Shirley Jean Ronning
September 19, 1928 - February 20, 2014
Shirley Jean Ronning went home to Jesus on Feb. 20, 2014, surrounded by people who loved her. She was born on Sept. 19, 1928, to Dr. Lyle and Beulah (Crose) Pierson — “Doc” and “Bu” — in Wadena, Minn.
Shirley grew up in a home filled with love that many people only experience a glimpse of in their lifetimes. She gave that kind of love to everyone she knew.
Music was an important part of her life from an early age. Her mother gave piano lessons to as many as 25 students at a time, and was the church organist until Shirley took over at age 17. She participated in many choral groups throughout her life, including the “Just for Fun Singers,” and played the flute in her school band for seven years. She led many family Christmas carol sessions at her organ, where she was in her element. One of her few regrets was that she didn’t pursue her musical education after high school.
Upon graduation from Wadena High in 1946, Shirley traveled to Kansas City, Mo., where she earned her clerical certificate for Northwest Airlines.
She worked in the manuals and regulations department in St. Paul, Minn., for two years prior to her marriage. On Sept. 25, 1949, she married Palmer “Buz” Ronning. After their first child was born, they made the decision to move to a warmer climate and relocated to southern California.
They spent three years in Arizona but eventually made their way back to Anaheim, Calif. Shirley spent nearly 30 years as an organist at First Christian Church in Garden Grove, alongside Buz who was musical director, until they relocated to Salem, Ore. around 1995. There they found a home at Court Street Christian Church, where they were both involved in musical programs and made numerous friends. In 2011 they made one more move to Hood River, Ore. to be near family.
Shirley was the lifeblood of her family, event planner, musical director, harmony-keeper, and a generous source of love and laughter. She made holidays special for her kids and grandkids even if resources were lacking, and she reveled in the time she spent surrounded by family and friends, cooking wonderful meals for them.
She and Buz have countless friends across the country and spent many hours traveling to visit with them. She enjoyed bowling, playing bridge and other card games, and was an avid Mariners fan.
In the last years of her life, she endeared herself to her caregivers and made lasting impressions on them.
Shirley faced the loss of two of her children, ages 19 and 39, with strength and grace and sincerely believed in an eternity without pain or sadness for those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Sovereign, sacrificial Son of God.
Now she is seated in a place prepared for her at the feast table of the King, next to her son and daughter, who she missed dearly. She was preceded in death by her son Gary Ronning in 1979, her daughter Lorry Eaves in 1989, and her brothers Keith and Jack Pierson.
She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Buz Ronning; her sons Paul Ronning and his wife, Susan, of White Salmon, Wash., and Kent Ronning and his wife, Susan, of Mesa, Ariz.; her sister, Dorothy Perrine, of Wadena, Minn.; five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren (soon to be 11).
Services are planned for Saturday, April 12, at Court Street Christian Church, 1699 Court St. N.E., in Salem, Ore.
Arrangements are under the direction of Anderson’s Tribute Center (Funerals, Receptions, Cremations), 1401 Belmont Ave., Hood River, OR 97031; 541-386-1000. Please visit andersonstributecenter.com to leave a note of condolence for family.
Condolences are being received online.