Obituary for Ralph Kenneth Koontz
Imagine being the wife, daughter, or grandchild of the guy everyone loves, respects, and enjoys being around. Well, we are those people. Ralph Koontz charmed people even as a boy in Fort Scott, Kansas where he was born April 24, 1930 to Beulah (Stanton) and William Harrison Koontz. Nephew of well-known lion tamers and animal trainers, Ralph never stopped trying new things.
His family moved to Pocatello, ID when he was seven and he graduated from Poky High as a very popular member of the marching band (proving that is not an oxymoron. GO, trumpet players!). He was a student and lover of music his whole life, learning instruments and playing by ear, and spending hundreds of hours listening to popular music of his day, symphony music and forever – jazz.
Ralph taught himself to build kit electronics, restore old cars, design, remodel and build houses, code computers (TRS-80 in 1983) and build websites at the age of 65.
Ralph’s service consisted of two stints – in the Air Force during the Korean War where, he was quick to point out, he held hazardous duty in Utah; and as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Depoe Bay Flotilla. Because of his work developing websites and online training modules, he was given a post on the National Board of the Auxiliary, which he resigned in spring of this year. In a 1953 recommendation for promotion to Staff Sergeant, Ralph was commended as having a superior efficiency rating, a high degree of technical ability and maturity beyond his years, ‘soundly backed by full thought and thorough knowledge of the fundamentals required for solution to the problem at hand.’ Pretty sure he considered those some of the highest compliments he ever received.
After the Air Force, Ralph located back in Pocatello. He was a very eligible bachelor until he met Shirley Douglas in a bar one night. He proposed 10 days later, marrying her November 3, 1956 And they said it wouldn’t last!
Ralph’s work in the personal finance industry led them to several moves around Idaho, Oregon, and Washington over the first 10 years of marriage, and brought along daughters Cecelia (Cec) and Shea. The family ended up in Salem, Oregon where Ralph became a big fan of ballet recitals and weekend drives to Dunkin Donuts and country locales where the family always owned a piece of property – maybe to someday build on. And, because, in his words, he enjoyed being ‘fully occupied,’ he decided to take up flying, purchased a plane and became fully instrument-rated.
In 1976, Ralph finally gave in to repeated recruitment attempts by his boss and was named Vice President of Franklin Finance, moving to its head office in St Louis, MO. Shirl loved the culture and friendly people of the Midwest, and daughter Shea stayed there to become the mother of Greg Frank, and Lindsay and Kelsey Roy. But, when the business he helped found was acquired, Ralph and Shirl returned to the Oregon Coast, where he built his dream house at Salishan, hosting family and friends, including daughter Cec and her daughter, Jordan ‘Jacy’ (Hermens) Heide. He continued to consult with his old business, but retirement was not for Ralph. He bought a boat (and a bigger boat, and a really big boat) which is how he ended up in the Coast Guard Auxiliary….even though his mantra was ‘Never Volunteer.’
Once they decided they needed to downsize, maybe move closer to Salem and Portland, where they were patrons of the Oregon Symphony, and Portland’s Broadway series; Ralph and Shirl sold their beach house. And bought a larger oceanside condo in Primo Tapia, Baja California, Mexico, which prompted Ralph to teach himself Spanish. They enjoyed the ex-pat life for almost 10 years – meeting great people, eating great food, and learning the local culture. When travel across an international border for groceries and medical care became a burden, they sold the condo and bought a beautiful cottage in Monmouth, Oregon around the corner from Cec, her husband, Steve Keller and dog, Oolie who was always at Ralph’s side. His last method of transportation was an electric scooter and, in no-time, Ralph became well-known throughout town as he went out to lunch or took a run to the store.
Throughout their marriage, Ralph indulged Shirl in her love of travel, fine dining, interior design, culture, and exquisite collectibles. It brought him much pride that he was able to provide such a good life for his girls and beloved grandchildren. Ralph is survived by Shirl, Shea and her family (including Tyler Goodman and a great-grandchild due in March), Cec and her family (including Travis Heide), and his sister, Mary Lou Koontz of Beaverton, Oregon.
In the words of friend, co-pilot, golfing buddy and business partner, Lou Goldring, “Ralph is the finest man I’ve ever known.” And every kid, colleague, dog, neighbor, waitress, employee, family friend, condo guard, in-law, and store clerk he ever met would have to agree.
Ralph’s ashes will be scattered at sea and a Despedida (farewell) Fiesta will be held at a later date. To honor the work Tio Rafael did at the Primo Tapia school, the family suggests donations to the Central School District Benevolence Fund, 750 S Fifth St, Independence OR 97351. Or, do what you can to support kids in need to get a great education and a shot at a better life.