Odies Eugene Payne, 81, of Elgin, passed away the evening of Friday, March 9, 2012, at a local care facility in La Grande, from complications of leukemia and pneumonia.
Odie was born on November 16, 1930 in Brookhaven, Mississippi, to Charles and Bertie Payne who moved to Louisiana for a short time, and later moved to Palmer Valley, Oregon, in about 1936.
Some short while later, the family moved to High Valley, Oregon, where Odie went to school and later graduated from high school in Union, Oregon, in 1948. After high school, Odie met and married Shirley Clemmons and celebrated the birth of their daughter, Gayle, in August, 1953.
In November, 1950, his brother, Charles, recruited him into the Army National Guard. Odie went to the Army Cooks and Baker's School at the Presidio in San Francisco, California, from which he graduated in May, 1953. He returned to serve in the La Grande unit for 40 years and when he retired he held the rank of E7 Sgt First Class. Through the years, he served thousands of men and trained hundreds of cooks. Odie met Nelda in 1959, while working as a milk man, and they married and bought a restaurant and bar, known as Odie's Steakhouse and Bronco Room, which was one of the most popular destinations in the county for over two decades.
During this time, Odie was known far and wide for being passionately active at many rodeos and participating in stage coach and chariot races and so much more, throughout Eastern Oregon. Odie was a fixture at the Pendleton Round-Up each year, competing in the stagecoach races and driving the stagecoach and immigrant wagon in the Happy Canyon pageant.
Odie and Nelda celebrated the birth of their first son Scotty in July of 1960, and in November of 1972 they proudly announced the birth of their second son Corey.
After selling the restaurant, he went into the food sales and delivery business and he retired in 1992. After he retired, Odie catered hundreds of events such as the La Grande Hospital Picnic, many church picnics, the Elgin High School Alumni Banquet, the Elgin Chamber of Commerce banquet and the Elgin Stampeders Steak and Crab Feeds.
Through the years, one of the things people most remember about Odie is that he never met a stranger. Everyone Odie met knew immediately that he was a friend and that he would help anyone in need. Odie was the type of person everyone knew they could call "friend" within moments of meting him.
Odie was inducted into the Pendleton Round-Up Hall of Fame in 1997 and became a charter member of the Elgin Stampede Legends in the first induction ceremony in 2008.
Odie's surviving relatives are his wife Nelda, sister Norma Mulligan (Vancouver, WA), aunt Vivian Burford (La Grande, OR), daughter Gayle Payne Agelink and husband Aaron (Vancouver, WA); son Scotty and daughter-in-law Melody (Elgin, OR) son Corey and partner Scot (Portland, OR), grandchildren Tyler, Skyler and Chanel and great-grandchildren, Austin, Odies and Fera.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions in memory of Odie Payne can be made to the Elgin Stampeders Building Fund at PO Box 397, Elgin, OR 97827.
A celebration of Odie's life will be held on Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 2pm at the Elgin Stampeders Hall at 71112 Highway 82, Elgin, OR 97827. Dress is casual and food will be provided. Loveland Funeral Chapel is in charge of the arrangements.