The big recliner waits for Ron to return, as he always has, but it’s not to be this time.
Ronald Hendrickson of Missoula passed away on a smoky, red sky afternoon July 26, 2021, at St. Patrick Hospital at the age of 86.
Ron was born November 19, 1934, to Arthur Hendrickson and Anna Fassbender Hendrickson on the Sweeney Creek homestead in Florence, Montana. He attended Florence-Carlton school, and was involved in Boys Club, basketball, football, Drama Club and the Annual (yearbook) staff. Ron was also active in Student Council and served as Class President. He graduated in 1953.
He met Betty Kuney, of Lolo, at a dance in Florence and they started dating soon after. Ron (Ronnie as everyone called him then and some now) and Betty were married on June 19, 1955. Prior to their marriage, he joined the U. S. Army in 1954. Ron was stationed in Hawaii for the duration of his service until he was honorably discharged in 1956. He was also an active member of the U. S. Army Reserve until honorably discharged in 1962.
In 1956, he and Betty moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to join up with Betty’s Uncle Bob Snyder and Aunt Ruth Kuney Snyder to venture into the lumber mill and truss manufacturing business. It was not long until they yearned for the mountains of Western Montana and moved back, at first to Deer Lodge, where he joined his older brother Art as a substation electrician for the Milwaukee Railroad. After a short stint with the Milwaukee, they moved back to Missoula, settling in the Target Range area. One by one, Ron and Betty had five houses built in the area, completing all the finish work on every house themselves, all while raising two young children. Ron and Betty divorced in 1989, but remained friends up until he passed, where Betty was with him at the end.
In 1959, Ron began his career with the US Forest Service, Missoula Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest. He worked in the field and eventually became a dispatcher for the Lolo Forest. In 1974, he was tapped by the Region 1 Fire Coordinator’s office to be the Assistant Regional Fire Coordinator and then in 1980, promoted to Regional Fire Coordinator for Region 1, Northern Region. During his 30 years with the Forest Service, he had accumulated numerous commendations and was held in high regard to many in and out of the agency. He retired from this post in 1989.
After his career with the US Forest Service, he worked a short time for Empire Airways. Soon after, he assisted Marta Timmons and together they were largely responsible for the commercial development of the east end of the Missoula International Airport. Specifically, the construction of Northstar Air Express (now Northstar Jet) and the acquisition of Black Hills Aviation, now known as Neptune Aviation Services. While not working at his day job, he occasionally performed maintenance services for T & T Rentals and was usually found busy working around the house or helping friends and relatives with their projects. He could fix just about anything, so he was the first one called to help. He then “retired” for the second time in 2009 from Northstar / Neptune. He was happiest when he was working, so when faced with a partial leg amputation in 2009, it was a huge adjustment he had to overcome.
Losing his leg was his hardest battle, but he handled the pain, frustrations, obstacles and successes straight on, with as little complaining as possible (he didn’t have much patience for complaining or excuses.) Even with all his health challenges, Ron lived independently in his little Cottage Court house until the end, and was deservingly proud of himself that he could still get around on his own.
Ron was a very generous person. If any of the kids, grandkids, relatives, friends or someone he just met needed assistance, he would be there with support of any kind. He was always there to help, whether it be advice or monetary or just someone to talk to. We are all very grateful of his unselfish generosity in any form it was, his drive to motivate and his genuine ability to mentor. Ron’s indisputable positive impact on his community of relatives, friends, and the many through his careers reached far and wide, and ran deep.
One benefit of retirement was it gave him more time for his Westerns. If one would examine his TV remote control, the Spectrum Western channel numbers 4-4-8 are probably worn off. He was an avid sports fan and enjoyed cheering on his favorite teams: The Griz, Seahawks, and Mariners. He also enjoyed his “daytime” shows such as The View and medical shows until it was time to make way to the Eagles Lodge.
The Eagles on South Avenue was his social outlet and second home, going all the way back to his Forest Service days when it was the Rusty Nail. He was a member of the FOE since 1999. He would make his daily pilgrimage there to hang out with his friends and acquaintances, with only a health issue or pandemic causing an absence. If Ron didn’t show up, usually someone would call and check on him. The place won’t be the same without the gold Prius parked out front.
Ron prided himself on being a tough old bird, as he was. He survived a car crash with a train in Deer Lodge, survived his lower leg amputation and emergency brain surgery, and all sorts of other things along the way. We thought he would get through this last rodeo, but kidney failure and a femoral artery aneurism proved just too much to overcome. We wish things had turned out differently, but now there is no more pain, no more struggle, nothing more to deal with; just peace and rest. The family wishes to thank the staff at Community and St. Patrick’s Hospitals for their care and skill during his final days, and all the doctors, nurses, therapists who helped him over the years.
Ron is preceded in death by his parents, Arthur and Anna; stepfathers, Carl Anderson and Howard Daniels; in-laws, Harold and Lena Kuney; siblings Ola Allen, Art and Dennis Hendrickson; stepsister Carol Elaine Cook Timmons; brothers-in-law Ernie Allen and Walt Allen.
He is survived by his son Randy (Lisa) Hendrickson; his daughter Tamara (Perry) Martin; grandchildren Brian Hendrickson and Shauna (Cody) Robertson; Ashleen (Ben) Spencer; Alexa House; great grandchildren, Sam (Ashleen and Ben) Spencer and Lily (Alexa) House; Randy and Tamara’s mom, Betty Hendrickson; sisters-in-law Darlene Hendrickson (Art) and Marietta Hendrickson (Dennis). Also surviving are stepbrother JB Anderson, stepsister Mary Ellen Anderson Johnson, and many other relatives and friends.
A memorial service with full military honors will be held Friday August 27th at the Western Montana Veteran’s Cemetery, beginning at 11 am; a reception at the Eagles will follow at 1 pm. The family strongly encourages COVID 19 safety measures be followed. Anyone who plans to attend is encouraged to take exemplary precautions, not only for their safety but for others as well. Masks will be available for anyone who needs one. For those who cannot attend, there will be live stream coverage of the ceremony through Garden City Funeral Home’s webpage. The link is: https://www.gardencityfh.com/memorials/ronald--hendrickson/4680457/obituary.php
We’ll miss you, Dad. Thanks for everything.