Lynnda Beck Iles’ life overflowed with love and laughter from a seemingly endless chain of concentric circles of friends and family. Whomever Lynnda met became her BFF, collecting friends like charms on a bracelet, each a priceless gem, to be nurtured and cared for throughout her life. She was the glue that formed these friendship circles, weaving them together whenever possible.
Lynnda was born April 7, 1947, to Merle Eugene Beck and Phyllis Lorene Noble in Portland, Ore. The family included sisters Judy, Gayle and Kristy and brother Mike. With the exception of Kristy, all of Lynnda’s siblings proceeded her in death. She attended school in Portland, graduating from David Douglas High School in 1965. She was soon married to Charles Shannon with whom she had three children, daughter Kelly, and sons Darrell and Jason. Jason remembers when he and his brother Darrell were about 4 or 5, they played a prank on Lynnda on April Fool’s Day. As she was getting ready for work, they put a chocolate marshmallow cookie in her shoe. When she stepped into her shoe the chocolate marshmallow oozed out the sides. They laughed about that April Fool’s joke for years and how well Lynnda accepted their boyhood pranks. Her grandchildren, Brandon and especially “Little” Darrell, were Lynnda’s special treasures. She raised “Little Darrell” until he finally outgrew her “smothering.” Then she transferred her attention to family and an endless list of friends as well as her pets, Parker, Suki, Bear, Talley, and Socks. It was easy to understand why the Amazing Doctor Pol was one of her favorite TV show.
Lynnda worked at the airport near Aurora, where she met airplane mechanic Randy Iles. A friend set them up on a blind date and the rest was history. Lynnda and Randy (her forever love) were married at her parent’s home on August 24, 1985. They moved to Hood River, Randy’s home town, setting up shop in a little house on 13th Street, where life was often serenaded by the wailing of ambulance sirens as they pulled into the emergency entrance. Years later they moved to their home on Country Club Road, camping in a fifth wheeler while waiting for their new home. Their deck was the center of many gatherings. There were countless margarita and chip parties, binge watching the MASH TV series, milestone birthday and retirement celebrations. Japanese New Years, why not? St. Urho’s Day parade, of course she was a FINN. Any excuse to get together was good enough for Lynnda. And she loved parades, crying every time she saw the honor guard.
Lynnda began working at the Hood River Care Center in 1985, bringing compassionate care to all the residents of this facility which housed the elderly suffering from disease or severe disability. As activity director, she found her calling in working with those most in need, filling the halls with raucous laughter and fun, spreading smiles throughout an otherwise depressing facility. She joined the Care Center bowling team in 1986, later shifting to the Don Nunamaker bowling team in 2004 and expanding her circle of bowling buddies. Naturally she became an extended member of the Nunamaker family, reveling in Alison and Ashley’s activities and later in their children’s lives as well. It was the company she enjoyed more than the sport, although she loved traveling to state and national bowling tournaments with her buddies, rocking the Reno alleys and casinos with her infectious laugh.
After four years at the Care Center, she moved to Columbia Gorge Center, now Opportunity Connections. Although her job description at CGC was executive assistant, Lynnda volunteered numerous hours with the developmentally delayed adults who worked at the facility, taking them to thrift shops or garage sales where they could share in one of her favorite past times, hunting for hidden treasures. Alongside Carol and Barbara, she helped organize fund raising events for the clients, continuing to participate every year until she moved to Enterprise in 2016.
Her gift of valuing all people, co-worker or client, board member or executive director, was evident with her circle of life time friends. This eclectic group continued their friendship for decades, saving for years to take a trip to Puerta Vallarta in 1996, and making annual trips to Sunriver where they simply relaxed, laughed, and had a great time telling stories, often at their absent spouses’ expense. Even when COVID, cancer and geography separated these women, they arranged weekly visits via Zoom, making their 2019 outing to Enterprise instead of Sunriver so they could be with Lynnda. Her son Jason camped in the Wallowa’s so he could spend time with his mom.
In 1991, her talent in working with those in need brought her to Mid-Columbia Center for Living, where she served as a case worker for those with mental illness and mental delays. Co-workers and clients remember her two decades of work as akin to a warm hug for all she encountered. She had little tolerance for those who feigned respect for others while making denigrating remarks behind their backs. Lynnda was a fierce force to be reckoned with if she observed unconscionable behaviors, never afraid of expressing her concerns to those in charge.
This new group of friends had weekly lunches at the local hospital cafeteria, with splurges on birthday breakfasts at the Petite Province in The Dalles. Lynnda couldn’t remember the full name and immediately dubbed it the Petite Pedophile, which brought belly laughs all around. After Lynnda moved to Enterprise, they took a picture of Lynnda with them to the restaurant, attaching it to a chair so she would continue to be a part of their birthday tradition.
One of Lynnda’s finest qualities was being a great listener. She would say, "If I meet someone and they don't tell me everything about themselves in the first 15 minutes, they were not someone who could be my friend." She had a special gift of asking people to talk about themselves and then listening intently, with genuine sincerity. All remember her deep throated laugh which burst forth with such gusto it evoked nose snorting, tears running down your cheek, laughter.
Lynnda joined Curves and once again gathered a group of girlfriends together, meeting over drinks and good food, celebrating anything and everything. One friend remembered Lynnda saying, after a series of belly laughs, “This will be a two-pad day at Curves.” She loved the camaraderie as well as the music that helped make exercising more tolerable. Always game for learning something new, she enthusiastically joined line and tap dance classes.
Lynnda retired in 2009, but never lost her compassion for caring for the elderly, often in their final days. She was head chauffeur for Millie Goe and Misako Takasumi, ushering them to Senior Meals in Hood River, Mosier and Parkdale. She loved to listen to their life stories, letting them know how much they were valued, filling the room with laughter, never embarrassed by tears that helped wash away the pain. Lynnda was unafraid of death. She accompanied her best friends to funerals and celebrations of life, just to be their support, earning the nickname “funeral lady.”
Lynnda faced her own life’s end with the same determination and dry sense of humor that made her the center of so many circles of friends. While she was able to stave off cancer for a while, it came back with a vengeance in 2020. Although it ultimately took her life on Jan. 9, 2021, it was never able to take away her laughter and infectious smile throughout its course. Friends visited her at the Wallowa Chemo Center, where they met yet another circle of friends, doctors and nurses, dietary and cleaning staff. Drawers were opened at the infusion unit to display Thank You cards and elaborate envelopes that Lynnda had crafted. Ever the caregiver, Lynnda turned the loss of her beautiful head of hair into a wig party with her friends. No pity parties allowed.
One special card that Lynnda created said, “Hold friends and family close and love and laugh with abandon.” Words we all can live by. She will be dearly missed. Lynnda’s many friends and family will hold a celebration of life sometime in August at Divots Restaurant in Hood River. Please contact Carol Annala, 541-490-5099 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.