October 31, 1921 — June 9, 2020
Willetta was born in the Bilyeu Den Community East of Scio, Oregon to William Isaac “Ike” Burton (1898-1969) and Crystal Wave Gaines (1900-1921). Her mother, Crystal, passed away when Willetta was 9 days old.
Willetta’s maternal grandparents, Lee and Elizabeth "Bessie” (Hardin) Gaines raised Willetta on their farm in the Larwood Community, near Lacomb, Oregon. Willetta’s great-great-grandfather, Willis Gaines, who was from Missouri, crossed the plains by covered wagon and settled in the Larwood area in 1852.
Willetta attended the Gaines one room country school for 4 years, Scio Grade School for 4 years, Scio High School for 2 years and finishing her last two years at Albany High School class of 1939.
After Graduation she went to Capital Business College in Salem.
Willetta married Clyde William Pense (1917-1970) on September 21, 1940 in Albany at the Presbyterian Church.
After living in Ely, Nevada and Salem, they settled in Milwaukie, Oregon. She helped Clyde operate Midway Dental Lab from 1951 to his death in 1970.
They were blessed with three children, Lenore Clydette (Gary) Timm of Wilsonville, Bruce Wilson (Laverne) Pense and Claudia Wave Heimbuch both of Scio.
They raised their three children in Milwaukie where Willetta continued to live until 1999.
To know Willetta you knew she was a born leader. She received her ten-year pin as a Camp Fire leader; even after 50 years one very special group still remained very close friends. Also during her children’s school years in Milwaukie, she was a leader of a high school girls club, and assisted with a Boy Scout troop and also for several summers she had a berry platoon.
From 1970 to 1986 she worked at PDX for Omaha Travel Ins. Dispatcher for PDX Police Department and retired from the Sky Chef, a subsidiary of America Airline as a hostess and cashier.
She traveled extensively while with American Airlines which included travels to Europe, Middle East and the Caribbean.
In 1999, after 48 years living in Milwaukie, Willetta moved back to the family farm on Oupor Rd. She would often look out at the mountains and say “I’m home."
Willetta two passions were genealogy and pictures and because of this she left her family a history that dates back over 200 years. However, another love was her many friends, she leaves a wide circle of them. In November 2019 she had her DNA collected and found so many that she was related to and many she never even heard of.
Willetta worked many hours creating family books, Lacomb Books and Larwood books. She also hosted the Larwood Covered Bridge during the covered bridge festival along with Tom Marquette for several years.
She loved to bowl, and enjoyed many hours playing pinochle and bunco with her friends and she continued to travel to see family and friends near and far.
Willetta was a board member at the Scio Historical Society for about 12 years.
In 2012, she finished the book Czechs “New Found Oasis” on the Czechoslovakian families of the Scio, Oregon area. She worked on this book for four years. She made contact with many families in this area and throughout the United States that shared pictures and stories with Willetta.
The Gaines family were a social family and had many family get gatherings which included the Gaines Family Reunion the first full week end in August at the Gaines family park, which her Uncle Roscoe Gaines started many years ago.
She was active with the Scio Museum, attended the Milwaukie Presbyterian Church and later attended Lacomb Baptist Church and continued to attend multiple family reunions, including the Gaines, Burton and Bates family reunions and also the Scio High School all years reunion. She loved parties and a good time. She loved being around young people and they loved her also.
Besides her children she is survived by eight grandchildren; 18 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren, along with a host of cousins and many special friends.
Willetta asked for no other ceremony at her death other than her family be in attendance at her Christian burial.
Donations may be made to the Scio Museum, P. O. Box 226, Scio, OR 97374.
Huston-Jost funeral home in Lebanon, OR is helping the family with arrangements.
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