Gordon E. Ness

photo of Dr. Gordon E. Ness

Dr. Gordon E. Ness

Dr. Gordon E. Ness was born in San Francisco on May 17th, 1940, the product of first generation Scandinavian immigrant parents – his birthday falling, appropriately, on Norwegian Constitution Day which he loved to celebrate.  He was the middle child, with an older sister (Aneta) and younger brother (Kenneth).  Gordon was a precocious child by any account, an excellent student in school, and displayed a broad intellectual curiosity that would stay with him throughout his life.  Gordon graduated from Brown Military Academy in 1957, where he excelled in wrestling, and also competed in swimming and drill.  Also while at BMI, he ably collected both demerits as well as numerous awards for debate/forensics.

Gordon briefly attended Long Beach State for college, later enlisting in the Coast Guard where he was honorably discharged after four years.  He then worked as a field radar maintenance specialist for Westinghouse, installing and testing heavy-ground radar systems for the U.S. Air Force.  It was while working in Eastern Oregon on a North American Air Defense Command project that he met his wife, Loretta, a public school teacher, with whom he was married for 52 years.

In the late 1960s, returning to college with the GI Bill, Gordon attended Cal State Hayward where he graduated in 1969 with a B.S. in Geology and a minor in Greek Literature and Philosophy. While an undergrad, Gordon taught lab sections in introductory geology and facilitated lab experiments in the physics department, as well as curated the paleontology collection.  During this time, Gordon also worked with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California.  In his spare time, Gordon enjoyed many outdoor activities with Loretta, including golfing and backpacking.

Upon completing his undergraduate degree, Gordon relocated with Loretta to Monmouth, Oregon, where he would complete both his M.S. and Ph.D. in Oceanography (with an emphasis in Marine Geology) at Oregon State University, while also minoring in the History of Science.  During his dissertation work, Gordon also was a physical science instructor at nearby Western Oregon State College (now WOU), teaching non-major students a year-long sequence featuring a variety of scientific disciplines.  In 1980, Kaare was born, Loretta and Gordon’s only child.  While at OSU, where Gordon would stay until 1992, Gordon was a Senior Researcher in Geophysics in the College of Oceanography.  He also supervised the thesis research of international students and served on thesis committees in various academic disciplines as a Graduate School Representative.  During summer breaks, Gordon spent many weeks each year enjoying the Oregon coast with family and extended family.

In 1992, Gordon would relocate to Seattle, Washington where he would join Seafloor Surveys International as a Project Manager, Survey Party Chief, and In-Field Geologist, surveying routes for fiber-optic telecommunication cable systems.  During his decade at SSI, Gordon worked on 30 different projects, spending 4 to 6 months a year at sea in locations such as the North Pacific, North and South Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and Indian Oceans.

Upon retiring to Edmonds, Washington, where his wife Loretta would join him after concluding her career in teaching, Gordon continued his avid collection of military firearms, was a prolific gardener, became active in grassroots Republican politics, and served on the Snohomish County Planning Commission for three full terms.  Toward the end of his tenure on the commission, the deadly Oso slide occurred.  Gordon was a constant presence at countless meetings and hearings, even after being term-limited, bringing his professional expertise to focus on finding the cause, holding people to account, and working with others to prevent a similar tragedy.

Gordon is survived by his wife Loretta, his son Kaare, his brother Kenneth, his sister Aneta, and a wide-ranging extended family from Oregon, California, Ohio, and Colorado, who loved him dearly for his wit, good humor, and loyalty.  In lieu of flowers or other typical remembrances, Gordon would ask that you sit down with your loved ones, enjoy a good single malt scotch, and cut a check to the National Rifle Association.

11 Responses to “Gordon E. Ness”

  • Alan Tagle says:

    Mr. Ness was a wonderful man, and an even greater role model. A man of true conviction, principle and wisdom. Someone I truly looked up to and admired. My deepest love to goes out to his family.

  • Marisa Kennison Homer says:

    Uncle Gordon your smile was contagious and your gentle ways comforting. I will remember all of the stories told to me and the memories we made. You were an incredible gentleman. When I hear your name mentioned I will always smile.
    Gone yet not forgotten always in our hearts
    Love Mari

  • Steve Sego says:

    I had the honor of meeting Dr. Ness and his lovely wife Loretta through my association with his son Kaare. One of the most memorable evenings was a splendid dinner in the Ness home, in the audience of and conversation with this authentic Renaissance man. He was a scientist, philosopher and keen observer of humanity and world affairs. A better husband and father would be quite an accomplishment. I know he will be sorely missed by his family, but the blessing of his time with all of us deserves much celebration. I’ll not soon forget the impression and legacy of Gordon Ness – much love to you Loretta and Kaare. Thank you for sharing Gordon, I share your grief. Steve Sego

  • Sammy Chou says:

    i met Kaare’s dad long time ago, we really didnt talk much but i could tell he’s a wonderful dad for Kaare,i’m so sorry for your loss buddy, hope all is well with you and your mom, miss you alot buddy!


