Mary June Dunham
1934 – 2020
Mary June (Douglas) Dunham, 85, quietly passed away with her beloved family by her side. She was born in Porterville, California and raised in Lemon Cove, CA. She graduated from Exeter Union High School, and then attended College of the Seqouias in Visalia, CA. Mary June married her high school sweetheart Don, whom she loved deeply, and he could not resist her beauty and kind and gentle soul. Don was born and raised in Lemon Cove also. Together they raised three rambunctious and independent daughters. Mary June was a devoted wife and an exceptional mother dedicating much time to her girls. She had a great sense of humor and could be drawn into pranks by her friends. Spending time at the family cabin (J.E. Pogue cabin in East Mineral King, Sequoia NP) with her closest friend, Eloise, and their combined gaggle of children made the summers in California fun as well as taking them away from the Valley’s heat. Nearly every summer Mary June and Don, with their daughters in tow, packed into the Kern River Canyon. Stories from those pack trips have been shared around many campfires over the years.
Mary June’s husband Don is the son of the late Doris Pogue Dunham Laubhan of Lemon Cove, CA (and in later years of Chico, CA) and Major Don B. Dunham who was killed in action in Italy in WWII.
After moving to Wyoming in the early 70s, Mary June and her husband Don were among the founding members of the Wind River Back Country Horsemen (BCH) of Fremont County, Wyoming. Later when the Wyoming state BCH organization formed they became members of that group as well. They participated in many events of both organizations. The predecessor of the Back Country Horseman was a group including Don who called themselves The Long Ears Club based on the Wind River Reservation, Wyoming. This is the group that later evolved into the Wind River Back Country Horsemen.
Mary June was as tough as nails. Early in her marriage, she spent six weeks in Kings Canyon NP with her husband Don, while he was working summers for the NPS trail crew. They packed up the mules, saddled up the horses, and she carried a 9-month old baby on the front of her saddle. Imagine…washing cloth diapers at camp, along with baby bottles, preparing formula from canned milk and Karo Syrup. With motherly determination, she executed all the necessities of caring for a baby at the high mountain camp…without electricity or running water…except for what was running down the creek. And she did it in style! She made a playpen for the baby by placing large pine cones around the perimeter of a canvas tarp from one of the mule packs. Cooking was done over a campfire…well, you get the idea…yes, she was a tough cookie!
Mary June was an accomplished chef and shared her love of cooking with her daughters. She enjoyed cooking the many cuisines of the Central San Joaquin Valley…shish-kebab, pilaf, and sarma; curries; sukiyaki; and more, but was most cherished for her famous tacos…the recipe and skill she passed to her daughters. Trips to Fosters’ Freeze for milkshakes were an occasional treat. In Wyoming she brought her cooking talents to wild game…her elk bourguignon and antelope jerky were delicious! AND everyone in the family has her recipe for her famous NY Style Cheesecake! When she got tired of cooking all the fish her daughters caught…she finally told them…”You catch ‘em, you clean ‘em, you cook ‘em, you eat ‘em!” She was a talented and skillful seamstress; and, as with most fervent seamstresses…she could not bypass a fabric store without purchasing something to “sew at a later date.” As a 4-H leader she shared her love of sewing with aspiring young seamstresses who wielded scissors and seam rippers and danced around her kitchen. In later years she did the same with her grandchildren.
Mary June was multi-talented and very patient. When Don threw up his hands in despair while trying to teach his daughters to drive…she took over the lessons and instilled confidence in her daughter-drivers. She taught her daughters many things…but not swimming…nope, she didn’t do that. Water was the only fear we knew her to have. She was a …“shallow-end of the pool” and “I’ll just stay on the beach”…kind of woman. We loved her anyway!
Grandma Mary was a skillful cribbage player. Nothing got past her. She spent many afternoons “schooling” her grandchildren in the fine art of the game. She “let them win” most of the time…so they would continue to play with her. Grandma Mary also loved Nintendo…which delighted the grandchildren and made her a “way cool” grandma. Pinochle was a long-time favorite game and many late evenings and early morning hours were spent playing with friends and family. She was expert in the nuances of “table talk” which disturbed any player who was “playing for blood!” She played to have fun, never for blood…not even in Monopoly!
She loved her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren fiercely. Always involved in their lives…she taxied them to piano and dance lessons or for an ice cream cone; occasionally to the doctor, or sat with them on her deck after school, having a chin wag and smelling her blooming lilacs. She taught them how to whip up an easy, scrumptious meal. She never measured much of anything…it was a dash of this and a dab of that. She attended their school functions and games, and, of course, was their #1 cheerleader!
She had a kind and gentle heart. She was generous with her time and in her friendships. She was a delightful, beautiful woman. She always tried her “darndest” to do the right thing. She will be greatly missed by all those who knew and loved her. She is now skipping lightly through the Cosmos and meeting up with old friends and family. She lived and loved well.
Mary June is survived by her husband Don Dunham; daughters: Kathy Dunham, Debbra Pogue, and DiAnne Hewitt (favorite son-in-law Boyd Hewitt); grandchildren: Katie Lewis (Matthew Ward), Anna Miller (Chris Brantz), Mary Fee (Brett Burrows), Jeff Hewitt (Jennefer), Joe Hewitt (Chelsea), and Eric Hewitt (Erin); as well as her beloved great-grandchildren: Isabella, Lily, Jesse, Cora, Finley, Avery, Hudson, and Hadley.
Mary June was predeceased by her parents Joe and Thelma (Wright) Douglas, her very beloved mother-in-law Doris Pogue Dunham Laubhan, her other favorite son-in-law Tom Lewis (Kathy Dunham [living]), and great-grandchildren Jeff Hewitt, Jr. and Clarence Nash Hewitt.
A memorial for friends and family will be held at a later date. If you wish to send a card to Don or the family you may mail these to: Kathy Dunham, 1055 McDougall Drive, Lander, WY 82520.
In honor of our dear Mary June…please consider a donation to a personal cause…or a simple act of kindness to a stranger…or whatever good thing your heart leads you to do for the human family.