September 14, 1946 - December 7, 2021
Ronald Edward DeVolder 1946-2021 Ronald Edward DeVolder, 75, of Monmouth, OR, died unexpectedly on December 7, 2021, at Salem Hospital. His beloved wife, Norma, was with him. Ron was born on September 14, 1946, in Portland, OR, to Mary DeVolder, his loving and devoted mother. He spent much of his early youth in Astoria within view of the Columbia River and developed a kinship with the water that stayed with him throughout his life. He attended Holy Family Grade School, mowed the lawns and baseball fields at the school and helped in yard maintenance. In Astoria, he met Captain Frank Gillard, now deceased, who took Ron under his wing, introduced him to the Astoria Pilot House, taught him much about the sea and helped him build his first wooden boat. Ron often noted the Captain’s impact as a mentor and father figure. At the age of ten, Ron moved from Astoria to Portland with his mother, his brother, Gerry, and little sister, Janelle, but Captain Gillard’s teachings informed the rest of his life. Ron recently observed “he somehow put into my head at that early age the concept that to those whom much is given much is expected. I’m glad he had the wisdom to do so.” After moving to Portland, Ron played youth ice hockey with the Portland Amateur Hockey Association and spent hours in the garage on roller skates honing his skills with taped together sticks and pucks - admittedly not an ideal, or safe, space for hockey, especially for his cherished baby sister. He turned his entire basement into a darkroom, grew prize winning dahlias with his Grandpa DeVolder, and spent hours learning woodworking in his Grandpa Sconce’s basement. “He taught me how to run a table saw, a jigsaw, a planer and a lathe. Got me through high school wood shop like a breeze.” Ron graduated from Cleveland High School in Portland in 1964. His favorite subject was biology and his teacher suggested Ron and his mother go visit with Leona Todd, biology professor at the Oregon College of Education (OCE, now Western Oregon University, WOU) in Monmouth. The biology lab was located where the president’s conference room is now. “Could shove maybe 8 students in at once. To me, the lab was huge.” Professor Todd (deceased) convinced him OCE was the right place for him but, after a couple of months, the rent money was running out and it looked like his academic journey was in jeopardy. Then Ron met Monmouth Fire Chief Don Milligan - a man who would have a profound impact on his life - as he was walking past the fire station with $100 to his name. Ron tells it best as he reflected on the Chief’s passing in 2020: "I pass Milligan with a mountain of … new plywood and a table saw, and his helper, Asst Chief Bud Smith, director of OCE media services, with wood smoke pouring out the open bay doors. I walk up to them. Ask 'What are you guys doing?' 'We're building 6 closets, hanger & drawer units so that OCE student firefighters could have a place in FD to store their stuff.' I said I'd give them a hand. They looked at me funny. After I sawed only 2 plywood sheets into …1 closet w drawers, Milligan said to me, 'Here's your bunk.' I said, 'But I don't know anything about firefighting.' Chief said 'I like that. You come with no bad habits. I'll teach you.' Later he introduced me to Norma." Ron continued with college, learned firefighting and graduated from OCE with a teaching degree in biology in 1968. His firefighter skills were called upon to help with hanging lights on the giant sequoia tree for the very first Holiday Tree Lighting in 1967. The friendship with Chief Milligan lasted a lifetime. Ron graduated from OCE in 1968 and was briefly married to Lynn Roberts Ramsdell. In 1969 he joined the Army and served 4 years active duty. He served in Vietnam 1969-70 in the 365th Aviation Brigade. Ron’s valor and faithful service allowed many other soldiers to, as he once quietly observed, “come home in a plane with windows.” Ever the reluctant hero, he was a hero nonetheless, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with a “V.” After Vietnam he served the remainder of his tour with the 4th Infantry stationed in Ft. Carson, CO. Leaving the Army behind, Ron returned to Oregon and began work for the Roberts Motor Company Kenworth truck dealership in Eugene. He started in the parts department and ended his career as the company president in 2013. Roberts Motor Company, which sold Kenworth brand heavy and medium-duty trucks up and down the west coast, grew to include dealerships in Portland, Eugene, Medford and Redmond. Many contacts made during his work career continued long after he retired. Ron was the quintessential businessman, loving both spreadsheets and people. He built relationships and the company grew. Always up for a technical or mechanical challenge, Ron, through Roberts, was involved in scores of unusual projects, among them relocating Howard Hughes’ famous Spruce Goose to its current location at the McMinnville Evergreen Museum. Ron’s fascination with science, technology, engineering, math and the arts would ultimately come to bear on his philanthropy at Western Oregon University. Ron’s marriage to Lynn ended during the early 70s but they remained friends for the remainder of her life. Before her death in 2011, both Ron and his wife, Norma, generously provided comfort, care and support to Lynn during her illness. Chief Milligan’s introduction of Ron and Norma in 1982 started something grand. Initially reluctant, Norma was finally persuaded and their marriage created a partnership that continues to bless their family, friends and students known and unknown. Norma’s two young sons, Matt and Levi, were embraced as his own. Ron was incredibly proud of his sons and his grandchildren. He was also quite proud of Norma’s career as a nurse and they would later direct significant gifts to the pre-nursing program at WOU. While Norma was the expert, Ron became the best non-quilting quilter around. He searched the internet for fabric, never missed a quilt store opportunity, and spent hours planning Norma’s quilting room addition to their home. He played banjo for their chickens, spec’d garden plots and planters and argued over whose cat was the best, his or Norma’s. (For the record Ron’s cat is “smart, sleek and guarding the Western front.”) It was almost by accident that Ron became reacquainted with WOU. Years after graduation, friends who were involved