home in Monmouth.

The family moved to various logging and sawmill locations in Oregon and Washington to follow his father's jobs. They settled in Depoe Bay after living at different locations on the coast.

Gil worked on farms in the Willamette Valley every summer as a teenager. At 17, he was the youngest 4-H leader in the state. On the day he turned eighteen, he went to work at night at the Kernville sawmill and finished his senior year of high school during the day.

This was how he saved enough money to attend college. Education was always his top priority. He knew he wanted to be a teacher from the time he was in the fifth grade.

After graduation from Taft High School in 1950, he attended Western Oregon University (OCE). He worked summers in the CD Johnson Sawmill in Toledo to earn enough money to continue college.

Upon graduating from college, he married Patricia Joy McQueen on Aug. 21, 1954. They moved to Nelscott to begin his teaching career at Taft Elementary School. During the two years he taught at Taft, their son Richard was born.

Gil was then offered an eighth-grade teaching position at Foster School. A second son, Michael, was born in 1958. Gil taught eighth grade and coached all sports for eight years. He loved coaching and watching students gain self confidence in their abilities.

In 1964, he was offered the position of teaching principal and coach at Cascadia School, east of Sweet Home. Gil accepted the challenge of leadership in two areas. He was also elected president of Sweet Home Teacher's Association.

In 1965, all the schools in the Sweet Home School District consolidated and Gil was offered the principalship of Hawthorne Elementary School along with Cascadia Elementary School.

Upon becoming a full-time principal, he resigned his presidency of the teacher's association. He was principal of Hawthorne Elementary for 18 years with a four-year break as principal of Crawfordsville and Holley from 1971 to 1975.

In 1971, Gil was appointed the administrator accompanying the Sweet Home High School band for a month-long concert tour of Europe through the American Heritage Society.

He was then asked by the American Heritage Society to be the leader/coordinator of the 66-member choir of Marshfield High School of Coos Bay for a six- week tour of Europe in the summer of 1972. The Sweet Home School Board granted Gil that time to lead the tour.

In 1978, Gil was elected vice president and then president in 1979 of the Western Region Principals Association. In 1980, Gil served as president of the Oregon State Elementary Principals Association. He then served as a member of the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators for two years.

Gil retired in 1987, but was soon back in the education arena. He accepted a six-month principal position in Sodaville. After finishing his term there, he was elected as a board member of the Linn-Benton-Lincoln ESD, where he served for nine years.

Gil's philosophy for education was "learning and teaching should both be fun." In dealing with parents, students, and teachers "be firm, but fair."

Gil loved sports. He participated in boxing, track, football, baseball and basketball in high school. He was an excellent archer with the long bow. He participated in horseshoe pitching contests, axe throwing, and choker setting. His favorite sports were golfing (four hole-in-ones) and bowling (five sanctioned 300s, the last 300 when he was 80 years old. ) He and Pat bowled together for many years.

Gil's wife, Patricia Joy, died in 2002 from lung cancer. In 2003, Gil married Patricia "Trish" Fuhrman whom he knew through bowling. They enjoyed bowling, golf, traveling to Hawaii and Europe, and cruises.

Gil is survived by his wife, Patricia; sons Richard W. Little of Holley and Michael B. Little of Lebanon, and a niece, Jody Wineland of Hermiston. Preceding him in death were his parents; sister Janis Kay Adams; and brother Jasper Thomas Little.

Private burial will take place at Gilliland Cemetery. Sweet Home Funeral Chapel is handling the arrangements.


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