James Ronald "Ron" Ueland died of a heart attack while exercising on Saturday, May 12, at his ranch in Butte, Montana. He was 65.
Ron has been described by some as a “giant” — a man capable of great achievements through a rare combination of leadership, integrity and ambition.
Born into a cattle ranching family in Silver Bow in 1952, Ron was the sixth of Ole and Eleanor Ueland's eight children. The ranching lifestyle developed many of Ron's virtues — work ethic, team cohesion, connectedness to the land, resilience — and above all, family. Ron married his high school sweetheart, Sue Robins, at age 19 and was happily married for 46 years at the time of his passing.
The physical nature of ranching, along with an innate competitive disposition and value of teamwork, positioned Ron well for athletic success. Attending Butte Central High School, Ron ran track and was captain of the football team. He earned an athletic scholarship to Montana State University, where he captained the football team, earned honorable mention All-America honors and played alongside younger brothers Dan and Don Ueland. According to Head Coach Sonny Holland, Ron changed the game of football for MSU and Ron has been inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame.
While at MSU, Ron focused his studies on business and agriculture, which provided a strong foundation for a successful career. After graduating, Ron was hired by older brother Carl at TriRiver Chemicals, where he developed the skills necessary to eventually start a new business for ConAgra, United Agri Products. Ron drove UAP to a multibillion dollar revenue business and one of the world’s largest agrichemical providers. Ron retired from ConAgra after 25 years.
Following his tenure at ConAgra, Ron returned to Montana and founded seed companies, Northern Seed and Westbred. In addition, Ron was critical to the formation of Montana Precision Products and a trusted contributor to the Board of Directors. Additionally, Ron teamed up with brothers-in-law Mike and Bert Robins to purchase International Truck Body, a Conrad manufacturer recently moving to Anaconda.
Ron was a tireless ambassador of the city of Butte and the Treasure State. He believed deeply in its economic potential, skilled labor force, sophisticated growers, and "get-it-done" work ethic. His most recent business venture, Montana Craft Malt, is his "nirvana project" — the coming together of his experience and his passion for all things Montana.
Despite a very active and public professional life, Ron loved nothing more than being at home on the ranch with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He looked forward all year to "Camp Angus", a week in the summer when grandkids descended on the ranch to enjoy the country life filled with four-wheeler rides, picnic hikes, campfires, pond swimming, ranching skills, and playing in the dirt.
Ron is survived by his beloved wife Sue (Robins) Ueland; son, Ty Ueland (Suzanne Eide); daughters, Jennifer O'Brien (Matt) and Sunni Stirrett (Allen); and seven grandchildren in Bozeman and Seattle. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ole and Eleanor Ueland. He is also survived by his siblings, Marty Ueland (Donna), Martha Cooney Simonich (Ed), Ray Ueland (Tony), Carl Ueland (Barbara), Clara Hartz (Harry, deceased), Don Ueland (Shelia), and Dan Ueland (Ann), multiple Robins family relatives, and over 70 nieces and nephews.
Friends are asked to join the family on Friday after 11 a.m. in the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 12 p.m. (noon).
In lieu of flowers, memorials in support of Ron’s passion for Butte and for MSU research may be sent to either of the following: MSU Alumni Foundation, 1501 S 11th Avenue, Bozeman, Montana 59715 (designated for plant sciences); or Butte Central Foundation.