Ronald Bernard Ochs

May 11, 1930 ~ June 20, 2020 (age 90)


Ronald Bernard Ochs was born May 11, 1930, to Bernard Nels and Catherine M. (Albrich) Ochs, in Portland, Oregon, and passed away June 20, 2020, in Willowdale, Oregon.

Ron grew up in Portland, Oregon, on Highland Street near Peninsula Park with his older brother, Bob, and his younger sisters, Marilyn and Barbara. He attended Holy Redeemer Catholic School, Columbia Preparatory School and Oregon State University where he earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture.

Ron was always a worker and remembers earning money from the age of six. At 13, he began working at Columbia Edgewater Golf Course where he worked steadily, including weekends during college and on breaks from the military, until he was married at 27 years of age. His experience mowing greens and working on equipment at the golf course inspired his interest in agriculture. Upon graduating from high school, where, as a senior, he was undefeated in the half mile in track, he took business courses for two years at Portland State University before pursuing agriculture at Oregon State. He completed his degree in two years and left for a three month seminal experience near Mitchell, Oregon, where he worked on the Collins Cattle Ranch — an experience to which he referred for the rest of his life.

During his time in Mitchell, he was drafted into the military to support the United States in Korea. Rather than wait for orders, he enlisted to have more influence over his assignment. He chose flight school and eventually became a pilot flying F-86 fighter jets. He completed his four-year commitment and had an immediate career as an airline pilot if he were interested. He chose to be a rancher.

Upon returning to Portland in 1956, he reconnected with his "North Ender" gang of friends, one of whom, Jack LaFranchise, had a little sister named Laurice, whom he met when the two were 10 years old. Until returning from Korea, he cared little for Laurice, but a romance budded (after "I chased him for 17 years," according to Laurice) and the two married November 23, 1957. She, with her degree in education, had taught in Madras, Oregon, and, later, accepted a teaching job in Gateway, Oregon — a place, sort of. Ron and Laurice lived in a small apartment behind Noah Vibbert's store. She taught and he worked at the Soil Conservation Service. His work afforded him opportunity to look for land to buy in his pursuit of becoming a rancher.

Good friends of Laurice were Johnny and Norma Adele Richardson on the Kennedy Ranch near Willowdale. Johnny wanted to ranch and proposed he and Ron partner on the 17,000-acre Priday Ranch, then owned by Chet Fuston. Their challenge was finding the down payment to purchase the ranch. They learned of a doctor in Portland who was a potential investor and traveled there to meet him. The doctor was a no-show, but they heard of a man named Robert B. Pamplin (Sr.), Chairman and CEO of Georgia Pacific, who was interested in a place to hunt. Mr. Pamplin agreed to meet with them and asked how much money Ron had. Along with his answer, Ron stated that the amount was 80% of all the money he had ever earned starting when he was six years old. That impressed Mr. Pamplin and he visited the ranch, saw thick coveys of quail and a variety of other birds and said, "Boys, I think I've seen enough." Mr. Pamplin would play in important role in Ron and Laurice's life from there forward.

In 1959, the year their first child was born, they moved into the home where they would raise five more children and spend the rest of their lives. Ron modernized the farm irrigation system, installed a network of water troughs for cattle grazing on the range land, and improved the Priday Agate Beds. Within two years they had their first herd of cattle and shortly thereafter, Ron won the first of many farming awards including range management and cattleman of the year.

Always interested in aviation, Ron used the G.I. Bill to become a private pilot, eventually getting his instrument rating and instructor (CFI), instrument instructor (CFII) and commercial licenses. He owned Cessna 180's and 185's and, in 1985, finished restoring a 1941 Navy N3N-3 biplane for which he won awards and flew regularly for 30 years.

Tragedy struck in 1979 when their then, 17-year-old middle child, Nels, was killed in a car accident at their driveway on Highway 97. Laurice, at 48, was due with their sixth child, Charles, who was born two weeks later, two weeks overdue.

Ron and Laurice loved to entertain and decided to host fly-ins at the ranch every few years with the help of their kids and family friends. Antique bi-planes and other interesting and beautiful planes would arrive on a Friday afternoon or early Saturday morning and land on the alfalfa field in front of their house. They would enjoy the weekend and leave on Sunday morning. People from Madras would come out to see the planes, eat and relax. It got popular and the crowds grew. In the late 1990's, Don Mobley suggested moving it to Madras and making it an airshow. Thus, in 2000, was born the Airshow of The Cascades.

Ron served on the Jefferson County School Board and was chair when Nels was killed. Traditionally, the chair greets and congratulates graduates as they received their diplomas. As a testament to Ron's character, he chose to fulfill his duty knowing his son's name would be called in memoriam while he stood ready to encourage Nels's classmates.

Ron was an inspiration and a model for many. He envisioned a time when he and Laurice would no longer be with us and, for our heritage, conceived a plan for a family cabin on a portion of the original ranch. A place of respite and gathering. As his good friend and fellow F-86 pilot, Bud Granley, said, "He's a class act. You're damn lucky to have him as a father." We couldn't agree more.

Ron is survived by sister, Marilyn Katherine O'Neill; daughters, Barbara Catherine and Marie Laurice Ochs (Mallon); sons, Edwin Bernard, Benedict Charles and Charles Matthew Ochs; granddaughters, Maureen Laurice and Evelyn Cecilia Ochs; and grandsons, Nels Anthony and Seth Michael Mantia; Aaron Craig, Jordan Jeffery and Charles Patrick Mallon, and Palmer Benedict Ochs; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Ron was preceded in death by - wife, Laurice Mary (LaFranchise) Ochs; parents, Bernard Nels and Catherine M. (Albrich) Ochs; brother, Robert John Ochs, sister, Barbara Therese Ochs, and son, Nels Robert Ochs.

Ron will be interred at Mountain View cemetery next to his wife and son. A celebration of his life will be arranged where the five Ochs siblings hope to see the many friends and family who knew and loved Ron.

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