John Walter Brandt, Jr. (Grampa John) died Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, at the age of 86. He was born March 8, 1930, in Orofino, Idaho, at Hayden’s House by a midwife to Bessie Johnson Brandt and John Walter Brandt, Sr. (Walt). John grew up around the family logging and sawmill business of his grandfather, Charles (Ginpole) Johnson. John’s parents and several aunts and uncles worked together in the operation. They lived in logging camps near the jobs and at Orofino or Pierce, and they were home during the off season. Some of John’s earliest memories were of life in the camps riding on the work horses and “helping” his aunts in the cookhouse. He saw the early Caterpillars and chain saws come into the woods; but as he grew up, worked mostly with his dad building and operating the sawmills. He became a Boy Scout at age 13 in Orofino and rose through the ranks to Eagle Scout at 19. Later he was cub master and scout master in the Kooskia area.
In 1944, Walt was hired to finish and operate a sawmill in Kooskia owned by Leonard Floan. That mill burned down and Leonard hired Walt to build a new one at the mouth of Clear Creek. Walt and Bessie bought a house in Kooskia and John finished high school there graduating as valedictorian of the class of 1948. He attended the University of Idaho and NICE (now LCSC) and in 1950 married his high school sweetheart, Norma Hosig. Their honeymoon was spent hauling lumber from the mill to Orofino. They built a house together in Kooskia near his parents where Norma still lives.
His oldest son, John III (Lucky), was born in 1951 and his daughter, Amron (Amee) Coulter, was added in 1953. Son, Skipper, appeared in 1964.
John continued to work for his dad building a mill on the South Fork River in 1950, 30 miles south of Kooskia. This mill burned in 1951, and John began running a mill in Kooskia for George Cory. In the later ‘50s, he went back to the woods first with his dad and brother, Dean, and then for Leonard Floan, first driving logging truck and later as a woods boss after Burl Lange left. In 1961, that company, Loggers, Incorporated, was sold to Dabco and John finished his logging career running a loader.
In 1961 Ernest Hartman, owner of Stites Hardware, asked John, “Why don’t you buy me out so I can retire?” Ernest made the deal one that John and Norma could not refuse. On Jan. 1, 1962, they became owners of the business, which is still family owned, currently under management of son-in-law, Daniel Coulter.
John learned to fly at age 16 and helped build the airport at Kooskia where he made the first landing in Walt’s Fairchild 24 airplane. Later he became a commercial pilot and flight instructor and taught many people to fly including both of his sons. He was also an instrument instructor and had multi-engine, seaplane, glider and helicopter ratings. He enjoyed flying summer fire patrols for the Forest Service for several years.
John was a master at many things. He could and did run and mechanic on almost any kind of machine from movie projectors to heavy construction and logging equipment. Nothing was too small or too big. He designed and built all the hardware store buildings and several houses doing all the work with help from family. He was the architect, concrete man, mason, carpenter, plumber, electrician, roofer, carpet layer, drywaller, and whatever else was needed.
He was a firefighter for Kooskia and Stites for more than 50 years, serving as Kooskia chief for about 10 years.
In 1974 he became a grandfather and thereafter claimed that as his new “rank.” He referred to himself as Grampa John and the name stuck.
He ran a roller skating rink in Kooskia during high school and then much later in Kooskia and Kamiah. He loved to skate with his kids and grandkids and often skated to work and back between Kooskia and Stites.
He served on the Kooskia City Council, the Syringa Hospital Board, the Idaho County Planning Commission, the school board, and at the time of his death was a member of the Idaho County Republican Central Committee.
He was a very proud conservative Republican and worked diligently to keep building permits and other government BS out of our lives. He was a big fan of Ronald Reagan and was an early strong supporter of Donald Trump.
As his health was failing he said he had to live long enough to see Hillary defeated and Trump become President. He made that goal.
Family and his love of work meant everything to John, but in 1989 while roller skating in Lewiston he met his second love, his partner, Lynn Churchill. They loved twirling and dancing down the streets in parades on skates and were married in 2003.
John is survived by his ex-wife, Norma; his second wife, Lynn Churchill; his children: Lucky (Nancy), Amee (Daniel), and Skip (Pia); his grandchildren: John IV, Jody, Robert, Alana, Andrea, Kylee, and Nicholas; and his great grandchildren: Codi, Jordan, Kieran, Sierrah, Phoebe, Austin, Cason, William, Nora Jo and Aubrey. Also surviving John are his brother Dean (Judy) and sister Elaine Pelton.
When travel conditions have improved a celebration of life will be held.
Please make any memorial donations to the Kooskia-Stites Fire Department, PO Box 126, Kooskia, ID 83539.
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