OBITUARY: Joel Makelin Florenzen

Joel Makelin Florenzen

May 8, 1937 – December 17, 2020

Joel Makelin Florenzen, 83, passed away peacefully at his home in Hermiston, Oregon, on Dec. 17. He was with his loving wife of 56 years, Patricia “Trish” Florenzen, daughters Heidi Florenzen, Jennifer (Florenzen) Gilbert, and son-in-law Jonathon “Jon” Gilbert. 

Joel was born May 8, 1937, in Fort Bragg, California to parents Manuel Florenzen and Josephine “Josie” (Gollnick) Florenzen. He was later joined by siblings Sharon Rhea and Darryl Dean. 

He grew up in Fort Bragg, California, and graduated from Fort Bragg Unified High School in 1955. He worked at the lumber mill with his Dad during summers and after high school saving money for college.  

Joel enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in May 1957 and was on active duty until May 1962. He was in the Air Force Reserves through 1963 and was honorably discharged. He completed his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He became a radar operator and was stationed in Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi, the Othello Radar Station in Othello, Washington, and then a radar site in Germany. 

During his time in the Air Force he enjoyed traveling, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures. He visited Paris, France, rode a motorcycle on the Autobahn in Germany, and learned to ski in Switzerland. As a radar operator, he tracked Santa Claus’ journey around the globe each Christmas Eve.

After the Air Force he attended Oregon Technical Institute in Klamath Falls, Oregon, in 1963 where he met his future wife Trish. They married on Oct. 3, 1964, in Carson City, Nevada.  

In 1966 Joel graduated on the dean’s list with an Associate’s in Engineering in Survey Technology and an Associate’s in Engineering in Highway Technology.  

Joel and Trish moved to Vale, Oregon in 1966 where they made their home for 51 years and where they raised their two daughters, Heidi and Jennifer. 

Joel worked for the Soil Conservation Service as an Engineering Technician in Ontario, Oregon from 1967 until he retired in 1993. He received numerous Merits of Performance Awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture until his retirement. 

Joel enjoyed being a husband and father. He was hands-on and loved participating in his daughters’ activities. When the children were young, he would read to them every night when he got home from work. He went to every swim meet, concert, play, and parent-teacher conference. When they joined the Girl Scouts, he joined as a member too.

He was a humorous and fun dad. If the first big snow of the season occurred after bed-time, he would wake them up to go outside and play, even on a school night. One Christmas Eve, he climbed up on the roof to leave hay for the reindeer to eat, as his young daughters were concerned they would be hungry. 

Joel kept busy with his many hobbies and volunteer work throughout the years and into retirement. He volunteered for the AARP Tax Assistance program and the Vale Public Library. He was on the Public Works Committee for the City of Vale and served on the board for the Vale Food Pantry.

He loved to travel with Trish and had been to such places as Madeira Island in Portugal, Denali National Park in Alaska, Washington, D.C., and a cross-country trip to New York City. He took numerous fun trips to the Oregon Coast to meet up with friends. He enjoyed meeting up with family and friends in Boise. He would sometimes take the girls for trips to Les Bois Horse Racing Park. After Jennifer’s 21st birthday they took a family trip to Jackpot, Nevada. His last special trip was with his wife Trish and his daughter Heidi to see the monarch butterfly migration in Pacific Grove, California.  

Joel was a loyal Boise State Broncos Football fan and loved to listen to the games on the radio. He was an avid reader, the Stephanie Plum novels were his favorite, and enjoyed photography and wood-working. He shared a love of pheasant, chukar and duck hunting with his son-in-law Jon and special friend Ron Hellman. Occasionally he chose his photography skills over his hunting skills and would come home from a hunting trip with only photographs.

Growing up on the California Coast, he developed a great love of fishing he shared with his Dad. As a little boy, he was known to occasionally skip school and take his dad’s boat out fishing. He shared his love of fishing with his daughters and took them frequently to Bully Creek, Brownlee, and Owyhee Reservoirs. His daughters sometimes preferred swimming over fishing on these trips. He learned to accept he might not come home with a catch because of the splashing they created by disturbing the fish. 

Joel had a love for gardening and would spend each summer growing two abundant gardens. He especially enjoyed growing tomatoes and corn, which he generously shared with friends, family, and neighbors. He loved bright colorful flowers and planted zinnias yearly. He had a soft spot for animals and especially loved cats and his daughters’ grand-kitties.

Joel and Trish moved to Hermiston in 2017 to be closer to their kids in his later years. He had a special nostalgia for the Redwoods and enjoyed visiting his childhood home on the Northern California Coast, but his heart always remained in Vale and the Treasure Valley.  

He is survived by his spouse, Patricia “Trish” Ann Florenzen (Hermiston); daughters Heidi Florenzen (Hermiston),and Jennifer (Jonathon) Gilbert (Selah, Washington); brother Darryl (Cynthia) Florenzen (Healdsburg, California); special friends, Bill Reynolds, Jim Paoli, Kate Danks, Kip Yasumiishi; and numerous brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

He was preceded in death by his mom, Josephine “Josie” Florenzen, his dad Manuel Florenzen, his sister Sharon Handelin Edwards, and parents-in-law Wayne and Mildred Percifield.

A Celebration of Life will be determined at a later date and is tentatively planned for Fall 2021 in Idaho. Burns Mortuary in Hermiston is in care of arrangements.

Donations in his memory can be made to the Vale Oregon Food Pantry in care of City of Vale, 150 Longfellow St. N., Vale, Oregon 97918.

LEARN HOW TO PLACE AN OBITUARY: Contact Autumn Butler, Enterprise office manager, at [email protected] or call 514-473-3377.