Lane County has lost another icon of its once thriving RV manufacturing industry.
Ron Lee, who had been vice president of Junction City, Ore.-based Country Coach, died on Jan. 19 due to complications from a stroke, said his wife, Vivian “Cookie” Lee. Lee was 76.
This story originally appeared in The Register-Guard.
“He was enthusiastic,” she said his wife. “He was talented. He was assertive. He was eager to teach.”
Many of the people who worked for Ron Lee remembered him as someone who mentored them into being great employees, his wife added.
The RV manufacturing industry for decades was one of Lane County’s largest employers, and Lee was one of its familiar faces. His older brother and co-founder of Country Coach, Bob Lee, died at age 78 in October 2017.
Ron Lee was born on Aug. 18, 1942, in Klamath Falls to Bud and Juanita Lee. He was the second youngest of their five children. Before joining his brother in the RV business Ron Lee worked for timber giant Weyerhaeuser and owned a roofing company.
The RV company began as Country Camper, named after the toy motor home for the Barbie doll, and later became Country Coach. The Lee brothers led Country Coach to be an industry leader in the world of high-end motor homes, and the company once had about 1,800 employees.
Country Coach closed in 2008 following a downturn in RV manufacturing, made worse by the Great Recession.
The reassembled team grew to about 30 people and provided service and parts for Country Coach RVs in Junction City. Winnebago Industries then bought Country Coach in 2015.
Motorhomes were more than a business for Ron Lee. There were also his pastime. Vivian Lee said she and her husband traveled around the country in an RV, including trips to New York, Texas and Florida, as well as South Dakota for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
A graveside service is set for 1 p.m. Tuesday in Bonanza, east of Klamath Falls, according to Musgrove Family Mortuary, and a celebration of life event is set for 2 p.m. Feb. 17 at Moose Lodge at 427 Front St., Junction City.