Whitman County Gazette 

Michael Paul Werner

Jan. 7, 1944 - Feb. 26, 2024

Michael Paul Werner

Michael Paul Werner

Michael Paul Werner, 80, the best husband, Father, Brother, Son, Grandfather, Neighbor, Ranger, and Friend that anyone could ask for, passed away in his sleep on February 26, 2024, in Pullman, Wash. His commitment to the local community and county landscape around parks, social services, and supporting positive outcomes for people will leave a lasting imprint. Mike had a unique ability to bring people together and find solutions to build better experiences and systems for people living and visiting our area. Mike rubbed shoulders with so many people; he knew everybody and everybody knew him.

"Big Mike" as he was known to many, was born January 7, 1944, in Chewelah, Wash., to John & Edna (Davis) Werner. Following high school, he attended WSU where he was in the ROTC program. Mike played basketball while at WSU and in 1967, graduated with a Master's of Science degree in Forestry. He was also president of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Mike also served as an assistant basketball coach at WSU along with Marv Harshmen and Jud Heathcoat. Among his favorite memories playing for the WSU basketball team was playing against Tom Selleck and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (at the time, Lew Alcindor). As Mike likes to put it, he held Kareem to just 44 points. After college, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army, trained in tanks and armor. Being 6' 7", there was no room for anyone else in the tank with him. After his army training, Mike was assigned to Fort Knox in Kentucky and Fort Meade in Maryland throughout 1969. During that time, he was also assigned to riot control duty for the Pentagon and White House after rioting in Washington D.C., following the assassination of Martin Luther King. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant shortly after.

As with most army personnel, Viet Nam was Mike's next assignment. He was first assigned as a Special Forces Advisor in Thailand to train Thai Army Armor and then transferred to Viet Nam after this training was completed. However, his orders soon changed and he was sent back to Thailand where he was designated as a Special Services Recreation officer at the army base in Korat. His highlight was being the Director for the Bob Hope annual Christmas show at the Korat base. Mike was in charge of onsite preparation for the show, having had the opportunity to meet Bob Hope personally as well as Connie Stevens, Teresa Graves, the Gold Diggers (from the Dean Martin Show), and Miss Universe. Mike spent a year of his tour and two years of his active duty in Thailand, ending his service with two years in the Reserves. In 1972 Mike was honorably discharged as a Captain.

Mike returned to find himself in Pullman where he began his 28-year career with the Whitman County Parks Department, serving in many different capacities of parks management before being promoted to Parks Director. He met Vivian Dietrich, a school teacher, at Kamiak Butte Park when she took her class on a nature hike. They married in 1974 and have made Pullman home since that time. One of Mike's passions was bringing people and communities together. A highlight of Mike's work with the Parks Department was bringing a team together to develop and construct the Bill Chipman Trail, a paved 7-mile recreational trail connecting Pullman and Moscow. A site on the trail is dedicated in his name for his hard work and contributions. He also cherished meeting Robert Redford, when he worked with Redford's Institute for Resource Management team to develop the Earth House at Wawawai Park. He also loved the time he met Wilt Chamberlain out at Klemgard Park while doing a routine park survey. He noticed a huge man on one of the bridges and, being a people person, Mike went up to introduce himself. He says that shaking Wilt's hand was like shaking a baseball mitt; his hand swallowed his.

Mike was an avid outdoorsman. His favorite times were spending time with family and friends camping on the North Fork of the Clearwater River or out deer and elk hunting in the mountains. He and Vivian enjoyed everything together with their family, including hiking, fishing, canoeing, exploring, rock collecting, bird watching, photography, and studying the numerous flora and fauna around the Palouse area. He also ran an antique collecting and furniture refinishing business, "The Family Tree". He and Vivian belonged to a Bible study group for over 30 years and they have lived and served in Pullman for over 50 years. Both were very active in public service. Life was always an adventure and that glorious journey included him and Vivian raising four beautiful children and six grandchildren (Jake and Ava, Mike and Molly's kids; Ashlyn and Arya, Andy and Jill's kids; and Winnie and Viva, Dave and Lena's kids). Following his retirement he thoroughly enjoyed spending time working on estate sales with his friends of the same name, "The Mikes". He was always exceptional at bringing people together and was a genuine peacemaker. His family as always, the most important piece of his life, he always put first. Mike's last words to everybody where "I love you guys. Meet me on the Clearwater."

Mike is survived by his wife Vivian at their Pullman home; his four children Mike Werner Jr., (Molly) of Spokane; John "Andy" Werner, (Jill) of Moscow, ID; Kate Werner of Pullman, and David Werner, (Lena) of Pullman; his brother John "Skip" Werner (Kay) and his two kids and six grandchildren.

There are no services planned and Corbeill Funeral Home of Pullman, Wash., has been entrusted with arrangements. Online condolences may be sent to http://www.corbeillfuneralhomes.com and any donations can be sent to the Pullman Community Action Center and/or Boost Collaborative.


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