Obit Zeke West

Marking the end of an era; a most incredible man, Zeke West left us December 4, 2021 at the age of 90 for his next adventure.

‘Zeke’ Lester Kenneth West was born on the Palouse River near Potlatch, Idaho on September 7, 1931 to James Riley and Alra Butler West, the sixth of nine children.

Zeke’s early years were spent at Potlatch until the family moved to Teako, Washington, then to Garfield where they farmed for a short time, then to Touchet before finally settling in Walla Walla where his father worked as a prison guard.

Zeke attended High School at Walla Walla and became an all-star athlete for the WaHi Blue Devils. He competed in football, low hurdles and boxing.

Zeke lamented about competing in a boxing tournament against his old home town of Potlatch, where he won the tournament for the third year in a row.

It so happened that there was a performance at the Riverside (a local joint in Potlatch) where he saw June Carter ‘not yet Cash’. He was 15 and fell in love where he claimed he stayed for some time.

Most folks who knew Zeke have at some time been entertained by him as a musician, singing and playing the guitar was one of his many talents. His love for country music lead Zeke to meet such country legends as: Chet Atkins, Johnny & Jack, Kitty Wells, Earnest Tubb, Mel Tillis, Carl Smith, Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones, Jimmy Dickens, Webb Pierce and of course June Carter Cash.

He came by the name Zeke from a book his older siblings brought home from school called “Zeke the Raccoon.”

Not only was he an outfitter, he worked driving logging and gravel trucks, and cut timber while living in a logging camp. He also guided fishermen at Unalakleet, Alaska where he took home videos of Mel Tillis talking about chewing tobacco. He guided brown bear hunters on Baranoff Island and prided himself on being the oldest apprentice guide in Alaska.

He was also one of the last of the old timers that jet boated and outfitted on the Main Salmon River in the Frank Church Wilderness. He started in 1968 and lived on the River until 1987 when he moved to Kamiah, Id.

Zeke retired from outfitting in 1998. To the end he maintained ties to the River, owning a cabin at the Whitewater Ranch.

Zeke was always there to help when there was a need. From boating firefighters, rescuing other boaters or rafters or cutting firewood for Frances at Campbell’s Ferry. He once hauled an airplane out of the back country on his boat. He took care of business giving hundreds of people from all over memories of the back country that will last them a life time.

Zeke married his first wife Ruth Gascon. From this marriage in 1951, there were seven children. The marriage ended in divorce. He was then married to Marlene West in 1969 and she added two more step children to the mix. This marriage also ended in divorce. Guess the third time is a charm. He married Erlene Haight in 1990 which added another child.

Zeke is survived by his wife Erlene, children Nancy Luvass, Don West (Kim), Linda West (Jack Jones) Susan Hayworth (Carl), Sherri Kirchhoff (Joe), Lily West (Russ Dale) and stepson Chip Haight (Cara), Eleven grandchildren and sixteen great grandchildren, sisters Leona Grassi and Mary Ann Warren and brother T. LeRoy West (Janice).

Zeke was preceded in death by son Robert West, siblings George, Howard, Don West, Alice Bell and Alma McDonald.

His life experiences are inspirational, his patience was amazing and his wisdom immeasurable. Zeke’s calm demeanor and quiet confidence caused him to be considered a man among men. To so many, he was larger than life. He lead a full life doing the things he loved most. How do you write a life like that in just a few short paragraphs? There are no words to describe our loss.

There will be a memorial service December 17 at 11 a.m. at the Kooskia Community Center with a potluck following.

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