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Thursday, Jul. 29, 2010

Longtime Prosser farmer, leader Wayne Hogue dies

PROSSER, Wash. — A longtime Prosser farmer and civic leader who left his fingerprints on countless projects in the small Lower Yakima Valley town died Tuesday after an illness.

Wayne Hogue was 91.

“He was tireless in support of community activities,” said son Mike Hogue. “He loved farming and Prosser.”

The elder Hogue was born in Buhl, Idaho, in 1919 and moved to the Lower Valley as a child. He graduated from high school in Grandview and married his wife, Shyla, a few years later.

The couple bought 40 acres of hops in the Prosser area in 1949 and turned the land into an operation that included thousands of acres of cattle and crops from wheat to grapes, his obituary said.

They had two sons, Mike and Gary. Shyla died in 2004.

Hogue was active in the Prosser community, serving on several boards, joining civic groups and volunteering his time to raise money for causes close to his heart.

“Wayne always told me, ‘If you never ask the question, the answer is always ‘no.’ He was a good fundraiser because he was hard to say ‘no’ to,” said Prosser Mayor Paul Warden with a chuckle.

Warden said he admired Hogue’s generosity and drive to make Prosser a better place.

“He definitely left a huge mark on Prosser,” Warden said. “That’s without question.

The longtime resident also was a force in city government. He was mayor of Prosser for nearly eight years before retiring in 1995. His tenure was marked by a couple of high-profile controversies.

In 1993, a group of citizens tried to recall him after furor arose over a 26 percent raise given to the city’s public works director, but a judge found there were insufficient grounds for a recall.

And he was involved in a 1990 incident in which the much older Hogue got into a scuffle with Prosser activist Larry Brunelle.

There were also moments of celebration. Mike Hogue said one of his dad’s proudest achievements was helping secure a truck stop for Prosser off Interstate 82. The area now is filled with restaurants and other businesses that draw travelers off the highway.

Hogue reportedly helped make it happen by charming then-Gov. Booth Gardner during a stop in town.

“He was a great leader, but he also understood how to use his team. He was very good at team work,” Mike Hogue said. Hogue was named Prosser’s Outstanding Citizen in 1989-90, his obituary said.

Mike Hogue said his parents were enthusiastic supporters of their sons’ endeavors — including the successful Hogue Cellars.

The couple weren’t sure about the wine business at first, but “then they became the best ambassadors that Hogue Cellars ever had,” Mike Hogue said.

The family sold the multimillion dollar operation in 2001.

Mike Hogue said his father taught him the value of hard work, something he perhaps learned living through the Great Depression.

“(My parents) taught my brother and I work ethic and respect for people who work hard,” Mike Hogue said. “He led by example.”

Hogue’s survivors include his son Gary and wife Claudia of Issaquah; son Mike and wife Dora of Prosser; six grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and one great-great-granddaughter.

A memorial service is 11 a.m. Monday at Prosser First Presbyterian Church.

-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1402; sschilling@tricityherald.com