God has welcomed home an incredible son and brother, an amazing father, and a great uncle, cousin and friend to so many others. Ryan Dee Neal, 40, passed away Tuesday January 18, 2022, at Providence St. Vincent, Portland, OR due to COVID complications.
Ryan was born September 30, 1981, in Clarkston, Washington to Gary and Kathy Neal. At 7-1/2 years younger than sister Rochelle, his mission as a brother was to tease and love her as much as possible. The family lived in Clarkston until the second half of Ryan’s third grade year when his father accepted a position in Boardman, Oregon.
On his first day of school there Ryan was immediately welcomed by his classmates. A tight knit group of friends bonded together and to this day, “The Boardman Boys” keep in touch on a regular basis. Ryan had not just his own family, but his friend’s families became his as well. Ryan loved and participated in many sports – football in middle school, baseball until high school, and he lettered in golf and basketball. The highlight of his senior year at Riverside High School was the basketball team’s third place finish at state with Ryan and all his many close friends playing together. Golf continued to be a huge part of Ryan’s adult life. Ryan had just recently retired the Walla Walla Community College golf bag he received as a member of their golf team.
We have many happy memories with Ryan. Lots of family time tubing and boarding on the river, snow skiing, family reunions, times when he tagged along with his Dad to meetings and conferences and too many others to list. Some of our most special memories are from our trips in the car with Ryan. Those living in eastern Oregon and small towns will understand. Our family spent a large part of our days on the road – to shop, to play sports, to go to movies, to do so many things. We feel blessed to have shared those times with him.
After high school graduation Ryan attended the University of Portland, Walla Walla Community College, and graduated with a Business Management degree from Oregon State University in 2004. He was proud to be a Beaver alumnus. Ryan loved his time and professors in the OSU business department. They thought highly enough of Ryan that he was asked to give campus tours to potential incoming professors. The family has heard from so many how smart Ryan was. His friends on campus noticed too. They lamented that they studied for days before an exam, yet Ryan would study for 2 hours the night before and ace it.
Ryan connected with his future wife Sonja during this time. Sonja lived in Irrigon, the town closest to Boardman, but they did not know each other well until their college years. Immediately upon college graduation, Ryan went to work for Knight Transportation, working his way up to operations manager and west coast marketing manager. Ryan and Sonja were living in Manteca, CA when Ryan accepted the position in 2012 as Director of Operations for Haney Truck Lines in Yakima, WA.
While living in Yakima, the forever love of Ryan’s life, Ari Dee Neal, was born. Ryan and Ari’s love for each other was like no other. Every possible moment was spent together enjoying everything from swimming to hot tubbing, movies, golf, visiting Coeur d’Alene, and most of all, snuggling together on the couch. In 2014 Marten Transportation lured Ryan away from Haney Truck Lines when he became their Area Sales Director for the Pacific Northwest region. When the Port of Morrow established a freezer warehouse operation in his hometown of Boardman, Ryan and Sonja were thrilled at the chance to come home to raise their son in the town they loved. Ryan was hired in 2015 as Operations Manager and the family moved to Boardman. In October 2018, after an extensive search and interview process, the Port of Morrow hired Ryan as their Executive Director/CEO.
Ryan’s love for his community and desire to help it continue to be an amazing place to work and raise a family was endless. His hand can be seen in many ways, from the directional signs around town to the refresh and transformation of Willow Run Golf Course into the Marker 40 Golf Course. Ryan was a valued member of many organizations and committees – Kiwanis, Boardman Chamber, Boardman Community Development Association, Intermountain Education Service District and others. Many, many people have reached out to Ryan’s family to share their stories about Ryan and the positive influence he was in their lives. He had a huge heart, cared deeply, and mattered so much to so many. Knowing how Ryan touched others is helping his family as they grieve. The world is a better place because of him, he will be missed deeply and remembered always.
Ryan is survived by his parents, Gary and Kathy, son Ari, Sonja, sister Rochelle (Tim) and their children, Grandpa and Grandma Olson, uncles Scott, Mike, Dale, Keith and Ken and their children, the close-knit Hancock cousins who were a huge part of his life – Bill, David, Robert, Robin and Gail and their children, and his much-loved brothers, “The Boardman Boys”. Ryan was met in heaven by his beloved Grandpa and Grandma Neal, Uncle Edd, Uncle Leo, Grandpa and Grandma Hancock and Aunt Karen.
Thank you to the Morrow County EMT’s and ambulance crew, the Boardman Fire Chief and crew, the emergency room staff at Good Shepherd Hospital, the Life Flight Crew, and the intensive care unit Doctors and Nurses at Providence St. Vincent. Every one of them worked so hard to keep Ryan with us.
The family has been asked if memorial contributions can be made. A Ryan Neal Memorial Fund has been established through Boardman Community Development Association, P O Box 229, Boardman, OR 97818. Ryan had been working hard to establish a Morrow County Scholarship endowment fund so that all Morrow County graduates would receive a scholarship to be used for higher education. He was also working with other community members to reestablish the RHS golf team as well as a youth golf program. Memorial funds would go towards these efforts and other community needs as they arise. Due to COVID restrictions no services will be held at this time.
Plans are to hold a celebration of life at Marker 40 Golf Course after the weather warms up. Details will be publicized at that time.