Life Story / Obituary
Intelligent, determined, and hardworking, Doug Mortenson lived a faith-centered life rich in family and service to others. Deeply committed to his family and community, Doug embraced his roles as husband, father, grandfather, and faithful servant with honor and integrity. He cherished each moment he shared with his loved ones and faced each day with dignity and determination. In so doing, Doug inspired many and will long live in the hearts and memories of those who were blessed to share his life.
Though 1938 held much to celebrate, including President Roosevelt’s signing of The Fair Standards Act, Hollywood’s film version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” and Seabiscuit’s astonishing “Race of the Century” win, the continued challenges of the Great Depression coupled with the systematic persecution of Jews in Europe, spread concern and fear across the globe. Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression and the growing conflict in Europe, many families found the way to continue to center their lives in love and hope for a brighter future. Nowhere was that hope more evident than in the home of Gerald R. (Jerry) and Mildred E. Swanson Mortenson of Spokane Washington, as they welcomed their son, G. Douglas into their hearts and home on June 10th.
Growing up in Spokane, Doug was raised by strict, conservative Christians, who shared a strong love for each other and their two children. Discipline was the way of life as was constant reassurance and love. The family had strong ties to the church and Christian friends which proved powerful influences on Doug’s life. Jerry provided for the family through his work as a VP of a large manufacturing company. Though Mildred worked as a bookkeeper for a large firm early in their marriage, she welcomed the responsibilities of homemaker upon becoming a mother to Doug and his older sister, Marlene. From the start, Doug showed a keen interest in figuring out how things worked. He spent countless hours as a child taking things apart and putting them back together. He loved to fix and eagerly learned woodworking and carpentry, electric wiring, plumbing and mechanical skills – all from his father and maternal uncle, Martin. These skills, coupled with his family values served as the firm foundation upon which Doug consciously built the rest of his life.
Doug’s parents endured serious illnesses during his childhood and college days. First, his mother had stomach cancer in the late 1930s and early 40s. Doug’s father had to borrow thousands of dollars from his employer to pay the bills. It took him years to pay it off, but his employer, Brown Trailers, was kind enough to lend him the money interest-free. Though his mother recovered from cancer, she suffered many other physical problems over the course of her life and died in 1984. Doug’s father experienced his first heart attack at approximately 36 years of age, followed by a couple more at ages 42 and 46. He died in 1960 at the age of 49. His heart doctor was Dr. White (President Eisenhower’s heart specialist). In 1955, Dr. White told Doug to watch what he ate, to exercise daily, and to have annual physical examinations to be alert for potential heart problems. As a result of his family history and this good coaching, Doug exercised daily (racquetball, jogging, etc.) and had a physical each year.
After moving to Reading, PA, as a teen, Doug was extremely motivated by a drive to work hard and make a positive difference for others. He was very involved with his church youth group and worked a job that afforded him great experience. As a result of his hard work, in 1954, at the age of 16, he had the funds to purchase a 1953 Ford which he skillfully customized. After graduating from Exeter High School, Reiffton, PA in 1956, Doug attended North Park Junior College. He also worked at Andel X-ray Company where within a few months he became a lead assembler and gained valuable manufacturing experience. After North Park, Doug began his studies towards an Engineering degree at Arizona State University.
While working on his degree, during the summer of 1961, Doug had the good fortune of becoming reacquainted with his wife-to-be, Sally Person. Their first meeting went all the way back to Spokane, Washington, when they were infants, and where her father was the Pastor of their church. Sally’s father had baptized Doug, and their families were good friends. Though the Persons left Spokane when Doug was about six, and the families had remained in contact, Doug had not seen Sally in 20 years. Their meeting again was arranged by Doug’s mother at church. She had been telling Sally about Doug and told her that the next time he visited she would arrange for them to meet. Instantly smitten by the wonderful, outgoing preacher’s kid, the two began dating and by fall they were a serious couple.
Having been drafted by the Army, Doug was confronted with the realization that his student deferment had been rescinded by the draft board, and he was to report for induction by mid-September in Reading. As a resident of Arizona, having an apartment there and being enrolled at ASU presented all kinds of complications, which resulted in his induction orders being modified and lost. Eventually, his orders stated that he was to be inducted in Phoenix, on November 2, 1961. It was during these 2 ½ fall months, after dating almost daily, that Doug realized Sally was the gal he wanted as his wife. The young couple got engaged at Christmas after Doug completed his basic training at Fort Ord in California. On June 30, 1962, Doug and Sally exchanged their vows in a marriage ceremony officiated by her father at North Park Covenant Church, Chicago, IL.
After celebrating their marriage, the newlyweds moved to Sierra Vista, Arizona, near Ft. Huachuca where Doug was assigned to the US Army Signal Corp Electronic Proving Ground and where Sally found a job teaching elementary school. As the Berlin crisis was in full swing, numerous officers had been transferred to Europe, leaving several key project/program manager positions open. Within two weeks after arriving at Ft. Huachuca and completing some testing, Doug was selected to fill a program manager’s opening, even though he had no stripes at all at the time. He managed three projects, all classified surveillance tasks, and had approximately a dozen support personnel working for him. Within a single year, Doug’s stellar performance resulted in his moving from no stripes to five stripes--a rare accomplishment in those days. It was this program management experience that confirmed Doug’s desire to return to the M.B.A. program and pursue a career in managing technical projects. In the spring of 1963, Doug applied for and received an early discharge to return to ASU to the MBA program where he also received a graduate assistantship position in the electronics lab.
