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Sally Jane Thissell

September 20, 1940 ~ April 8, 2022 (age 81)


Sally Jane Thissell died 8 April 2022 at home, with family, in John Day, Oregon.


Born Sally Jane Ray, 20 September 1940 in Winchester, ID to James Martin Ray and Josephine Francis Harris-Ray. Sally was the oldest of two daughters. As a child, Sally enjoyed spending time with her Grandma Harris in Burns, and her cousins who were, “real cowboys” in The Wallowa Mountains. Most of her childhood passed in Oakridge where her father was the ODFW fish hatchery manager. When Sally was in high school, they moved to the Fall Creek Hatchery on the Alsea River. Sally loved dressing up and going to school. She graduated with her diploma from Waldport High School in 1958.


On July 11, 1959 she married, according to her, “the thunder to her lightning,” Johnny Oscar Thissell, Sr. Together they raised four children in Tidewater and Waldport. She worked in the home as a timber feller’s wife, worked in the schools as an instructional assistant, and worked for a time as an EMT on an ambulance (she loved it and John hated it), but much of her work was as an entrepreneur alongside John after they bought Barny’s Saw Shop in Newport in the late 1980’s, and later moved it to John Day in 1994. Sally managed the office, the orders, and the bills. She cleaned the workbench and patiently kept track of John’s frequently lost readers. As the timber industry changed, so too did their shop. When fewer chainsaws came in for repair, they transitioned to selling pet and livestock feed. They eventually renamed the store John Day Feed and More and operated into the early 2000’s until selling to partially retire.


Being a better shot with a rifle then John, Sally loved hunting for game and rocks in Oregon’s high deserts, as well as her time around campfires with family and friends. Despite always having a white knuckled grip on the vehicle grab handle and frequently delivered panicked gasps, Sally loved to go on long, and sometime purposeful, drives with John, and any other family she could wrangle. They would look for deer, or hot springs, or horses, or restaurants in neighboring towns they knew weren’t open, or just to go “to town” (as long as it wasn’t Salem or Portland). Sally loved country music, and she had an “Achy Break Heart” for her celebrity crush.


Sally had no patience for knitting or sewing, but she loved to crochet. She made many blankets for babies, blankets in high school colors for teens, and more blankets for newly wedded couples. Sally was an excellent cook and a terrible baker. Her best desserts were assembled from store bought pieces. She was told she couldn’t live up to her mother-in-law’s famous cookies or pies, so she didn’t try. Instead she fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Summertime foods were her favorites. Half of a watermelon and a salt-shaker made her happy. Although she had a penchant for gossip, she most loved talking up her family. However, it became over-the-top bragging by the time she had great-grandchildren. She would have folks think her kids and grandkids were the best hunters, best singers, best swimmers, best skiers, best runners, best barrel-racers, the best wrestlers and hoopers. Whatever they were up to, and no matter how successful or unsuccessful they were, they always had Sally’s esteem and admiration, with a touch of hyperbole.


Sally was a worrier. Her greatest fear, aside from her genuine phobia of snakes, was that any of her children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren would precede her in death. She was peaceful knowing that none had. Sally is preceded in death only by her parents and her husband. Sally is survived by; her sister Sue Deibert, her children Johnny Oscar Jr., Barry Joe, Laurence “Punk” James, Kathrina “Kathy” Sue Weatherspoon, and their spouses, her 12 grandchildren and their spouses, and her 24 great-grandchildren. 


Per Sally’s wishes, there will be no funeral, but family will gather in The Silvies on Memorial Day in her honor.

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