OAKLEY – This community said goodbye last weekend to one of its great historians and promoters.
Kent Hale, a 91-year-old Oakley native, died Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, at Cassia Regional Medical Center in Burley.
Kent was best known in the community of Oakley for two things: his masonry skills and his historical knowledge.
“He was really a valuable asset to the historical association,” said Liz Payton, a longtime Oakley resident and member of the historical society who served with Hale.
“I think after Kent returned from (World War II) he spent most of his time amassing historical knowledge; not formally, necessarily, but he just seemed to know about everything that went on this community and his memory was amazing.”
Payton said Hale was wonderful to work with, always willing to help and share both his knowledge and his documented records he kept.
Aleta Stringham, who also worked with Hale in the historical society, praised his ability as a stonemason.
“He was an excellent (stone) mason,” Stringham said.
“He did some stone work for us on the drug store and he explained all the different ways to lay stone as he worked.”
Stringham pointed out that Hale was instrumental in much of the stonework in Oakley. He laid the Veterans’ Memorial at the park, as well as doing the replica of the Oakley Tabernacle. Hale also provided the Veterans’ Memorial at the Centennial Park in Burley, with the assistance of his sons.
“Kent also was instrumental in getting the Oakley Historic Homes Tour going,” Stringham said.
“We have one of his original maps he designed for the walking and driving tour of homes here.”
Kent grew up in Oakley, going to Oakley schools and attended Utah Agricultural University (now USU) upon his graduation. He continued his college education at Brigham Young University, where he studied to be a landscape architecture, which led to his becoming a stone mason.
Kent joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and served in Europe during World War II, as a radio man and belly gunner on a B-26 Marauder. Following his military service, he returned to his hometown and opened one of the first open stone quarry claims in the South Mountains, south of Oakley.
While laying the stone on the flagpole at the Cassia County Courthouse, Kent met Helen Warwood, who worked in a hardware store across the street from his work location. They fell in love, married and started a family. In the early years of their marriage, Kent and Helen lived in various communities around Utah and southern Idaho, before returning to Oakley in 1966. He continued his career there as a stone mason, and became actively engaged in community service. Hale’s wife, Helen, preceded him in death in 1995.
He served in the Boy Scouts program, founded Historic Oakley, built dozens of monuments and served on the Oakley Historical Museum Board of Directors. HE was a popular Emcee at community and church events, he sponsored and coached numerous softball teams, and serve on the Cassia County Schools District PTA board.
In his later years, Kent spent many hours researching old Oakley Herald newspapers and wrote a book titled, “A History of Oakley, Idaho” which included many first-hand experiences of the years Hale spent growing up in this community. He was the author of a plethora of newspaper articles about the history of Oakley.
Mayor Larry Hinds touted Hale as a “pillar” in the Oakley community. “Kent did some beautiful rock work, he was active in our historical society and he wrote a book about our community,” Hinds said.
“He was really a pillar in our community, until he got sick.”