in the Wolfpack Athletic Club invited him to a WOU barbeque. Students were there and Ron enjoyed talking with them and learning about their achievements at Western. His friends suggested that he become involved in the Wolfpack board of directors. He didn’t quite know what it entailed, but it sounded challenging. He was certainly up to the challenge. From the early 1990's through 2000, Ron was an Officer of the Wolfpack Board. He served on the WOU Foundation Board of Trustees from 1995-2014 where he held offices including Treasurer, Chair, and long-time Past Chair. In 2009 he was awarded the Alumni Award of Excellence. Ron was honored as a Golden Wolf in 2018. He ended his long service on the WOU Foundation Finance & Planned Giving Committee in 2019. In 2011, Ron and Norma donated the largest single sum in Western Oregon University’s history, $2.3 million to help build the DeVolder Family Science Center. Construction on the science center began in June 2012, and the 22,375 square-foot state-of-the-art facility opened in September 2013. The center’s impact on the quality of science education at WOU is immeasurable, and light years from the single, cramped biology lab Ron encountered when he arrived at Western in 1964. In addition to their gifts to the DeVolder Family Science Center, Ron & Norma have given more than $500,000 to 42 different campus funds. The first gift was in 1986. The most recent gift arrived just the day before his death. His generosity was boundless, often anonymous, and impacted nearly every corner of campus including, but definitely not limited to, the Food Pantry, Veterans Resource Center, Athletics, and Music. His generosity extended beyond Western. He would reach out to WOU alums who were K-12 teachers, particularly music and theatre, and ask - “what do you need?” Their surprised, measured responses were met with “dream bigger.” He was in the habit of fulfilling those dreams. Ron was a true Western Wolf. He and Norma supported football and softball with their time and treasure. The on-campus tailgates were famous - complete with their own WOU painted trailer and ever expanding tents. The grills started early and food (specially ordered from Gartner’s Meats in Portland) flowed freely to anyone who stopped by. Ron particularly enjoyed hosting the families of players, getting to know them, and letting them know their kids were his kids too. He was overjoyed when his first college-aged grandchild, McKenna, chose to attend his alma mater. The softball team holds a special place for Ron and Norma. They accompanied the team on road trips to places like Texas, Arizona, California, Montana and Hawaii. The DeVolder “hotel tailgaters" were unique and memorable events. He knew the students and their parents and would often keep in touch with the alums long after graduation. He was so very proud of these women, the program, their coach, and particularly their academic achievements. He was positively joyful when a former student came to see him. They were probably stunned he remembered their GPA. The pull of the water was never far from Ron and, in 2013, he and Norma purchased a 32’ Nordic Tug they christened “Florian,” the patron saint of firefighters. Florian was docked in Bellingham, WA, and for the next seven years welcomed dozens of guests aboard each summer for multiple-day trips in the San Juan Islands. Joining Ron and Norma on every trip was David (Grizz) Thompson. Ron and Grizz delighted in standing at the helm, plotting courses, running through fog, navigating heavy seas, and insisting every Florian guest get a turn at the wheel. More than 90 separate people, some for multiple trips, discovered the beauty of the Islands and the joys of cruising on Florian. Ron took pleasure in finding great onshore accommodations and locating restaurants with the best raw oysters, preferably Kumamoto. True to his firefighter training, every guest would go through the required safety course before departure, including watching a defibrillator training video. The best thing about Florian, Ron would say, was sharing it with others, often those who were hurting. He and Norma made extraordinary efforts to invite and accommodate many in need of peace or healing. It was part of the Florian mission. Florian was sold in 2020 … to a former firefighter. Ron relished sitting around any table sharing food and drink with family or friends, old and new. His sister recalled how much he loved his Mom’s carrot and raisin salad and Norma’s meatloaf and that meals were always full of joy - Ron leading the way with his boisterous, distinctive laugh. He was a voracious reader of history and current events, had to know how things worked, and could recall people, places and events in vivid detail. It was not uncommon for Ron to remind friends of occurrences in their own lives they had themselves forgotten. He was quick to congratulate, and console. He and Norma quietly, often anonymously, supported countless people in their time of need. Ron said his biggest joys on earth were Norma, family, friends and sharing with others. He lived his joys. His family and friends mourn his passing with gratitude and love. Ron is survived by his wife, and his rock, Norma of Monmouth; his sons Matt (Rosa) Sieg of Salem and Levi (Natalie) Sieg of Claremont, CA; grandchildren McKenna and Dylan Sieg of Salem, Mason, Clayton and Nash Sieg of Claremont; sister Janelle (John) Pilmer of Portland, brother Gerry DeVolder of Atlanta, GA; in-laws Roseanne (Ron) Boitz and Clifford (Janis) Gordon of Monmouth, Dianne Hulford of Ferndale, WA; extended family, and countless friends throughout the country. Ron was preceded in death by his mother, Mary DeVolder, father and grandparents. A Celebration of Life will be held on at a later date. See calendar.wou.edu for details. Memorials may be directed to the Ron DeVolder Memorial Scholarship, WOU Foundation, 345 Monmouth Ave. N, Monmouth, OR 97361 or by making a tribute gift at wou.edu/give. Farnstrom Mortuary is assisting the family.
Ronald Edward DeVolder 1946-2021 Ronald Edward DeVolder, 75, of Monmouth, OR, died unexpectedly on December 7, 2021, at Salem Hospital. His beloved wife, Norma, was with him. Ron was born on September 14, 1946, in Portland, OR, to Mary DeVolder,... View Obituary & Service Information
Obituary & Service
Ronald Edward DeVolder
Ronald Edward DeVolder, 75,...
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