Alta Ruth Sumida, 92, of Billings, died Sunday, June 22, 2014, at the RiverStone Hospice Home.
A preacher’s daughter, Alta was born on May 21, 1922, in Bloomington, Neb., to Rev. Ernest D. and Della Young.
After her “Big Red” BA in library science, some religious studies at Bethel, Mishawaka, Ind., Alta Young decoded Japanese intercepts for the Signal Corps at Arlington, Va., as her WWII effort. When her missionary sister Nellie (now 96, living in Nampa, Idaho), very sick with malaria, returned to the States, Alta helped nurse her back to health. (Nellie eventually retired as a special aide teacher in Selah, Wash.)
When her father, Rev. E.D. Young, became district superintendent of the area United Missionary Church in Orange, Calif., Alta worked at the San Bernardino naval depot. When her folks moved to Yakima, Wash., she worked at Coulee Dam, Wash., for the Bureau of Reclamation. She was transferred south in 1950 to Ephrata, Wash., headquarters for the Columbia Basin Project (CBP), USBR. The project’s job was to bring the water backed up by Grand Coulee Dam’s Lk. Roosevelt south to an arid region of Eastern Washington to irrigate a million acres!
She married her husband, Ben T. Sumida, on Nov. 30, 1957. Ben, a U of O “Duck” with a BA accounting degree, was another one of the 76 finance branch employees. In Ephrata, sons Richard, Steven and Jerald were born. The family moved to Electric City, Wash., when Alta’s husband became site finance representative for the Third Power Plant Construction Project (TPP). Alta had several miscarriages there, but enjoyed living in a house she and her husband designed. Then, her father came up from Yakima to build it.
When installation of TPP’s generators (which would eventually, through short years) enabled GCD to be the biggest hydroelectric power plant in the world, she moved to Billings, a promotional opportunity for her husband as USBR’s Reg 6 headquarters.
A year after his retirement in 1980, their severely handicapped son, Jerald, died. (Born in 1963 with a D1 Trisomy diagnosed by medicine only three years earlier, Jerald became a research patient, subject of an article written up in the Lancet, world’s largest medical journal.) That year, she moved to Lovell, Wyo., with her husband, who was hired by the North Big Horn Hospital there. While there, she worked for the State of Wyoming as a home health aide. She told of a place where, in order to give the patient a bath, she had to ask the patient’s son to remove his motorbike from the tub! They returned to Billings after her husband was vested in his retirement there.
Alta was stricken with minor but damaging strokes about a decade ago. She was taking outpatient rehabilitation therapy twice a week. She enjoyed a variety of birds as she ate facing out the wide patio doors, looking out over a wide expanse of flora … including weeds. She watched squirrels, up to three, chasing and feeding, but especially watching them jumping from tree to tree and maybe gasping as they landed and the branches bent low … out of sight.
Her nearly 100-year-old brother went to heaven at 3:30 a.m. on her birthday last month. Her final stroke occurred less than one month after her 92nd birthday. Her husband heard her surprise, “Oh!”, and in about a half-hour, was in the ER. Her husband knows God enabled him to be with her there, because he was right there.
Alta was an active member of Heights Baptist Church, serving on the missions committee and enjoyed playing the piano for her church from early adulthood. She and Ben enjoyed concerts and had been members of the Community Concerts in Ephrata and Wyoming. They also enjoyed boat fishing on their Boston Whaler at Flathead Lake.
Survivors include her husband Ben; sons, Richard A. (Violet R.) Sumida of Belgrade, and Steven E. (Connie L) Sumida of Anchorage, Alaska; brother Paul Young; sister Nellie Noggles; six grandchildren, Matthew Sumida, Miles Sumida, Mark Frizzell, Marty (JoAnn) Frizzell, Aaron (Amanda) Sumida and Kaycee (Dustin) Chesley; and six great-grandchildren.
Alta was preceded in death by her parents, brother Lisle V. Young and her son Jerald A. Sumida.
Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 27, at Heights Baptist Church. Interment will be in Rockvale Cemetery.