Day LaMar Bassett, age 101, of Pullman passed away peacefully December 4, 2023, at Bishop Place Senior Living in Pullman, surrounded by his sons.
Day LaMar Bassett was born in Layton, Utah on June 4, 1922. An only child, Day grew up on his family’s horse-powered farm, where he played with cousins and weeded endless rows of onions. In winter he strapped on barrel staves and skied down his snowy shed roof, aiming for planks to carry him to the ground. His childhood included outhouses, electricity used only for lights, crank telephones with party lines, shared bathwater heated on a coal stove, crawling under coop floors looking for chicken eggs, and listening to a crystal radio set in a freezing bedroom with a wrapped hot rock at his feet. In his depression era teen-age years, he found enjoyment fishing, hunting and playing ball with cousin Bob, but life became difficult as his father’s health failed and family finances collapsed. When World War II started, his future, including further education, became uncertain.
Having taken civilian pilot instruction at Weber College, Day enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He trained as a pilot and qualified as a flight instructor. After teaching many students, some of whom would later perish, he also trained to fly the B-17 and B-29. He served as a B-17 test pilot, assuring that repaired planes were functional for combat. He had been ordered to the Pacific Theatre as a B-29 Aircraft Commander when the war ended. These years changed the trajectory of Day’s life in positive ways. He exchanged social reticence and an uncertain future for highly developed skills, disciplined study habits, well-earned praise from peers, enduring friends and increasing faith. He, like most who served, left those years determined to live a life worthy of the sacrifice of fallen comrades.
Day earned bachelor's degrees in civil and ag engineering and a master’s in agricultural engineering at Utah State College. While there, he met his future wife Zella who served his meals at Mrs. Murray’s boarding house. Enchanted by this beautiful girl who was faithful, funny, smart, athletic and a born leader, he finally gained enough courage to ask for her hand. They were married in the Logan temple in 1946. Always self-deprecating, Day enjoyed telling of their honeymoon flight to Denver during which he, the bomber pilot, got airsick.
Day took his first job designing irrigated farms in the Columbia Basin using water from Grand Coulee Dam. He and Zella spent four years in Ephrata and Othello before moving to Pullman in 1954, when Day joined the faculty at Washington State College. They raised four boys, countering youthful rowdiness with expectations of hard work, academic excellence, piano practice, Scouting, and church participation. Day made life fun with hunting and fishing trips, participation in Scouting events, Christmas treasure hunts, cold water pitched into showers, and attendance at games, plays, and recitals.
Day continued years and the Air Force Reserve, sang bass in the Washington Idaho Symphony Chorale for 28 years, and served extensively in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He served as Bishop during the construction of the LDS chapel on Orchard Drive in the early 1960s, leading efforts in site acquisition, design and construction using mostly member labor. He extended his formal education with a Ph.D. from the University of Idaho. As much as Day and Zella loved Pullman, they also loved their family members in Utah, and drove to Utah so frequently that they bought a second home there. Day and Zella were great hosts, rewarding all comers with home-cooked meals at beautifully appointed tables.
During his teaching and research career, Day went on several WSU-sponsored trips to share irrigation knowledge. He and Zella spent a summer in Portugal, a year in Jordan, and two years in Pakistan. After he retired, he and Zella traveled extensively, gardened, and visited children and grandchildren. They also served two Church missions specializing in employment and water use. Day wrote his autobiography as well as biographies of Zella, his mother Vera, and father Robert (now available at the Salt Lake FamilySearch Digital Library). Following Zella’s tragic death seven years ago, Day continued to welcome visitors, send birthday cards, attend athletic events, savor Ferdinand’s chocolate malts, and enjoy drives around the Palouse. His last years were blessed by his physician Dennis Simpson, MD, and his caregiver, MiKell Wells, to whom the family is eternally grateful.
Day Bassett is survived by his sons Mark, Kent (Joellen), Greg (Shirley), and Doug (Marilee), 16 grandchildren, and 49 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Zella and his daughter-in-law Elaine Bassett.
Funeral Services will be held on Saturday, December 16, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1055 NE Orchard Drive, Pullman. A viewing and visitation will begin prior to the service at 11:30 a.m. Burial will occur December 19th at the Kaysville, Utah City Cemetery at 11:00 a.m.
Corbeill Funeral Home is caring for the family in Pullman and Lindquist Mortuary in Layton. For a livestream link of the funeral service go to corbeillfuneralhomes.com