Volunteering Vale duo named grand marshals for 4th of July Rodeo

Dave and Bonnie Westerberg are thrilled to be named grand marshals for the 2022 Vale 4th of July Rodeo. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

VALE – Dave Westerberg doesn’t come across as a daring kind of guy.

Solid, dependable and down-to-the-ground honest perhaps, but not someone to throw caution to the winds.

Except once. When he was at the College of Idaho after graduating from Caldwell High School in the late 1950s.

“I had a buddy and he said, say, have you seen this blond-haired girl running around? I said yeah. He said, ‘I bet you can’t get a date with her,’” said Dave.

He wasn’t sure about the fine details of the results of the dare, only that when he took the dare he met his future wife, Bonnie.

Bonnie’s memory, though, was crystal clear.

“He called me on the phone and asked me for a date and I had to think about who it was,” she said.

A year later Bonnie and Dave were married and not long after they moved to Vale, where both became involved in the local scene.

Their longstanding commitment to the area was recognized recently when the Vale 4th of July Rodeo Board chose the Westerbergs to be the grand marshals for the big event next month. They will be honored at the annual Grand Marshals Barbecue, set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, at Wadleigh Park.

The couple can look back on a life of giving back to the community with work on various boards and committees, but the rodeo honor came as a surprise.

“I was dumbfounded and overwhelmed,” said Bonnie.

The Westerbergs, both 82, said they are excited to be the grand marshals.

“I think it is as privilege and an honor,” said Dave.

While Bonnie can trace her heritage to the Treasure Valley – she grew up in Middleton, Idaho – Dave arrived in Caldwell, Idaho, when he was a junior in high school. A native of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, Dave Westerberg’s father decided to buy a Coast to Coast store in Caldwell and moved the family out west.

“I was in the last quarter of my junior year,” said Dave about the move.

After he graduated from high school, Dave decided to try college where he eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in science. After marriage and graduation from the College of Idaho, he accepted a teaching job at Vale High School. He taught for 13 years before he decided to take a job with Bonnie’s father as a cattle broker.

“I didn’t get rich but we survived,” said Dave.

For the next 40-plus years, Dave traveled across Oregon and Nevada, plying his trade as a cattle broker. Meanwhile he and Bonnie raised three children – Theresa, Tim and Steven – and found time to sit on a number of local boards.

Dave served on the Treasure Valley Community College Board of Directors, the local education service board, the Producers Livestock Board and the Vale Rural Fire Department Board.

Bonnie donated her time freely as well and served on the Malheur Federal Credit Union Board and is the secretary of the Vale Senior Center. She is also active in the Thalians, a charitable group dedicated to mental health causes, and the P.E.O. Sisterhood, an international women’s organization dedicated to helping provide educational opportunities for female students.

The Westerbergs say the county has changed since they first arrived. Dave said one of the biggest shifts is there are fewer people and many of the small farms that were a mainstay around Vale are gone.

“There were 425 kids at the high school when I came. Those 40 to 80-acre farms are the ones that had those kids,” said Dave.

Vale, Bonnie said, proved to be a good place for her family.

“Vale was a great place to raise our kids,” she said.

All three of the Westerberg children lead successful, but varied careers. Theresa Meiwald is the principal at the Vale Elementary School. Tim Westerberg works for the U.S. Postal Service and Steve Westerberg is a police officer.

Dave and Bonnie proudly note they have nine grand and great-grandchildren.

Dave recalls his teaching career with fondness.

“I wouldn’t have taught for 13 years if I didn’t like it,” he said.

Bonnie and Dave stay busy now. Both like to read and Bonnie plays bridge once a week, though she said she isn’t as good at the game as she’d like.

They are looking forward to being the 2022 Vale 4th of July Rodeo grand marshals.

“I don’t think very many people will throw tomatoes at us,” Dave said with a laugh.

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