MEET MEMBER LOIS MCLEAN
An old friend and neighbor of Lois McLean’s describes her as the “Salt of the Earth, a remarkable woman with incredible determination”. Lois and her late husband Ron epitomized the original homesteaders in the Methow--people full of adventurous spirit and spunk. They were pillars of the community when they were living on McLean Hill up the West Chewuch Road in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Lois McLean, formerly Lois Hoener, was born in Spokane, Washington in 1928. She grew up with her family and an array of farm animals--pigs, chickens, turkeys, cows, geese and workhorses--on a dry farm north of Spokane. Lois had three brothers who all chipped in to help on the farm, as most children did back then. Life on the farm was typical of many farm families of the time. “You woke up, saw what the weather was, planned your day, did it, and worked till dark.” Everyday was an adventure for her and her three brothers despite all their chores.
Life on the farm was hard work but gratifying. Lois’s job as a young girl was to help ensure all the animals had plenty of water everyday, which was no easy task. They had a hand dug well. She had to pull the water up on a rope in a bucket, then carry the bucket to the various animals. Lois’s mother was ill a lot of the time so Lois had to do many of the domestic chores as well. She had to stand on a chair to reach the table to wash the dishes after carrying in the water needed. Afterwards she would dump the water outside.
After graduating from Riverside High School Lois worked in Spokane at a five and dime store in the toy department during the Christmas rush. Soon after that she met the love of her life, Ron McLean, and they became engaged. They married the following summer on her family’s farm. They moved to California to attend Santa Rosa Junior College and then moved to Missoula where Ron worked on his degree with GI Bill funds. When the funds ran dry, they transferred to Cheney where he finished up his teaching degree.
Ron’s first job as a teacher was on the Olympia Peninsula in a rural K-12 school where he taught for ten years. One year he had only four students who were all cousins. After the school consolidated with another, Ron became the teacher, bus driver, and custodian. While there they had four of their five girls (Rachel, Sheela, Kit, and Tammy), so Lois was busy raising the children, gardening, and canning their garden goodies. They always wanted to return to the Methow where Ron was born and raised, so in 1961 they moved when a first grade job became available at the elementary school in Winthrop.
Lois and Ron bought a piece of property up the W. Chewuch Road on the original site that Ron’s grandparents had homesteaded. By then, his parents had moved to California for health reasons, so they had sold the family property. Ron’s Dad died in California. They later convinced Ron’s mom to move back to the Methow. She ended up back at the McLean homestead property, which had been in the McLean family for five generations.
Their first summer in the Methow Lois and Ron lived in a tent on the property with the four girls as they built their home. It was a fabulous place for their active girls because there was so much freedom. They could run any place they wanted.
It took them four years to build their beautiful home—33 days just to build one of the fireplaces. (There were three of them.) Before it was built, they had to haul their water and cook outside, so what a luxury it was to have indoor plumbing once the house was completed. After completion, there were eight people living in the house most of the time, including their youngest daughter (Heather), born in 1969, and Ron’s mom , Arnetta McLean.
Lois remembers many wonderful times with Arnetta gardening and canning together. They would can over 800 quarts of food for the winter—beets, carrots, beans, cherries, pears, and peaches. They pickled all kinds of food as well. All the goodies from the garden would be canned or eaten fresh. Nothing went to waste.
Every summer they would head to the backcountry surrounding the Methow Valley with their girls. Ron’s brother and family would always join them. They had grand adventures in the wilderness exploring and enjoying the great outdoors together. One memorable moment for Lois was when it snowed on them in late August while they were at (appropriately named) Snowy Lakes!
A good friend of theirs remembers the fine times they would have in the middle of the dark winters when people’s “freezers were running low of food”. Ron McLean would organize what became known as the “Pine Stump Symphony”, a delightful mix of music, philosophical monologs, and poetry. It was a kind of talent show with lots of music and fun times held in the Winthrop High School gym where the present day elementary school resides.
Lois became the librarian at the Allen Elementary School and was there for 20 years. The children loved Lois. She was kind and understanding and helped them choose great books to read.
They had always wanted to travel. After Ron retired they finally planned and went on a trip to the United Kingdom. They were gone for six weeks traveling around the UK. Unfortunately, Ron passed away only two years after he retired. Lois’ girls finally convinced her to downsize and move into Winthrop. She now has a gorgeous view of the Sawtooths and Gardner Mountain from her lovely home. She has six grandkids to keep track of as well as two great grandchildren. She is active in the American Legion Auxiliary, the Red Hatters, and the United Methodist Women’s organization.
She has appreciated the help from Methow At Home. She recently used services to have volunteers bring her meals after an illness. A meal train was set up for her with “marvelous, healthy food”. She enjoyed visiting with those who brought her the meals and some stayed and joined her for the delicious food.