March 4, 1943 – Oct 14, 2023
With his family at his side, longtime LaGrande resident and businessman Byron Seaquist, 80, died at his Island City home Saturday, Oct. 14, of heart complications from Agent Orange exposure during his service as a young man in the Army in Vietnam.
Born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, his parents Dorothy and Roger Seaquist moved their farm family in 1950 to Vale, Oregon, where Byron graduated from high school in 1961. In addition to sharing the work of the farm, Byron enjoyed playing on the high school football and basketball teams. He and his classmates remained longtime friends with regular reunions.
Enlisting in the Army after high school, Byron was selected for advanced training by the Army Security Agency en route assignment in Vietnam gathering enemy communications intelligence. His duty in Saigon and in the field led, as it did for thousands of other servicemen and women in Vietnam, to repeated exposure to the Agent Orange defoliant the U.S. sprayed on Vietnam’s jungles. Byron followed his service in the combat zones of Vietnam with intelligence collection duty with the Army forces stationed in Germany.
Army service complete, Byron rejoined his family who had relocated to Milton-Freewater. He reconnected with his sweetheart, and Byron and Karen began their 55-year marriage with a move to LaGrande where Byron studied on the GI Bill at Eastern Oregon College. Always proud of his Army service and keenly interested in veterans’ affairs, Byron organized the first vets club at EOC.
Byron then opened a Chrysler dealership before buying a Texaco gas station franchise on Island Avenue near the I-84 freeway. Byron skillfully serviced cars and delivered gas for long hours, often working seven-day weeks. Operating two tow trucks, one for heavy interstate freighters, Byron expertly retrieved hundreds of cars and big rigs from blizzards and wrecks along the mountain passes of I-84 and Grand Ronde valley roads.
As a businessman, Byron immersed himself in the La Grande community. He became a lifelong member of the Elks and continued to stay engaged with local veterans’ activities. An enthusiastic golfer, always ready for one more round, Byron was also a long-time member of the La Grande Country Club where he prized many friendships.
After many years running the Texaco station and towing service, Byron moved on to a very active “retirement” of volunteer contributions to the community. He delivered Meals on Wheels to hundreds of shut ins. For eleven years he drove a Community Connections van providing many hundreds of area residents with regular rides to doctor’s appointments and dialysis sessions in La Grande and Pendleton. In recent years, he and Karen took special comfort as active members of Community Church in La Grande.
Byron is survived by his loving wife, Karen; one son, Bradley, his wife, Kalley, grandsons Owen and Carter; sister, Joann Adams of Turlock California; and brothers, Paul Seaquist of Milton-Freewater and Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor, Washington.
Byron’s wife Karen wishes to thank all of Byron’s many friends in the community and Pastor Tim McCart and all the members of the Community Church congregation for their support and generous kindnesses during Byron’s illness and the family bereavement.
The Celebration of Life service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, at Crossroads Community Church, 601 Jefferson Avenue, La Grande.
Byron and Karen welcomed rescue dogs to their family. Those wishing to remember Byron and his lifetime of service to our community and our country may make a contribution in his name to Blue Mountain Humane Society.