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David Ellis “Skinny” Beals ( McCall 1945 )

posted: Dec 10, 2020

Skinny was born May 1925 in Bellevue, Pennsylvania. Shortly afterward he moved with his family to Wichita, Kansas, where he graduated from high school in 1943. Skinny registered for the military draft on May 27, 1943 and in lieu of entering the military, he joined the Civilian Public Service as a Conscientious Objector as a Mennonite on December 8, 1943. He entered the CPS program at a camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While there he was assigned to a human research facility on the east coast for a short period of time testing human endurance under various physical conditions before returning to Colorado Springs.

In 1945, Skinny started his smokejumper career when he reported to the CPS smokejumper camp at Nine Mile in Huson, Montana. He reflected that on one of his training jumps, his Eagle parachute opened so fast and hard that it snapped his helmet off. After training at the smokejumper CPS camp, he spent the summer as a smokejumper at McCall, Idaho. Between July 25 and September 2, 1945, he had eight fire jumps. The last fire was on the Wallowa National Forest when he jumped with three others from a Travelair airplane to the Horse Creek Fire, a large Class E fire. After they jumped, a DC-3 load of black paratroopers from the 555th Airborne in Pendleton, Oregon jumped to the fire.

After smokejumping in 1945, Skinny returned to CPS camps in Colorado Springs and Belton, Montana. Upon termination of the CPS program, he was hired by Francis Lufkin at the North Cascades Smokejumper Base in 1947. He continued working there through 1963 except for a three-year hiatus. When the Redmond Smokejumper Base at Redmond, Oregon, opened in 1964, he transferred there as the parachute loft foreman. He continued as the loft foreman until his retirement in 1976 after a 29-year career as a Forest Service and CPS smokejumper.

When Skinny moved to Redmond it was predictable that he ate dinner at his favorite local café every evening and in his spare time build his personal television from parts. Everyone thought he was a confirmed bachelor until he married Wilma Charlene Wales in 1970. Skinny died October 10, 2006, in Yamhill, Oregon. His memorial is at the Deschutes Memorial Gardens, Bend, Oregon.