    I had the honor to meet Dr. Gordon Ness during my graduate studies at Oregon State University between 1983 and 1987; and joined the international research crew that he lead during marine geophysical surveys in Mexico and Brazil. He was the best professor that I ever had… simply the best. He was always cheerful and a positive person. I will always remember him for his smile and for all what he kindly taught me not just about marine science but also about life.

  • Hazel Singer says:

    I am saddened to read the news of Gordon’s passing. My heartfelt condolences to Loretta and Kaare. I worked with Gordon at SSI. We had diametrically opposite opinions on practically everything! However, we could talk about and through them all. His mischievous sense of humour, his inquisitive nature, and his outgoing personality served him well. Our conversations ranged from the Norse Sagas to the Aeneid to early man to the woes of contemporary society. He most certainly enriched the lives of those around him and will be missed.

  • Christian Herisson says:

    I met Gordon in SSI on November 1995… I found a very bon viveur guy, always smiling and prompt to joke. Further, I discover a very sharp professional man in geology and oceanology domain but, overall, in the real life. I was missing this “american way of life” background and he kindly brougt me through the mysteries of how to live and survive in USA and, most of all, to the secrecies of politics… We spent hours chatting about politics and how to change the world, whithout success, of course! He was one of my mentor in Seattle and I liked using his culture to teach me basic english. After I quited SSI, I used to visit him and Loretta in their gorgeous house to share french cheese, bread and wine. Boy… I will surely miss him.
    Take care, Gordon… Hope you have not forgotten your provisions for this long journey, which I wish smooth and hassle-free. See you up-there, old friend!

  • Warren and Diane Ball says:

    Gordon and his family have been great neighbors and a wonderful addition to our Meadowdale neighborhood. I can’t recall a time I spoke with Gordon without at least one smile or a laugh resulting, no matter how serious the topic. A tireless promoter of all that was best for our community and an exemplary American. We are poorer for his loss, but we are so much better for having known him.

    Godspeed, Gordon. Somewhere, an angel is getting schooled in macro economics!

  • Cecile Durand says:

    It is hard to describe what Gordon meant to so many of us (then young) folks during those days at SSI where I had the privilege to meet him and work with him. I am very saddened by his passing but comforted in knowing he’s now sharing those crazy stories to so many I love! Gordon will always be remembered in the SSI family. Au revoir mon ami. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. With love. Cecile.

  • Doug Hannam says:

    Loretta and Kaare,
    I served with Gordon on the Snohomish County Planning Commission. Gordon was very good at pointing out what was in the best interests of the public. Very well spoken and clear in his thinking. He also would follow up by attending many of the County Council meetings and speaking again on these issues. Over the years on the PC with Gordon, we often got into conversation after the meetings finding many common interests (sailing, scuba diving, weather, geology, hydrology, biology, botany, …. many physical sciences on many levels, philosophy and of course, politics …and more). He was highly knowledgeable on so many subjects – I was often amazed. Often these conversations stimulated some of the interest that I otherwise would have lost. He also had a subtle way to provoked new thought. We met for lunch to chat and got into some fabulous long e-mail conversations. I considered Gordon to be not just another Planning Commissioner but a friend.
    Gordon also took the time to talk to my daughter, who got her under grad in Biological Oceanography from the UW and then MS in Biology from Edinbough. They had much in common and I believe that he was very encouraging to her.
    Gordon was wonderful at nurturing broad thinking, asking questions, looking beyond what was directly in front of us. He did all this in such a positive way and always with a wonderful smile !!

    I will miss our many / multi topic conversations as well as his positive spirit and energy.

    As so many people that knew Gordon, ….I will miss him.
    The world would be a better place with more people like Gordon.

    Doug Hannam
    Architect and fellow Snohomish County Planning Commission Member … and friend

  • Rob Holman says:

    I met Gordon when I arrived as a young faculty yahoo in Oceanography in 1979 and eventually ended up on the geophysics floor, much to my benefit. I have so many fond memories of Gordon from his CONMAR days and in his personna as “the mouth of the Gulf of California”. He was a great character and a very fun colleague.

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