The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

Kenneth Leroy O'Leary


January 1, 2020

Kenneth Leroy O'Leary was born on Feb. 27, 1936, at a mid-wife home in Grants Pass, Oregon, to his parents Leo Harold and Viola Amelia Augusta Meisner O'Leary. He was their third child.

Throughout his school years in Grants Pass, Ken had a job delivering Oregonian newspapers by bicycle. Ken had many other jobs, including working at Sprouse Rites stores stocking shelves and logging with Carothers Logging Co.

After graduation in 1955 in Grants Pass, Ken went to work at Rouge River Hardware sheet metal shop. This included driving from Grants Pass two days a week to attend trade school in Medford, Oregon, to receive his journeyman's card. In May of 1958, Ken married his high school sweetheart, Juanita "Dale" Pernell, and was drafted into the U.S. Army June of 1958.

Ken trained at Fort Ord, California, and was shipped to Korea for one tour where he worked in the supply depot. In June of 1960, he went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for discharge at which time he divorced and returned to Grants Pass and completed getting his journeyman's card.

From 1961-1968 he was married to Lois "Arline" Adams and had two children, Laurie Ann and Jay Patrick. In 1964, he went to work for Majors Well Drilling. In 1968, he accepted a job for Gorge Contractors Well Drilling Company in Goldendale.

From 1969-1972 he was married to Lynn Garner, with whom son Kirt William was born, and began his own business: O'Leary Well Drilling Inc. He served on the Washington State Well Drillers Association Board for two years. In 1973, Ken married Merle Ann Read with daughter Kathleen Ann. In 1987, Ken sold the well drilling business and began a career in excavation work. Ken and Merle divorced that year.

Ken had a drilling career that lasted 25 years, drilling 1000+ wells from Southern Oregon to the Canadian border, including 42 wells drilled on the reservation in Okanogan and 50 wells on the Warm Springs reservation.

In 1994, Ken formed O'Leary and Son Excavating Inc. with his son Kirt, and his son Jay would work intermittently with them, as well. As general contractors, they built homes, shops, barns, installed septic systems, pit set manufactured homes, land clearing, hauling top soil and rock, dug water and powerlines, and other work. Ken served two years on the advisory board for the Klickitat County Health Department.

In 2002, Ken re-married his first wife Dale in the same church on the same day 45 years from their first marriage.

Ken leaves behind his children Laurie O'Leary of Bingen; Jay of Centerville; Kirt (Lisa Bean) of Centerville; Kathleen (Dan Wedgwood) of Goldendale; as well as seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents Leo & Viola O'Leary, grandson Cameron, brothers Dwight, Dennis, and Harold, as well as his sister Charmaine.

Please join us for a celebration of life at 2 p.m. on Jan. 3 at the Centerville Grange with deserts and beverages, where he will be receiving military honors.


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