Cleon Walter Ross, age 88, died on October 20, 2022 at his winter home in Ucon, Idaho on a beautiful fall day. His loving and devoted wife, Connie was by his side. Cleon left behind a family that loved him dearly.
He was born May 27, 1934 in Driggs, Idaho to Eugene Walter Ross and LaVona Leona Bressler. He felt fortunate to be raised in Teton Valley, where his family farmed in Victor along the Old Jackson Highway. Cleon grew up with an older sister, LaDonna Jean and younger brother, Sherrill Lee. He went to first through eighth grade in Victor, then attended high school at Teton High in Driggs, where he was an excellent student and graduated in 1952. He loved green grass, good grammar, baseball, and hated onions.
Growing up on a farm, Cleon had many chores to do each day, and was taught the value and necessity of work at a young age. His maternal grandparents had moved from Meadow Grove, Nebraska in 1910 and purchased land in Victor off Baseline Road near the current Teton Springs Resort. His paternal side had helped settle Swan Valley, and areas in Fremont County, Idaho. As young as four years old, young Cleon would often ride a horse back and forth between the Ross home and his Grandpa Bressler’s home to follow his mother and visit his grandparents and Bressler cousins. As he grew older, his responsibilities increased and he irrigated his father’s farmland as well as his grandfather Bressler’s, helped get ice to store in the ice house from the Bressler pond, took care of horses and tack, and picked endless rocks from the hard soil. The potato harvest was a necessity for the welfare of the Ross family, and Cleon worked hard to help his family. He milked cows in the morning before school and after. When he was 16, he and Lee assisted their dad in building the still-standing barn on the Old Jackson Highway with hand tools, which today is a prominent landmark of days gone by.
Cleon loved baseball! When he was ready for leisure, baseball was top of the list. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints divided teams into nine wards from Victor to Felt, and Cleon played shortstop. His Dad and Lee also played. In the summers the merchants in Teton Valley would shut down for baseball tournaments on Wednesday afternoons, and games were played at the park in Driggs and Swan Valley. Baseball was a big deal to Cleon, and later in life he loved going to games in California with his brother Lee and wife Chloe, and would cheer for the Padres, which they are part owners of.
Cleon was involved in scouting, and earned many badges, awards and advancements. He was a good swimmer. In school Cleon was a three sport athlete in football, boxing and baseball. He enjoyed hunting, camping, and being busy. As an adult he loved tall green grass and a meticulous lawn. After graduation from high school, Cleon worked on the Palisades Dam doing construction. He also worked on road construction at Signal Mountain in Grand Teton National Park. He was a hard worker and loved to keep busy. He didn’t like unfinished projects.
In 1953 Cleon attended Idaho State in Pocatello. He enjoyed the new experiences and while there, sparked an interest in a career in the sciences. He attended Ricks College in Rexburg and was captain of the boxing team. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1955 with a BS in Agronomy.
He married Gloria Ann Beard in 1956 and continued his education by accepting an assistantship at Rutgers in New Jersey, where they lived for a short time. They missed their families in the west and returned in the fall of 1957, where he attended Utah State University and earned his Masters degree, going on to receive a rigorous Doctorate degree in Plant Physiology.
Two years later, they had their first child, David, in Driggs, Idaho. In the fall of 1960, Cleon was offered a teaching position at Colorado State in Ft. Collins which he accepted. There, he and Gloria had three more children: Cynthia, Blaine, and Janine. Cleon was a great teacher and had a quest for learning and sharing knowledge with others. He traveled to many conferences across the world where he was asked to speak, including Belgium, NASA headquarters in Florida, and Washington, D.C. The kids looked forward to his return when he would bring them home a thoughtful souvenir. His book royalty checks were also always shared with them. He excelled in his career in teaching and research, and in 1969 was the co-author of the textbook, “Plant Physiology”, a book which became the standard in the field, and is still highly regarded today.
Former students and associates have reached out and spoken of the positive influence Dr. Ross had on them, and he will be remembered for the legacy and benefits from those who received his guidance. He turned down much travel, and many advancements in his career, because he loved his home. He not only influenced those in academia, but through the years has had many friends who have appreciated his generosity, compassion, and goodness. Many of his friends called him “Doc”.
