Remembering 'A Legend:' Former Lewis County Sheriff Bill Wiester Dies at 91

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By Bill Wiester Jr.’s estimation, his father, who was born in Morton and came back to Lewis County to raise his family, work as a logger, train his beloved bloodhounds and eventually become sheriff, was a living legend.

“I think he touched everybody,” Wiester said. “He loved the people of Lewis County. He was just born to be a sheriff.”

Bill Wiester, Sr., who served as Lewis County sheriff for two decades, died Thursday at 91 years old at Providence Centralia Hospital.

The family will announce details about a memorial in the future, Wiester, Jr. said.

Wiester was born in Morton, but he wasn’t born a Wiester, his son said. At the time, his last name was Boren.

At 2 years old, his parents gave him and several siblings up for adoption, dropping them off at a home for boys and girls in Seattle.

“During the Depression his folks couldn’t take care of them anymore. They couldn’t afford it,” Wiester said. “That’s the way it was in the Depression for a lot of folks.”

He and a brother were adopted by the Wiesters, a family who owned a dairy farm in Wahkiakum County, where the boys grew up. Bill Wiester, Sr.’s brother, Bob Wiester, went on to be the Wahkiakum County sheriff, Wiester Jr. noted.

Wiester was able later in life to make contact with his brothers and sisters who were adopted separately.

“Little did he know that he would end up coming back,” Wiester Jr. said.

After leaving the dairy farm, Wiester Sr. began his law enforcement career as a corrections officer at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. His next stop, Wiester, Jr. said, was to be a police officer in Raymond.

“He was involved in a shootout that made national attention,” Wiester Jr. said.

The family later moved back to Lewis County, to Randle specifically. When his kids were young, Wiester also worked as a logger, his son remembered.

“He knew all about logging because he’d been there and done that,” he said.

Wiester remembers his dad topping trees to make spar poles.

“He would sit on top of that spar pole 150 feet in the air after he’d limbed it all off, sit there and eat his lunch,” Wiester Jr. said. “He wasn’t scared of anything at 22, 23 years old.”

Wiester became a Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputy when the family moved to Randle. He rose to the rank of undersheriff, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. In 1966, he resigned that position to run for sheriff. He was elected and sworn in the following year. He served as sheriff until his retirement in 1986.

During that time, he served as the president of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and established the Sheriff’s Office K9 program, participating with his many search and rescue bloodhounds.

Wiester Jr. remembered his father including him and his two sisters in training exercises.

“He would bring us way up in the mountains … and he would say, ‘I want you kids to go get lost,’” he said. “We’d go until we were so tired we’d be ready to drop.”

The kids would curl up under a log or in the shade of a tree for a nap, until about an hour later when they heard the sounds of approaching bloodhounds, with their father not far behind.

“Other places, other states would fly him in to do searches for lost kids. He was pretty well known as a time,” said former Sheriff John McCroskey.

In March, Wiester, then living in the Stillwaters Colonial Residence in Centralia, had a chance to meet up with a woman who he and his trusty bloodhounds found in the woods 46 years earlier.

When 3-year-old Joane Heck went missing in Chehalis, Wiester and his trusty dog Ole Blue were on the scene within minutes of her parents’ frantic 911 call.

Ole Blue got the scent and was off like a shot, leading his master to the toddler far out into the woods.

“He told stories about Ole Blue all the time,” McCroskey said. ““He was always telling jokes. He was a very funny, funny colorful guy. His first aid classes were legendary … because they were mostly jokes.”

McCroskey remembered Wiester, who hired him as as deputy in 1976, as a “colorful” character always ready with a joke.

“I don’t think I ever met him and within the first two or three minutes he wasn’t telling a story,” McCroskey said.

Wiester also hired his son, just after the end of the Vietnam War. Wiester Jr. worked at the Sheriff’s Office for 11 years before moving to Grant County, where he later served three terms as their elected sheriff.

In the years he served with Wiester, McCroskey said he learned lessons that would later help him as Lewis County’s elected Sheriff.

“Right, wrong or otherwise, you make decisions. You use the best information you’ve got but you make decisions,” McCroskey said. “I had a high regard for Bill.”

Over two decades, Wiester oversaw the investigation of a number of notorious criminal cases. Many will remember him for his response to the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

“We weren’t prepared for an eruption,” Wiester told The Chronicle in 2010, recalling his orders for deputies to cover their cars’ carburetors with their wives’ panty hose and shake the silk stockings free of ash every couple of hours.

Wiester recalled uncovering two women in the blast zone after the Mount St. Helens eruption who were found on the opposite side of the canyon from where they were camping with cameras melted to their necks.

He described the scene as a “nightmare.”

The Chronicle’s archives are filled with glowing endorsements of Wiester’s time as sheriff in Lewis County. Many also noted his ever-present sense of humor.

During an interview in 2010, he told of how in1967, a year after his election, a matron at the sheriff’s office opening a fridge to find a startling piece of evidence.

“She opened it up one morning and looking back at her was a human head,” Wiester said. “That (evidence) procedure was changed right there.”