Sunday Obituary: Ronald Dalgarno loved plain talking, fair deals, fast cars

2012-01-21T20:30:00Z 2015-01-26T15:19:57Z Sunday Obituary: Ronald Dalgarno loved plain talking, fair deals, fast carsBy Tony Lystra / The Daily News Longview Daily News
January 21, 2012 8:30 pm  • 

The stunt is still legend. In 1956, Ronald Dalgarno, then a student at R.A. Long High School, drove a 1949 Ford onto a frozen-over Lake Sacajawea during a particularly cold winter. More than a half-century later, people still talk about it at class reunions, Dalgarno's twin brother, Don Dalgarno, said last week.

Ronald Dalgarno was a speed-demon, a lover of racing, who could "drive the hell out of a car," his family said. He was also passionate about his two families — his children, and the local longshoreman's union, for which he served as a negotiator.

Dalgarno, 73, of Longview died Jan. 16. The cause was a heart attack, his family said.

Dalgarno was a lifelong area resident. He played football for R.A. Long High School and graduated in 1957. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and was stationed in Hawaii with the shore patrol.

Dalgarno later took a job with Welsh Panel Company and helped organize the workers there into the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). He served in the 1970s and 1980s as a labor relations negotiator for ILWU Longview Local 21, and retired in 2000.

In later years, Dalgarno measured first downs with the "chain crew" on the sidelines during R.A. Long football games. He also drove fellow veterans to doctor's appointments or to the VFW Hall. He did these things quietly and never wanted to draw attention to himself, Don Dalgarno said.

Dalgarno's stepson, Jason Lundquist, 38, of Longview, said he and Dalgarno began racing go-karts together in the late 1980s. Dalgarno built the cars. Lundquist drove them. The pair formed a tight bond over the hobby  —  and they had remarkable success as a racing team.

"We'd go out and beat the pants off them, and people just didn't know why," Lundquist said.

Race officials once became so suspicious of the duo's success that they demanded a Dalgarno-built engine be torn down to ensure it met the racing circuit's regulations. After the engine was taken apart, officials thought they'd caught the team with a too-powerful engine. But Dalgarno knew he'd done nothing wrong.

"Let it cool," he calmly told them, knowing that the hot, swelling metal made it appear the engine parts were bigger than they were supposed to be. As father and son grew older, the bond strengthened. "He was my best friend," Lundquist said. "You could always trust what he was telling you he felt. In my 38 years, I find very few people that you can always trust."

Lundquist chose his father's career path and became a Longshoreman, working on the ILWU's Labor Relations Committee.

He said his stepdad loved the community of dockworkers, and his no-nonsense way of speaking  —  coupled with an institutional knowledge of previous bargaining deals — earned him respect. Even after Dalgarno retired, Longshoremen in San Francisco continued to ask about him, Lundquist said.

Dalgarno raced boats on the Cowlitz River in his youth, then raced Modified and Midget race cars as an adult. The racers were mostly built by Don Dalgarno and their father.

"He was the daredevil, and Don was kind of the cautious one and the mechanic of the two," said Ronald Dalgarno's son Dan Dalgarno, 46, of Gilbert, Ariz. "He'd end up breaking the things that the other ones would have to put back together. He could drive the hell out of a car."

Dalgarno's daughter Ashley Dalgarno, 40, of Longview recalled that she and her siblings would come along to races in Tacoma, Cottage Grove, Ore., and points in between.

"We were the pit crew," she said. "We all had matching shirts with our names on them. It was cool."

Dalgarno is survived by two sons, Dennis Dalgarno of Kalama and Dan Dalgarno (Mariann) of Gilbert, Ariz.; a daughter, Ashley Dalgarno of Longview; two stepchildren, Jason and Kim Lundquist; a twin brother, Don Dalgarno (Dee) of Longview; a sister, Jayne McPhee of Seattle; and three grandchildren.

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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