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Chico State

Fond Farewell: Retired Painter Ronald Kohl Sr.

Almond blossoms bloom on a farm.
Jessica Bartlett/University Phot

Almond Blossoms bloom at the University Farm on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 in Chico, Calif. (Jessica Bartlett/University Photographer)

Ronald Leslie Kohl Sr., painter on campus for over thirty years, passed away on January 9. He was 90 years old.

Kohl was born in Los Angeles, January 22, 1932, and adopted that very day. When he turned 18 he joined the Navy, and was stationed on the USS Manchester during the Korean War. At 23 years old he moved to Paradise to join his family, where he worked in construction, building homes in Paradise, and in Chico at Mason Chevrolet.

Kohl met Lois Yeater on a blind date in 1959, and they were married a year later. Lois came into the marriage with three sons—Steve, Ted, and Scott—whom Kohl welcomed as his own. Three years later, after Ronald Kohl Jr. was born, they purchased a 10-acre almond orchard with an existing home on West Sacramento Avenue in Chico, where they lived for over 60 years. Kohl had always dreamed of owning and caring for an almond orchard—he even harvested and sold his almonds to a local co-op.  

In 1960, Kohl was hired as a security guard at Chico State, but he soon moved to the paint department where he would remain until his retirement in 1991. The five-person team during those years were a tight knit group according to Ralph Contreras, a retired painter who worked with Kohl.

“We were responsible for maintaining all the buildings on campus, inside and out. We even painted the ceiling of Laxson Auditorium,” said Contreras. “I used to call him ‘Chango,’ because he would move his arms around like a monkey when he worked. We exchange stuffed monkeys for years after that—I still have a few he gave me on my bed.”

Ronald Kohl Sr. Retired Painter

Remembered as kind, energetic, personable, and fun, Kohl enjoyed staying busy—he would often maintain his almond orchard late into the night after his shift was over.

“Our Dad had a wonderful work ethic, which he passed on to each of us,” said his son, Ronald Kohl Jr. “I owned a business in San Diego for 35 years—I would show up to the office early and leave late. It was because of Dad’s example that my business was a success.”

Kohl enjoyed the simple things in life, and he was devoted to his family and faith. He and his wife loved to travel, often taking the kids on vacation to the Oregon coast, RV camping with friends, and going to Mill Creek with their grandchildren. The Kohl’s also loved to dance—they were members of the Butte Singles, a local square-dancing club, and after his wife’s passing in 2011, Kohl still enjoyed doing the jitterbug throughout the Chico senior dance scene.

Kohl spent his retirement investing, watching westerns and sports on TV, reading Louis L’Amour novels, and tending to his beloved almond orchard.

He is survived by his four sons, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. There will be a memorial for Ronald Kohl Sr. at Butte Bible Fellowship on February 04, 2023, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the California State University, Chico, Scholarship for Aging Research. Call (530) 898-6132.

The University flag will be lowered in his name on Friday, February 3.