Ronald Nelson

Obituary of Ronald Neil Nelson

Ronald Neil Nelson was born February 21, 1934, in Hopewell, Oregon to Constance Snelson and Lawrence Nelson.  Sadly, his parents' marriage didn't last. When Ron was four years of age, he and his two younger brothers went to the Parry Center for Children, which is still on SE Powell Blvd in Portland.


From first through sixth grade, Ron lived at St. Mary's Home for Boys on Tualatin Valley Highway in Beaverton.  At that time the home was run by the Sisters of St. Mary.  It wasn't a warm and fuzzy place, but the nuns provided a stable home for the boys in their care.


When Ron had read through all of the books in the boys' home library, he was given special privileges to use the library at St. Mary of the Valley school for girls (now Valley Catholic), which was just across the road.  Ron was to go straight into the library and no where else, not even looking around.  This sounds amusing to us now, but undoubtedly the nuns did not want the girls' parents to be concerned about those wild St. Mary's boys being on the premises.


After St. Mary's, Ron was able to move to Amity to live with his maternal grandmother, Hazel Gibbs, and her husband “The Colonel”.  He lived with his grandparents from seventh grade until he was married.


For a small town, Amity provided Ron with a variety of opportunities.  He was involved with 4-H and raised rabbits.  At school, he played trombone in the band and marched in the Portland Rose Parade, was on the basketball team, and performed in the school operetta.  He helped with his grandparents' nut drying operation.  He had a paper route, laid linoleum, worked in a planing mill, and even delivered milk.


Ron graduated from Amity Union High School in 1952, part of a class of 12.  While still in high school, he joined the Army Reserve and after graduation went on active duty.  Ron shipped out to Korea in August of 1952.  He did not enjoy the boat ride there and back and for many years was reluctant to do any extended travel.


Ron was in the infantry in Korea.  At one point he was the youngest sergeant in the US army in Korea.


In 1954, Ron returned to Amity and went to work for Baxter S. Moore, logging in the Tillamook Burn.  Coming to the conclusion that neither the army nor logging were his desired occupations, he enrolled at Linfield College in McMinnville.


While at Linfield, Ron met Bill Johnson, son of the owners of the roller rink in McMinnville, and he learned to skate.  On St. Patrick's Day in 1956, a local high school senior named Donnita Pounds brought her friend Eloise to the rink.  Bill decided that he wanted to skate with Eloise, so Ron skated with Donnita.  The two men escorted the ladies home that evening.  Bill and Eloise dated for about two weeks, but Ron and Donnita were smitten for good.


On October 4, 1957, Ron and Donnita were married at First Christian Church in McMinnville.  Two weeks later, Donnita graduated from Modern Beauty College in Salem.  Ron continued his education at Linfield while also working at Harper Jamison stationers in McMinnville and as janitor at the grade school in Amity.


As graduation from Linfield approached, Ron took a practice interview with the Aetna insurance company and was offered the job.  He graduated from Linfield on a Sunday in 1959 and started as an underwriting trainee with Aetna the next day.


Ron and Donnita moved to Tigard in June 1959, and in July became charter members of Villa Ridge Christian Church in southwest Portland, which later became Tigard Christian Church.  Over the course of 60 years, Ron served in the congregation as deacon, elder, Sunday School teacher, youth group bus driver, AV squad member, and many other roles.  (The congregation has recently joined with two others in Newberg and McMinnville and is now known as Northwest Christian Church – Tigard Campus.)


In 1961, daughter Dawn was born, and soon after the family moved to southwest Portland.  They moved to Beaverton in 1980.


Ron continued his work as a commercial insurance underwriter.  He was with Aetna for twenty years, followed by about three years in reinsurance with Cravens Dargan.  He was then recruited by American States Insurance, where he spent another twenty years or so.  In 1996, American States reorganized and closed their Portland office.  Ron was told that he still had a job, but it was going to be in Seattle.  Ron and Donnita moved to Mulkiteo and spent three years there exploring new territory and making new friends.


Following the Safeco buyout of American States in 1999, Ron and Donnita moved back to Beaverton.  Ron took a position with Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies as a field underwriter.  After five years there, and at the age of 70, Ron finally decided that the time had come to retire from the insurance industry.


Throughout his long career in insurance, Ron progressed from underwriter trainee to senior management level.  He was continually taking – and teaching -  insurance certification classes and earned a multitude of designations including CPCU, CLU, ARM . . . one co-worker quipped that they needed to put an extension on Ron's business card for all his certifications.


It was of great importance to Ron to encourage others to further their own careers by also pursuing these certifications.  He was always very proud of the accomplishments of his team.  Many of his co-workers became valued friends with whom he remained in contact through the years.


By far the greatest accomplishment of his life (in his daughter's opinion) was his choice of an excellent wife with whom he spent 62 years of marriage.  They provided an example well worth following.


Ron passed from this life to life eternal on April 23, 2020.


He is survived by his wife Donnita, daughter Dawn Huff and her husband Michael, and grandson Matthew Huff and his wife Robyn Myers, all of Beaverton.  He is also survived by his sisters Larrie Patricia Noble of Tigard, and Margo Valencia Ewing of Hendersonville, Tennessee.  He was predeceased by his brothers Richard and Roger.


The family would like to thank everyone who has reached out with love and care during this time.  A celebration of Ron's life will be planned at a later date.


If you would like to remember Ron with a memorial gift, the family suggests a place that was close to his heart, Wi-Ne-Ma Christian Camp in Cloverdale, Oregon.