Kjell Ray Lester, 50, nearly a lifelong Winthrop resident and businessman, passed away on Saturday, May 28, 2016, at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee. His passing marks the end of 51 years of a retail business in downtown Winthrop for the Lester family.
He was born on May 13, 1966, to John and Carol (Gatewood) Lester at the Brewster Hospital. Kjell grew up in Winthrop but attended the Greenlake School for the Deaf in Seattle for his first and second grade. He continued his schooling in Winthrop and graduated from Liberty Bell High School in 1985 as a three-sport letterman in football, basketball and baseball.
He continued his education at Seattle Community College and Big Bend Community College, working part-time as an auto mechanic for an auction company to pay tuition. He received his private pilot’s license during this time, too.
Upon returning to Winthrop, he worked for the U.S. Forest Service on the trail systems. In 1991, Kjell, along with his brother, Kory, started the White Buck Trading Company, a souvenir shop in Winthrop. Once well established, Kory let Kjell continue the operation of the store. In 2012, the television reality show, “American Pickers,” came to the White Buck Trading Company and purchased 32 items on their program. The most memorable item was a grizzly bear trap, which sold for $3,500. He continued the operation of the store until starting a new business in 2014, known as Lester Pump Service. This was a domestic and irrigation pump service company. He continued his pump service company until ill health made it no longer possible.
He enjoyed life in the Methow Valley, hunting, fishing, and hunting with his hounds. Kjell and two friends became volunteers for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) on a special grant study of cougars in the Methow. He assisted by using his trained hounds to catch, tranquilize and implant tracking devices, to observe their territories for 10 years. In 2013, he received volunteer of the year from the WDFW.
Kjell is survived by his companion, Julee May, Winthrop; parents John and Carol Lester, Okanogan; brother Kory J. Lester, Okanogan; maternal grandparents Herb and June Gatewood, Wenatchee; aunts and uncles Tom and Fae Graves, Winthrop; Ralph Lester and JoAnn, Forks; Patricia Davis-Lester, Okanogan; Bill and Sharon Lester, Port Orchard; Ray Soule, Bremerton; and Joyce Reisin, Wenatchee. His paternal grandparents and step-grandmother, Emma Graves Lester, preceded him in death.
A commemoration service will be on Sunday (June 12), 2016, at 2 p.m. at the Winthrop Barn. Memories and condolences can be left at his online guestbook at www.HeritageMemorialChapel.com. Arrangements are in the care of Heritage Memorial Chapel, East Wenatchee.