Ernest J. Longanecker, 66, of Spokane Valley, passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack in his sleep on April 13, 2014, at his sister’s home in Okanogan. He was born in Winthrop on Jan. 7, 1948. He attended school in Winthrop, graduating in 1966. He was president of the Associated Student Body and held many other student government offices during high school. He played trumpet in the school band, and was a standout athlete in four sports, earning numerous varsity letters in all four years of high school. He participated in many other school activities and organizations, frequently in leadership positions.
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Eastern Washington State College. He served in the military as part of the 101st and 85th Airborne Divisions and was awarded the U.S. Army Commendation Medal, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star for valor because of his personal bravery during the Vietnam War. He was a smokejumper at North Cascades Smokejumper Base from 1970 through 1974. After smokejumping, he worked in the aluminum production industry at Kaiser Aluminum and later as an independent aluminum broker. He enjoyed his extensive travel throughout the world for his work and for fun.
In recent years he took up beekeeping, the profession of his father, as a hobby. He took great pleasure in giving jars of honey to family and friends, and they all immensely enjoyed the fruits of his labor.
Ernie loved to hang glide and skydive, built and flew ultra-light airplanes, and drove flashy sports cars way too fast. He was wonderfully witty, and he enjoyed his family, friends and living life to the fullest.
A beloved brother, uncle, father, and wonderful loving grandfather, he is survived by two sons, Sam and Skyler (Cassie), daughter Joy, and his bright new love, his grandson Max, all of the Spokane area.
A service with military honors will be held 2 p.m. on Saturday (May 10) at Gretna Green Chapel at 1403 N. Washington St., Spokane, WA 99201. Precht-Harrison-Nearents Chapel and the Okanogan Co. Crematory of Okanogan are caring for the arrangements.