OVANDO/MISSOULA – Ralph Lee Allen, 77, of Ovando, died on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, at his home in Missoula. He died at peace and in comfort, of complications due to pulmonary fibrosis.
Ralph was born in Twin Falls, Idaho, on May 11, 1937, to Clyde and Roma Allen. He graduated from Filer High School in 1955 and then served four years in the U.S. Coast Guard. A good portion of those years was spent on the ice breaker, "The Northwind" clearing paths in the ice for the Navy from the Arctic to the Antarctic Oceans. Ralph was very proud of his military service.
In 1959 he went to Carroll College in Helena, graduating in 1961 with degrees in biology and chemistry. He received his master's degree in biology in 1963 from Oregon State University. For the next four years Ralph taught high school science and was awarded the Distinguished Science Educator of Montana in 1966. Ralph completed his Ph.D. in biology and science teaching in 1970 from the University of Oregon.
Ralph served as a professor of biology and science education at the University of Montana from 1970-1979. He took a break from the university to serve as Superintendent of Schools in Pelican, Alaska. His years in Alaska were marked with adventure and learning. These years renewed Ralph's commitment to education in general and particularly environmental education and education for Native peoples. In 1990, Ralph returned to the University of Montana and his science education teaching position, finishing out his career there in 1999. For the last 15 years of his life, Ralph enjoyed his family and his grandchildren, a little bit of traveling, and horseback riding on his Ovando Ranch, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and the Blackfoot Valley. He loved having friends over for dinners, cross-country ski trips, and getting Christmas trees with the sled and team. Friends were drawn to Ralph and the infectious joy of his spirit. The mischievous and delightful twinkle in his eye was there to the very end. He loved and was loved deeply. His commitment to education and environmental awareness never waned. The Library at the Montana Natural History Center was named "The Ralph Lee Allen Library" in his honor.
Ralph is survived by his wife Marian McKenna Allen; his three children, son Ben Allen (Lisa Straight) of New York and his daughters, Beth Mow, (Mark Mow) of Juneau, Alaska, and Laura Lee Hoffman (Joel Hoffman) of Talkeetna, Alaska; three sisters, Rita Mae Donovan (Walter Donovan) of Boise, Idaho, Margret Harris, (Ken Harris) of Portland, Oregon, and Nadine Miller (Tom Miller) of Spokane, Washington, and three grandchildren. A fourth grandchild is expected in the spring. Ralph's interests and support went to the Montana Environmental Information Center, The Montana Natural History Center and The Natural Resources Defense Council.
Memorial services and a life celebration are planned for the spring.