Jon Elmer Kauppi

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Jon Elmer Kauppi of Vancouver, Washington passed away on Sunday September 25, 2022, at the age of 86.  Jon died after a long and courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease with his beloved wife Joan at his side.

Jon was born on March 4, 1936, in Kellogg Idaho to parents Elmer and Mildred Kauppi.  He loved growing up in Kellogg and worked at as many odd jobs he could find.  Even at a young age, Jon had an entrepreneurial spirit, starting several small business ventures.

Jon met his sweetheart Joan Vergobbi at Kellogg high school and they married in 1955.  Jon and Joan started their lives in Kellogg in a little home on North Avenue and he was proud of the melding of his Scandinavian family with Joan’s Italian.  While working night shift at the Bunker Hill Mine, Jon attended college at North Idaho Jr. College in Coeur D Alene with Joan working as a surgical nurse at the Kellogg Hospital.   Their first child Christine was born in Kellogg in 1959.   The family moved to Corvallis, Oregon in 1960 where Jon earned an Industrial Engineering degree from Oregon State University, graduating in 1962.   Jon and Joan settled in Portland Oregon where they would raise their family which grew to include a son Greg and another daughter Anne.

Jon started his career at Owens Illinois Glass Company in NE Portland.  From there he went to work at Precision Castparts and then the Mercer Steel Company.   While at Mercer Steel, Jon decided to start a business and bought a small company called Safe-T-Play which manufactured playground equipment.  He brought his brother David on board with him.   Jon had dreams of turning it into a steel fabrication company and re-named it Northwest Ironworks.   This was published in the local business paper and when Mr. Mercer got wind of it, Jon was given an ultimatum:  stay with Mercer and be on track for a good career but he would have to give up the side business.   Jon, who wanted to be his own boss, chose to go out on his own starting a successful steel fabrication business, Northwest Ironworks, that he owned and operated for over 20 years.

After Jon sold his business, with no intention to retire, he went to work for a wood recycling and shoring company, an automotive software company and later bought a Papa Murphy’s Pizza store in Multnomah, which he and Joan ran for several years.  Jon continued to work into his seventies and eighties as a census worker, doing remodeling, and as a teachers aid for the Evergreen School district.  Jon had an incredible work ethic.

Jon enjoyed many hobbies including fishing, camping and building things.  He has left an indelible mark with the many things he has built.   Jon could fix anything and was at his best in his favorite chamois shirt, suspenders, OSU Beaver cap, tool belt and much repaired boots, working on a project.   He was thrifty, but not cheap, and invented recycling before it was a thing.  If you needed a bolt, a piece of wood or a tool, Jon would have what you were looking for and would offer advice and help for whatever you were doing.  Jon had a habit of writing on what he was working on, and his memory will live on in our family cabin at Squaw Bay that he built, with pithy statements written on attic walls, behind cabinet drawers or in his many construction project journals.   His writings, though not always politically correct, never failed to mention his true thoughts on matters and often included his undying love for his wife, kids and grandkids.