VALE – The Vale Alumni Association will honor three former classmates this Saturday – a retired state judge and two retired high school coaches.
The trio will be inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame at a banquet and auction at the Malheur County Fairgrounds.
“I think that there are many others that could be honored. So, it is certainly an honor,” said Frank Yraguen, one of the three inductees this year. “I know many that have passed through the halls of Vale High School that are very deserving of this honor.”
Yraguen was born in Ontario and graduated from Vale High School in 1958.
“I’m very proud of the institution and very proud of my classmates and those that have gone before us and after us,” he said. “I feel that I’m very blessed, first of all.”
Yraguen said growing up in the Vale community instilled in him a strong sense of duty, good will and service.
“When you live as long as I have, it all comes down to faith, family and friends,” he said. “It’s been a part of us and part of my community.”
Yraguen said he’s grateful for having his roots in Vale. Ties to the community have led to “unexpected opportunities” and opened doors that wouldn’t have opened otherwise, he said.
“I never planned on necessarily returning to the community. I never planned on being named district attorney by the governor. And I never planned on being a judge, which I now have been for 14 years,” he said. “Life is not necessarily going to be what you think it will be. I think it was events that took place here that led to many opportunities, and I am very fortunate to be a part of this community.”
Yraguen was nominated to the Air Force Academy during his senior year at Vale High, but he said a teacher talked him out of it.
“I was told that I wasn’t the military type and that I would not do well out there,” he said. “So what do I do? I went to Oregon State, where I was offered an ROTC scholarship to join the Marine Corps.”
After graduating from OSU, Yraguen spent five years in the Marine Corps before going to law school and getting his law degree.
Yraguen was Malheur County district attorney from 1971 to 1976 and became a state circuit judge in 1977. He took his status as a retired judge in 2002.
“Serving as a judge has taught me a lot too. I understand much better the difficulties faced by many, and it has made me doubly appreciate what I have,” he said. “I’ve realized that those who’ve appeared before me in court didn’t have the same opportunities that I had. And it saddens me at times that some don’t ever have doors opened to better opportunities.”
Yraguen continues to offer himself to serve the community.
“We as a community may not always agree on this or that. But we always try to do the best we can to take care of our neighbors,” he said.
Ray Barnes, another inductee, also feels grateful for the honor.
“I’m very pleased. Not many people get that honor,” said Barnes.
Barnes is a native of Montana but moved to Vale when he was 7. He graduated in 1952 from Vale, where he played football, basketball and baseball. He earned 11 varsity letters.
After high school, Barnes earned his bachelor’s degree in education. He began his teaching career in 1960 at Adrian, but he moved to Vale High School a year later.
“I was in the Vale school system for 26 years,” he said. “I coached, taught science and P.E. and became a principal for the high school for 14 years.”
Barnes said he feels lucky to be part of the Vale community and that residents “don’t know how lucky they are” to live in this town.
“Vale is a small community, where people are very helpful. People are always helpful when you need to solve a problem,” he said.
Barnes said the good nature of Vale people inspired him to be as involved as he was in the community.
Looking back, he said one of the biggest highlights of his life was when he was an athlete at Vale.
“I was the second person to play in the Shriners all-star game in Portland when I was a senior,” said Barnes. “It’s a game where they pick athletes from all over Oregon to play. So the country kids get to play the city kids. It was a wonderful experience.”
He said the best part of his trip to Portland was going to the Shriners Hospital.
“It just so happened that a Vale resident’s daughter was there,” he said. “That was a highlight of my life –to see a little girl from Vale in the Shriners hospital in the big town like Portland.”
Arnold Lewis, a former football and wrestling coach at Vale, is the third inductee of the year. He is receiving the Hall of Fame honor posthumously.
The Vale Alumni Association inducted Bob Bement, Dave Wilcox, and Merle Saunders last year.
For tickets to the banquet and more information, contact Bobbi Buttice, at 541-823-2900.
Reporter Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.