Lt. Col. Richard V. Bassien, USA, Ret.
November 30, 1919 - March 3, 2018
Dick passed away with family by his side on March 3, at the age of 98. He was born November 30, 1919 in North Dakota. He and his mother moved to San Diego, then to Salem when he was five. They lived at the Oregon Tuberculous Hospital now Corban University, as his mother had tuberculous. When Dick was six, she passed away, but he continued to live at the TB Hospital as an orphan until the age of eleven. Dick then moved to Children’s Farm Home in Corvallis and enjoyed learning about growing and canning agricultural products. A month before Dick graduated from the 8th grade at the age of 14, he moved to Monmouth to live with a foster family. He attended Monmouth High School now Central HS and went on to college at OCE now Western Oregon University, paying for college himself as he worked for his foster father at a service station and other odd jobs.
Dick was drafted into the U.S. Army in October 1941. He was to report December 10, 1941, but the bombing of Pearl Harbor put off his induction until December 26, 1941. His Army assessment scores were so high in all categories, he was assigned to be in charge of a unit of men doing forward observations. His job was to decipher the trajectory of cannons incoming and outgoing. Dick also trained to be a glider pilot. He received his orders to go to Europe, but was delayed two weeks because of ‘D Day’. His unit then had to spend three days floating in the English Channel while Normandy Beach was secured. He landed on Normandy Beach at the end of June 1944. He served in the WWII Europe Campaign, mainly in France and Germany and was in the military government in Germany after the war. He was awarded the Bronze Star for military operations between December 24-31, 1944. The newspaper article stated, “Lieutenant Bassien’s service besides being outstanding, was marked by his bravery, perseverance, skill and devotion to duty, reflecting credit upon himself and the army of the United States”. Dick often told the story about one day he was on a training mission in the Mojave Desert, when a jeep crept up beside him getting ready to pass. Dick raised his hand in motion to give the passing jeep ‘the bird’ when he realized it was General George Patton observing the exercise! Dick had many stories of WWII, which are being captured by his grand-daughter in a book called ‘WWII-Memoirs of My Grandpa Dick’. He was honorably discharged from that enlistment of the military in December 1945 and moved back to Monmouth and continued his education at Oregon State University. He was initially studying civil engineering, but then changed to Education. After graduation, he worked at Waldport High School, then Cascade High School in Turner as an industrial arts and drivers education teacher. Turner is where Dick met the love of his life, Ruth, and her two daughters, Roberta and Patricia. He and Ruth married in 1956 and were married 55 years prior to her passing. Dick worked at Cascade until June 1959, when he received an offer from the military to enlist in the Army Reserve, where he was a member of the 364th Civil Affairs Area Headquarters, a Portland unit. He was to take his wife, travel abroad and teach upper level math to soldiers and their dependents. His job took him to Newfoundland, Japan and Spain. He and Ruth returned to Oregon in 1963, missing their family. He then worked for Waldo Middle School teaching metals, and then to Whitaker Middle School teaching industrial arts and drafting. During this time, he was also in the Army Reserves, and was therefore sent to Korea for a short time to brief top military personnel on intelligence matters. He retired from teaching and the Army Reserves in 1981. After retiring, Dick volunteered for several organizations: he was a master gardener for the OSU Extension Office, he delivered Meals on Wheels, monthly drove to Madigan Hospital at Fort Lewis, Washington to fill prescriptions collected from Army Reserve personnel, and helped at the Humane Society for fifteen years.
After his wife, Ruth passed away in 2011, he moved to Capitol Manor and enjoyed swimming, writing his life story, chatting with friends, inviting family for wine and dinner, and working in the woodshop making toys for children in the Salem-Keizer Head Start Program. Dick always put the needs of others before his own. He was a very generous man, giving all to his country, community and family until he passed.
Dick was preceded in death by his mother, Margaret Perry McComas; wife, Ruth Bassien; daughter, Roberta Hilfiker; son-in law, Gene Hilfiker; son-in-law, Gary Gehlen; grandson, Damon Gehlen and dogs, Snoppsey, Sam, Max, Muffie, and Barron. His legacy continues through his daughter, Patricia Gehlen; five grandchildren: Greg Gehlen Barb, Matt Whitfield Tricia, Jennifer Burlison Orville, Steven Gehlen Joy, Cindi Brokaw-Klewitz Kent and eleven great-grandchildren, Nicholas and Christopher Gehlen; Erica and Jacob Whitfield; Jessica and Adam Burlison; David and Julia Gehlen; and Noah, Alyssa and Jonah Brokaw.
A memorial graveside service, with full Military Honors, will be held at City View Cemetery, Saturday, March 24 at 1:00 p.m. Donations can be made to Capital Manor https://www.capitalmanor.com/foundation/ in his name.