John Thune passed away in the early morning of January 17 in Salem, Oregon, in the care facility in which he lived for the past 6 months. John lived with multiple sclerosis for the past 25 years and suffered a stroke in July of 2022.
John was many things: husband, father, best friend, life insurance agent, teacher, reluctant church choir member, amateur comedian with a repertoire of eye-rolling jokes. But high on his list, he was a golf enthusiast. In his last months, he continued to reminisce about his hole-in-one at the Elks Country Club in Lewistown, MT, and often would ask his son, John Mark, how his golf clubs were fairing once he had to give up the sport. A picture of his hole-in-one hung proudly in his room until his last day.
John earned the moniker, “Gentleman John,”during his time as a New York life agent in Lewistown, MT, where he proudly served many families. Any local resident during that time would no doubt remember the iconic “Gentleman John Thune” ads on the local radio station. Having been brought up with traditional values, he lived his life and earned his reputation as a man whose word could be trusted.
While in Lewistown he loved having daily coffee with his friends and colleagues, first at Pete’s Drive Inn and then at the Dairy Queen. He assured his wife he wrote a lot of business while having coffee or playing golf. After moving to Albany, he resumed this practice with his new network of friends and business acquaintances, along with weekly lunch with his best friend, Dick Running.
While John loved teaching, he found his niche as a salesman. He always said it was important to give people the opportunity to turn him down rather than not offer a service that could be beneficial. With this same outlook, he did well at fund raising, which he successfully did for his church as well as the MS Society, for whom he often was among the top 10 fundraisers in the state.
John was known for his love of Oreo Cookies, bad taste in TV and a head of hair that was immovable. His kids and their friends assumed that being “Gentleman John” meant no hair was ever allowed to be out of place. Upon realizing this was just his personal preference, they often joked that he was the worst paid spokesman for his favorite brand of hairspray.
John was born in Williston, ND, the youngest of three children to Merle and Larry Thune. They moved to Minot, ND, where he finished high school and college at Minot State earning a Bachelor’s degree. John met his wife Victoria first in the 6th grade and later in college, where he carried her French horn to class. After they married, they moved to Glendive, MT, where he taught English for three years and then settled in Lewistown, MT, where he continued teaching junior high school English before becoming “Gentleman John”. John and Victoria raised their children in Lewistown and in 1991, moved to Albany, OR, to take over the New York Life Insurance office from retired agent, Don Moreland.
John is survived by his wife of 55 years, Victoria of Albany, OR, his son John Mark of Ft. Benton, MT, daughter Stefanie (Andrew Barnes), Lake Oswego, OR, grandchildren Sarina Aamold, Lake Oswego, OR, Carley (Walt) Rehbein, and new great granddaughter, Olivia, Springdale, MT, Colton Thune, Havre, MT. He is also survived by his sister Lois Rennerfeldt (Earl), Williston, ND, sister-in-law Betty Thune, Fargo, ND, brother-in-law Jerry Stong, Keizer, OR, sister-in-law Sharon Stong, Keizer, OR, many nieces and nephews and his best friend, Dick Running. John was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Gary.
A Celebration of John’s life is scheduled for March 4 at Albany Golf and Event Center. Memorials can be made to your local MS Chapter or Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Albany, OR. A very special thank you to the loving care provided by the staff at Sweet Bye & Bye in Salem and Willamette Vital Health Hospice.