Corinne Eugenia (Gunderson) Stumbo
Corinne Eugenia (Gunderson) Stumbo died Feb. 25, 2023, at her home in Wolf Creek.
She was 92.
Born Feb. 17, 1931, in Kalispell, Mont., to a Swedish immigrant father and Swedish American mother. She lived in Kalispell; Spirit Lake, Idaho; Spokane, Wash.; Opportunity, Wash.; Pondosa, Ore.; and Pendelton, Ore. Her father's job as a sawmill lumber piler caused frequent moves during the Depression. She graduated from Pendleton High School and enrolled at the University of Oregon at 16. There, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1951 and a law degree in 1953. She was one of only seven women accepted into the Oregon State Bar Association that year. She was a member of the Bar for 70 years,
Her legal career began after answering a classified placed by Grants Pass attorney Violet Clements Ahlf, who was seeking an associate. Presumably the first female attorney in Southern Oregon, Ahlf had been practicing law since 1905, and operated an office on Sixth and I streets.
Corinne became disenchanted with criminal work after representing a man who burglarized a home and stole children’s Christmas gifts. She met logger Robert "Bob" Stumbo after he read a Grant Pass Courier article about her and hired her to draw up partnership papers for his business, Stumbo Brothers Logging co. They married and shemoved to Wolf Creek to practice part-time while raising a family. She focused on real estate contracts, divorces, wills, and estates. Her clients ranged from gold miners to loggers, to business owners, to commune members. Occasionally she received payment in barter, getting a gold nugget from a miner. She is still owed a cord of wood for a divorce case.
In the early years of her practice, she did her own typing in a corner of the living room with her Oregon Statutes arranged on board and cinder block bookcases. As each child became a reliable reader, they were pressed into service reading legal descriptions from original deeds while she compared them to her typewritten copies. When the children became adults, they were enlisted to act as witnesses for legal documents.
In 1956, the Stumbos were involved in a notorious dispute with the Oregon Highway Commission regarding adverse possession and eminent domain. The State had failed to acquire a strip of land from the family before building Highway 99 across it. The incident is memorialized in case law, a "True" magazine article, and an episode of the TV series "Bus Stop" titled: "The Stubborn Stumbos and the Troublesome Turnpike."
The "Corinne" immortalized in print and on film pales by comparison to the strong and accomplished real woman. The magazine called her "a remarkably pretty girl" whose legal career was "interrupted by marriage and motherhood." The TV show thought America wasn't ready for a woman lawyer and gave that honor to her logger brother-in-law. She was portrayed as a buxom blonde, cocktail-serving, fried chicken-making housewife when in fact she was an analytical brunette teetotaler whose best dish was Swedish pancakes.
She kept the books for the logging company, co-owned and worked the counter at “Stumbo’s Drive-Up” (formerly “The Beanery”) in Wolf Creek, managed a wheat farm she inherited from her parents in Umatilla County, and continued to practice law until she retired in the 1980s.
She was active in her community and was a member of the Glendale Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star and served as its Worthy Matron in the late ’60’s. She was a member of the Wolf Creek Thimble Club, Sunny Valley Grange No. 916 and the Wolf Creek Friends of the Library. Before vote-by-mail, she served as precinct chair for Wolf Creek during Josephine County elections. She was secretary of the Wolf Creek Cemetery Association and did audits for the Wolf Creek Rural Fire Protection District.
Before an injury and macular degeneration sidelined her, she walked daily. She enjoyed senior meals at the Wolf Creek Civic Association. She loved flowers, newspapers, Mexican cocoa, murder mysteries, and most of all, her children. To many she was an enigma, but to those fortunate enough to really know her she was a woman of unrivaled intellect, occasional whimsey, unwavering loyalty and forgiveness.
She was preceded in death by her parents Carl and Helen (Larson) Gunderson, and husband, Robert Stumbo. She is survived by her son, Robin Stumbo, and daughters Melody, Allison Stumbo and Stacy Stumbo.
Her family wishes to thank the health care providers at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center and Bristol Hospice.