|Settlers president comes from long-time Valley residents|
|July 14, 2011 Jerry Purvis|
Don Parmenter, who was born west of Melbeta “about two blocks from where I live now,” will serve as Old Settlers Honorary President during the 90th annual Oregon Trail Days.
Don’s parents, John and Etta, along with both sets of grandparents and great-grandparents, were all in the valley prior to 1900. Today, Don lives on the land homesteaded by his grandparents.
According to volume 111 of “History of Western Nebraska,” Don’s grandfather, Albert, “established the first construction camp on the Gering Ditch Project, moving there with his family in the month of February during a snow storm. But he had become accustomed to hardships and such an experience was not new to him.”
Don and his eight siblings grew up on the family farm and were active in keeping it running. All of them attended Melbeta schools. Don’s eldest sister, Marie, started in Melbeta in 1921. And until 1984, two years before the Melbeta school closed, there was always a Parmenter attending.
During his high school years, Don was active in sports. His team went to the state basketball tournament in Lincoln in 1945. That year he also went to the state track meet, competing in the high jump event.
Don was also a 10-year member of 4-H program as part of the Code Valley Pig Club. He took the Reserve Champion prize for hogs at the state level in 1941, as well as entering a number of hogs in the Scotts Bluff County Fair.
After graduation, Don helped out various farmers in the valley, but by 1948, he found his life-long trade in the plaster, stucco and home construction business. He did the drop ceiling work in the Helen’s House of Style building, which later became offices for the Gering Citizen newspaper (something Don pointed out during his interview).
During the 1930s through the 1950s, most of the new homes in Gering were being plastered by Don and his father, who was also in the business. Those skills were also passed along to his son, nephews and grandson. Two of Don’s brothers and two brothers-in-law were also taught the trade, to varying degrees.
Don also took an interest in riding horses, something he did as a 4-H member. As he said, “I never got to see the Oregon Trail Days parades because I was riding in them.”
Don and his son, Donnie, became active in horse showing, traveling and performing across the region. Between the two of them, they won many trophies for barrels, keyhole race and others. And in 1975, Don was awarded a silver-tipped saddle for achieving the high point performance standard quarter horse champion.
Don passed that love of horses down to several descendents. His daughter and son-in-law, Donna and Van Larsen, ride with Don in the annual Pony Express re-enactment, in the Oregon Trail Days Parade, and on annual trail rides to the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming.
As for Oregon Trail Days memories, Don remembers when the carnival was downtown. “It seemed like a more closely connected place for people to visit,” he said. “You were always running into someone you knew.”
Don said he was honored to be this year’s Old Settlers Honorary President. But he’s following in a tradition. His mother, Etta Bartow-Parmenter, was Honorary Vice President in 1982. His grandfather, bill Bartow, was Honorary President in 1934. Two uncles, Orville Bartow in 1950 and Albert Bartow in 1982, served as Honorary Vice Presidents of the Half-Century Club. His cousin, Beulah Hall, was Half-Century Club Honorary Vice President in 1990.