Palmer Rudolph “Buz” Ronning Jr. was born on May 5, 1924, to Palmer and Clementine (Hudspeth) Ronning in Bagley, Minn. He passed from this life into the presence of the Lord, Jesus Christ, on Nov. 10, 2017, at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital in Hood River, Ore., surrounded by family.
Buz grew up in Frazee, Minn., as the oldest of five. He had a brother, James, and three sisters, Delores, Norma and Janice. Music was a big part of his life from the early days. He played the trumpet in his high school marching band and continued to play in a band on Saturday nights at the local dance hall. He could cut quite a rug himself. Somewhere along the line, an old girlfriend started calling him “Buz,” and the name stuck for more than 70 years.
Buz enlisted in the army during World War II after the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, and was stationed in Hawaii in the signal corps. Upon discharge, he had aspirations to become a dentist, but chemistry classes proved to be too high a hurdle. He worked at various jobs as a welder/pipe fitter in Minnesota and as a welder in the Seattle shipyards. In the late 1960s, after moving to Anaheim, Calif., he founded Buz Welding, which he operated until 1994, when he sold the company and retired at the age of 70.
Buz met Shirley Pierson on Sept. 25, 1947, at a bridge game. He offered to walk her home that night and that was the beginning of a relationship that lasted 66 years. They were married on the second anniversary of the day they met. They were blessed with a daughter, followed by three boys, from 1950 to 1959.
Prompted by his love of music, Buz accepted the position of choir director at First Christian Church of Garden Grove shortly after moving to Anaheim. Shirley was also an active member in the choir, singing tenor and playing the organ. They were quite a team together. Buz organized countless cantatas. He was choir director for many years, and after moving to Salem, Ore., in 1994, they both continued as active members of the choir at Court Street Christian Church. Buz also acted as the property chairperson at Court Street, working tirelessly into his 80s to repair the original building and retrofit it for an expansion. The childcare center staff referred to him as “Buz Lightyear.”
Buz was a hard worker and was not afraid of a challenge. He singlehandedly cared for Shirley 24 hours-a-day for more than five years after she suffered a series of strokes, waking two to three times in the middle of the night to care for her needs, even in his late 80s. His sense of humor prevailed to the end of his life; he kept his nurses and family laughing with his dry wit. He stayed busy in his later years with crossword puzzles, woodworking, tinkering with small appliances including his hearing aids, and corresponding regularly with countless friends across the U.S.
Buz is survived by his brother James (Dorothy) Ronning and sister Delores Wallen of Braham, Minn., sons Paul (Susan) Ronning of White Salmon, Wash., and Kent (Susan) Ronning of Mesa, Ariz., five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, sisters Norma and Janice, wife Shirley, daughter Lorry and son Gary.
His family would like to thank the caregivers at Providence Down Manor and Providence Brookside Manor, and the incredible nursing staff at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital. A service will be planned for May 5, 2018. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Wounded Warrior Project at www. woundedwarriorproject.org.
Arrangements are under the direction of Anderson's Tribute Center (Funerals • Receptions • Cremations), 1401 Belmont Ave., Hood River. Please visit www.AndersonsTributeCenter.com to leave a note of condolence for the family.
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