Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
ARKELL, William “Bill,” passed away Friday, November 10th, 2023, in Walla Walla, WA, at the age of 95.
He was a longtime Pendleton resident and, except for his time in service to his country and his final four
years in Walla Walla to be closer to family, lived his entire life in his beloved hometown.
From his first “job” at 5-6 years old climbing into farming equipment because he was the only one small
enough to fit and the running of fresh pastries and pies to local businesses as a teenager, a pace was set
for a long and full life. He lived thru the depression putting newspaper in his shoes to block the holes,
worked for food with his siblings to use for barter with neighbors and friends for items needed, and
guarded his plate from his older siblings at dinnertime so that he’d get his full portion.
All of this (and much, much more) helped to create the hardened man who volunteered to fight in Korea
as a Navy Corpsman with a 1st Marine Division tank unit when he could have remained at the naval
hospital working in radiology and the pharmacy. “Doc,” as he was referred to during that time, took
great pride in his service to his country and fighting alongside his Marine brothers. Hours have been
spent listening to his stories of the experiences that he shared with countless other soldiers. Many were
told with humor and laughs at the crazy trouble young men manage to get into (even in war), while
others were heartbreaking and still brought tears to his eyes as he remembered in detail the hard
choices that had to be made and the names of those who passed without ever having the chance to
As proud as he was of his time in service, he was equally proud of his career as a 6th grade elementary
school teacher. Again, very few names were forgotten as he recounted stories from his years thru to
retirement. Teachers and students alike were remembered – even down to where most of his students
sat and what type of a student they were. He coached wrestling and basketball and looked forward to
recess duty when snow allowed for sledding the gulley. He truly loved working with kids and each one
made an impression on him. “Mr. Arkell” was generally in charge of the paddle, but as hard and
demanding as he was it was because he truly wanted to see each one rise to their full potential
regardless of their life circumstances.
Dad never stopped his earlier fast pace. He was active working the chutes of the Pendleton R-Up, selling
real estate and tarring roofs during summer break from teaching. He enjoyed hunting pheasant and
fishing and when his body forced him to “slow down” he turned to gardening and had tomatoes in
abundance even at the age of 95.
He was fully involved with the VFW holding many positions, both local and national, and enjoying the
friendships built serving the local community. He performed Chaplain duties at veteran’s funeral
services (he once commented that he didn’t think he had any more friends to bury) and looked forward
to flipping pancakes like a pro every morning at the Cowboy Breakfast during the Pendleton Round-Up.
Dad eventually learned that it was okay to soften up and not live the rigid life that had gotten him
through the tougher times. He enjoyed 37 years of marriage with his wife Marie and was a devoted and
loving husband until her passing in February of 2022.
Finally, and most importantly, he grew from being “religious” to having a true relationship with his Lord
at the age of 93. He was able to accept that his past was not going to keep him from being saved and
enjoyed time every day watching out the window (when it was too cold to sit on his balcony or go
outside for a “walk” in his scooter) talking with and to God. He often said, “They probably think I’m a
crazy old coot sitting here talking to myself, but I need my time talking to The Man.”
Dad was preceded in death by the love of his life, Marie; his parents Hank and Ethel Arkell; his sisters
Pete Leinbach and Susie Etter; and his brothers Jerry and Don Arkell. He is survived by his son Garth
Arkell and his wife Dee of Spokane, WA; his daughters Candi Smith and her husband Dean of Walla
Walla, WA, and Kelli Hull and her husband Dave of Olympia, WA; his stepsons Emmett Courtright of
North Bend, OR and Leroy Courtright of Pendleton; 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
A graveside service with military honors will be held at 11:00 am, Saturday, December 9th, at Olney
Cemetery in Pendleton with a Celebration of Life at Mac's Bar and Grill following immediately after graveside.
In lieu of flowers, friends are encouraged to make memorial contributions to the Wounded Warrior Project
Wounded Warrior Project
7020 A.C. Skinner Parkway, Suite 100, Jacksonville FL 32256