Lifelong Walla Walla resident Michael Dunham passed away at his home May 18, 2013 surrounded by his family and close friends, after a courageous 4-year battle with Renal Cell Carcinoma. Mike was born January 4, 1944 in Seattle, the only son of B. Wendall Dunham and Shirley Mays Dunham, joining older sister Sandra. The Dunham family moved to Walla Walla when Mike was three years old.
Mike attended area schools (Baker, Green Park, Pioneer and Wa-Hi), graduating in 1962 as a member of the National Honor Society and as the Brigade Commander of the Wa-Hi ROTC program. He received the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement, the first time it was ever given to a Wa-Hi student in the US Army Corps’ long history.
Sports were a huge part of Mike’s life from his youth onward, and summers were consumed with games of all kinds. He excelled at baseball and bowling but always had a special love for golf. At age 17, Mike won the Walla Walla All-City Golf Championship. He received a baseball scholarship to Oregon State University as a pitcher, and then his scholarship was transferred to golf. Mike played in the 1964 NCAA Golf Championships held at Colorado Springs, CO (Broadmoor) and found success in this tournament, ranking 6th in the nation for the long drive contest. Mike also competed for the OSU Bowling Team which won the NCAA Team Championship in 1964 held in Oakland, CA.
Mike moved to Seattle in 1965 and was employed by Standard Oil, first in the Standard Stations (pumping gas and selling tires) and then at the Regional Headquarters in downtown Seattle. After several promotions, he was transferred to Standard Oil’s home office in San Francisco working in the Wholesale Sales Division. After 5 years with Standard, Mike was pleased to be offered a new position in life insurance sales at J. F. McDonald Agency in Walla Walla, and he moved his family back home in 1970. The practice grew to include estate planning and corporate benefit planning primarily with Safeco Life. In 1974, Mike affiliated with Northwestern Mutual Life as a career agent.
During these early years of the 1970’s, Mike played plenty of golf and Walla Walla Bears baseball, and raised two children as a single father to Michelle (then age 2 years) and Eric (then age 9 months.) He depended upon regular and devoted help from his parents, Shirley and Wendall during those years! Mike also became involved in local politics, and he enjoyed the privilege of running Jeannette Hayner’s Senate campaigns until her retirement. Mike was Walla Walla County’s Republican Chairman, and held one term on the Walla Walla City Council. A longtime member of the Walla Walla Country Club, Mike was Club Champion in 1973, 1974 & 1995 and was President of the Club in 1995. In all of his years of golfing, Mike never had a hole-in-one…may God find a way. The closest he came was a Double Eagle at Sandpoint Country Club in Seattle.
Mike felt the most fortunate part of his life was meeting and falling in love with Joanne Buckley. They were married April 9, 1982. To pass on his own love of golf, he taught her to play and this became a passion they shared throughout their many years together.
Mike and his family moved to Redmond, WA (Sahalee Country Club) in 1986 and he moved his insurance practice to Bellevue, WA. After a memorable five years of new friends, lots of golfing, and many boating trips up the Canadian waters, it was time to come home. In 1997, Mike, Joanne and son, Eric, formed Dunham Cellars in Walla Walla. Within a short time, the winery’s growth demanded more attention and Mike retired from his insurance practice to focus his attention on growing the winery business. The winery has been a wonderful part of the Dunham family’s life and has provided many opportunities to meet new friends, to travel and to support many great causes and charities. Mike’s constant presence at the winery will be deeply missed by his loyal staff. Always a gracious host, countless friends and business associates will remember their introduction to “Mike Dunham, Walla Walla” and Mike’s uncanny ability to make people feel welcome.
Throughout his battle with cancer, Mike developed a deep appreciation for Swedish Radiosurgery Center (Dr. Sandy Vermeulen and staff), Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (Dr. John Thompson and staff) and Walla Walla Community Hospice; he greatly admired their compassionate care and professionalism.
Mike is survived by his wife of 31 years, Joanne, Walla Walla; sister, Sandra Daniel, Olympia, WA; son, Eric (Kanae), Walla Walla; daughters, Katy Dunham, Durango, CO; and Michelle Sikma, North Pole, AK; granddaughter, Deanna Sikma, North Pole, AK; grandson, Hikari Michael Dunham, Walla Walla; and numerous cousins and nephews. His father, Wendall and mother, Shirley preceded him in death as well as numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. Mike’s faithful Border Collie, Maysy, has been his beloved canine companion for the past 8 years, and she will miss him greatly.
“A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”
Viewing & visitation will be held on Thursday, May 23, 2013 from 12:00 PM until 7:00 PM at the Herring Groseclose Funeral Home, 315 W. Alder, Walla Walla. The Graveside Funeral Service will be held on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 10:30 AM at Blue Mountain Memorial Gardens. Memorial contributions may be made to Blue Mountain Humane Society, Walla Walla Community Hospice or a charity of the donor’s choice through the funeral home.