In late October of 1965, Doug and Sally moved to their first house in Phoenix. Just two months later, Sally gave birth to their son, Kirk Douglas. Upon becoming a mother, Sally “retired” from formal school teaching to stay home to care for their child. When Kirk was about a year and a half, Sally began some substitute teaching and continued taking classes toward her masters in education. She graduated from ASU with an MA in Education in June of 1969 just days before daughter, Kristi Michelle was born on the eve of the happy couple’s 7th wedding anniversary. Doug and Sally thoroughly enjoyed their kids and had the privilege of sharing those precious years with several young couples in our church, who also had young families. Doug was very active with church activities, serving as chairman of the board of trustees, manager of a church expansion program, and volunteering to help manage the books for the local Cub Scout troop, even though Kirk was too young to be involved. They had close friendships in their neighborhood and frequently had company over to enjoy their pool and home. Doug and Sally were continually hosting visitors and relatives, who found Phoenix an ideal place to visit.
A strict disciplinarian, with high expectations of his children, Doug taught his kids the value of hard work, as well as skills in problem-solving and leadership. Both loving and supportive, Doug thoroughly enjoyed playing hours of competitive ping pong and pool in the family basement with his kids, croquet on the lawn, and spent much time skiing and boating together. He loved attending all the extracurricular events his children were involved in, from marching and jazz band to athletics events. During the summers, the family spent time on their boat and at Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp. This tradition has carried on with the next generation of the Mortenson family who enjoys spending time at camp, on the water, and on the ski slopes.
Doug possessed a strong skill set that included an aptitude for organization, management, leadership, negotiation, problem-solving, long-range planning, and business. Driven to use his gifts and talents in service to both family and community, Doug enjoyed a successful career in Aerospace Engineering. Over the course of his career he worked for the: Flight Systems Division for Sperry Rand (AZ); Instrument and Automated Systems Division at both Lear Siegler (MI) and Bell & Howell (MI); Unit Handling Systems, Automated Vehicle Systems at Litton (MI), Aerospace Marine Defense at Vickers (MI); and served as the VP for Business Development for Arnies (MI). Doug also gave much of his time and skills to his church communities which included: First Covenant of Spokane, Washington; Squaw Peak Covenant of Phoenix, AZ; First Covenant of Grand Rapids, MI; and Thornapple Covenant in Grand Rapids, MI. Doug served on the Executive Board of the Covenant, Covenant Board of Benevolence, Treasurer of the Great Lakes Conference Board, PLCBC Camp Board, Building Committee Chair for Thornapple Covenant Church. He served on the Management Advisory Committee for Covenant Village of the Great Lakes, to determine the feasibility of building the campus in Grand Rapids.
During his leisure time, Doug enjoyed listening to the cool Jazz tunes of Count Basie and Benny Goodman. He also enjoyed Country music and reading his favorite magazines which included: Handyman, Power and Motoryacht, and Golf. Many a great skiing and boating trip was enjoyed by the family. As were, trips to Europe, Alaska, and Disney. Without a doubt, Doug's greatest joy was sharing time with his family, especially his grandchildren--Gretchen, Grant, Sarah, Mason, and Jenna who were his heart’s delight. Doug treasured the privilege of grandparenting and being able to share his dedication to his church, his denomination, the church camp, his work, and his hobbies with each of them.
Clearly, it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Doug’s steadfast presence. May it afford comfort to know that Doug’s legacy of faith and service lives on in each of our lives. Each time we love unconditionally, practice forgiveness, encourage peace, give generously, and remain humble we celebrate the gift of this good man’s life and the privilege it was to know him. In so doing, we keep his spirit and deeds alive and continuing to better the community he so loved.
Doug Mortenson, of Grand Rapids, MI went home to be with his Lord April 4, 2018. (Gerald) Doug was born June 10, 1938, in Spokane, WA son of the late Gerald and Mildred (Swanson) Mortenson. He was a veteran of the United States Army and a member of First Evangelical Covenant Church. On June 30, 1962, Doug married Sally Person. His wife of 55 years survives, as do their children, Kirk (Gail) Mortenson of Caledonia, Kristi (Darrick) Robbins of Chicago, IL; grandchildren, Gretchen, Grant, & Sarah Mortenson, Mason & Jenna Robbins; his sister, Marlene (Bill) Moeller of Chicago, IL; and nephews, David (Kay) and Scott (Mary) Moeller. A memorial service will be held on Friday, April 13, at 11 AM at First Evangelical Covenant Church, 1933 Tremont Ave. NW. Friends may visit with the family from 5:30-8:30 PM on Thursday, April 12, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp, New Dining Hall project. Please visit Doug's web page to learn more of his life story, leave a memory or condolence at www.lifestorynet.com.