Cleon enjoyed his Arctic Cat snowmobile, hunting with his sons and brothers-in-law, riding horses, helping the Beard family with the hay, branding and cattle, camping, fishing with his brother Lee, and coaching his kids’ baseball games. The kids loved it in the winter when he would pull them behind the snowmobile on sleds skis around Meadowlark Heights in Ft. Collins, and the gravel roads surrounding the family property in Victor. He had a great voice and enjoyed humming a good Jim Reeves tune while chewing on a piece of grass on a warm summer day.
In 1972 Cleon took a Sabbatical leave to Athens where he worked for the University of Georgia. He made lasting relationships with his colleagues throughout his career. During that 6 month period, Cleon and his family took a few side trips to explore nearby Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Ft. Sumter and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He supported his kids in their desires to take music lessons, travel, and play sports. Cleon and his family loved watching basketball, football, and baseball games together. It’s something that will be missed.
The Cleon Ross family loved spending time in Teton Valley and in 1972 built a summer vacation cabin on what was once his Dad’s land that he grew up working on. It was a wonderful blessing to their family, as ties to Teton Valley were strong.
In later years, Cleon built many beautiful pieces of furniture and loved giving them as gifts for his children and grandchildren. He would ask his kids what they wanted him to build, and then create gifts for them, anywhere from a large picnic table or small tables and stools, to an A-frame playhouse for Barbie doll adventures. He meticulously created small barns for miniature horses, wooden walking ducks on a stick for the grandkids, or wooden rocking horses for toddlers. He enjoyed doing woodworking with Gloria and was generous with his time.
In 1990 Cleon and Gloria were divorced. He retired from Colorado State in 1993 after a respected and profitable career. He married Dawn O’Brien, from Carlton, Minnesota and they moved from Ft. Collins back to Victor, where he built a home on the land his parents, now deceased, had once owned. During the time they were together they had Dawn’s three grandchildren visit the Victor home and spent time with his sister Donna who had moved next door. The large raspberry patch and lush green lawn were enjoyed by many! Time spent with friends, nieces, and Cleon’s grown children and grandchildren living nearby was important to him. In 2006 Dawn unexpectedly died of cancer and Cleon was left alone to take care of his horse Bandit and favorite dog, Gus.
Cleon’s life was greatly enhanced when he met Connie Jeanne Carlson in 2012 when he was residing in the Boise area for the winter. Connie, who was born in Morrison, Illinois, was retired from the medical field, living in Nampa. Later the same year he contracted fungal meningitis as part of a nation-wide scandal involving tainted steroid shots. The doctors marveled that he survived and recovered. He had already survived prostate cancer the previous year. He was a fighter! Connie and Cleon were married May 16, 2020 at their home in Victor. She has stayed by his side ever since, being an angel caregiver to him after a broken femur caused his health to decline.
Through all the accomplishments Cleon had in his life, his greatest joy was his family. His wish was to have been able to have spent more time with all of them. He was a loving dad and did a lot for his kids. He loved his daughters-in-law and sons-in-law. He appreciated the help that his step-son Gary Rowe and his wife Gina gave him. He was proud of his children and grandchildren. Between Connie and Cleon, their blended “bonus” family includes seven children, 16 grandchildren, and 17 great grandchildren. Their dogs Tuffy and Sassy are missing him now.
He is preceded in death by his wife Dawn Ross, parents Eugene and LaVona Ross, sister LaDonna (Jesse) Logan, and brother Sherrill Lee (Chloe) Ross. He is survived by his wife, Connie Jeanne Ross, his four children: David (Kathy) Ross of Victor; Cyndi (Jon) Benson of Boulder, CO; Blaine (Holly) Ross of Berthoud, CO; and Janine (Kendall) Jolley of Victor and his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, sweet sister-in-law Chloe Ross of Glendale, CA and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Victor on Friday, November 4, 2022 at 2 p.m. The family welcomes all who knew and loved Cleon, and appreciates the kind words and notes received since his passing.