Lou Palumbo

Lou Palumbo

1931 - 2020

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Obituary of Lou Palumbo

Louis Palumbo was born on Memorial Day May 30th, 1931 at Portland Adventist Hospital on 60th and Belmont. He spent most of his years before first grade living in Ames, Oregon on a farm owned by his maternal grandparents Eugenio and Concetta Apa. Theirs was the last property adjacent to the Bull Run Watershed. He and his parents bounced between the main house and a small cabin across from the main house. He liked to talk about his experiences . There was the creek, a trickling ditch in summer and a rushing waterway in spring and fall, that he was forbidden to cross; there were large cows and a big bull to stay away from; there were berries to pick but not eat; there were chickens to watch run around without their heads before plucking their feathers; and perhaps the worst part was what the farm didn’t have: other kids. The family moved to the Woodstock Neighborhood in the latter part of the 1930s and lived in three different homes on SE Forty-third. The homes had been built by his uncle. Louie, as he was known to friends and family, loved to tell about digging the basement for the house that would be the epicenter for all things Palumbo for the next sixty years. As had his father, Louie attended Woodstock Elementary, the oldest extant school structure in Portland Public Schools. Woodstock was teeming with kids, some of them relatives, and Louie excelled at having fun. He walked the boulevard and knew all the shop keepers. Not much into organized school sports because they involved practice , Louie organized his own Woodstock Park teams that would travel to Kenilworth , Creston, or Mt. Scott Parks and play for bragging rights. In 1949 Louie graduated from Franklin High. That next September he eloped with Jeannine Morris, just beginning her senior year, to Stevenson, Washington. From November 1950 to September of 1962 they produced six children. Buying a home and soon outgrowing it, then looking for a larger one became a familiar pattern. They moved from inner southeast Portland , to outer southeast Portland , to Beaverton, to Parkrose , to southwest Portland, to Salem for a year or two and finally had a six bedroom home built south of Milwaukie all of this in the space of twelve years. Louie and Jeannine divorced in 1967. In 1968 he met Toni Nelson Bansmer. They married in 1970 and worked hard to blend two families, his six and her one. In 1977 they added their own to the group who would often joke about having a niece that was four years his senior. In the early 90s Lou and Toni divorced. Lou assumed responsibility for their son raising him through high school and college. On May 7, 1991 Lou committed to abstain from alcohol and tobacco, a vow he kept the rest of his life. From early on Lou liked making money, especially if it didn’t involve much physical labor. He mowed lawns. The duration was short and the compensation immediate. Farm work was out not just because it could be backbreaking but because it would take him away from the city. He tried working in the cannery but the tedious repetition drove him crazy. At fourteen he talked his way into working for Vines Jewelers in downtown Portland . Too young to sell, he stocked merchandise and wrapped gift boxes. At age18 he got to work the floor and used his first commissions to purchase engagement and wedding rings for Jeannine. In his first few years of marriage Lou would moonlight at Vines during the Christmas season. In his early 20s Lou was a distribution manager for the Oregon Journal . He ran a crew of delivery boys and paper shaggers in North Portland supplying large and small grocers and filling sidewalk news boxes. He sold appliances for a local wholesaler. In 1954 he went to work for Penn Mutual Life on 11th and Morrison. For the next several years the family used the parking lot there when they travelled downtown to view the Rose Festival, to see the Meier and Frank Christmas windows, or to watch the Portland Beavers play in Multnomah Stadium. In 1960 he opened an agency for Standard Insurance in Salem, Oregon. Two years later he opened another agency for Standard in southeast Portland. In the 70s he helped launch Sun Life in Oregon; part of the promotional campaign was that all sales people drove purple Cougars. Lou enjoyed sales for a variety of reasons. Sales involved talking and he did like to talk, - sports, politics, business, family, religion, philosophy or psychology. He appreciated the fact that to make more money all he needed to do was just make another sale. He also believed that he was doing good, providing his clients with something useful and necessary. But most of all he enjoyed sales because it gave him a good deal of independence. He could decide when and where to work for how long and for whom. In the words of his favorite crooner , and perhaps the only person he might rather have been, Frank Sinatra, Lou did it “ My Way”. In the late 60s he was selling life and auto Insurance for a car dealer. He told the dealer that he would be taking a couple hours break in the early afternoon to see one of his children play in a state championship playoff. The owner objected. Lou quit. From that point on Lou became his own boss. He travelled selling Life and Health insurance to workers in small mill towns and rural areas. He sold radio and television advertising. He acquired his own radio station in Eugene and sold airtime and programming. In Salem he established a successful bartering collective. Called ”The Exchange” people from all walks of life traded things of value from properties to all manner of goods and services. In the late 80s Lou and his younger business partner, Lon St. Denis, formed PS Promotions. They helped small towns and civic groups devise coupon books. They set and managed garden shows, boat shows and car shows. They established and ran the Salem Home Show at the Stare Fair Grounds for more than a decade before selling the rights. Upon retirement Lou did not give up on love or adventure. After talking about it for years Lou travelled to Italy. Using The Marche where his youngest son was studying as home base he was able to visit Rome and the Vatican and actually experience what it might be like to live in the land of his grandparents. Before online dating, he used personal ads in local news papers to meet new people. He frequented live theatre and music. He even took an acting class. He had a longterm romance with Belen, a Philippine woman who worked in Saudi Arabia. They exchanged letters and chatted on the phone across time zones and datelines. Lou travelled to the Philippines two different times to visit with Belen and family. The fourteen hour flights, the oppressive heat and the lack of amenities were not deterrents. He loved the family meals, the camaraderie, and the Karaoke. Family, home and tradition sustained Lou. Part of his rational for leaving Penn Mutual was that in order to advance he would need to transfer to another state. He and Jeannine travelled to California and Arizona test the waters. But Salem was as far as he was willing to go. He could pack up the family and be at his mother’s dinner table for spaghetti and meatballs in less than an hour. Birthday, Easter and Christmas Eve could be celebrated and enjoyed by all - great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and children. He was proud to be Italian and made certain that his children were too. In the car he would sing Italian songs or songs sung by Italians. He would talk about famous Italian-Americans especially the great performers and athletes. A Palumbo Christmas Eve was special: thirteen different foods each one representing Christ or an apostle. Perhaps the high point of Lou’s year was to share this meal with others. In 2014 Lou gave up driving and moved to Beaverton Hills Assisted Living Center. He explored many sites before settling here and of course he negotiated a good deal. He had a television in his bedroom and one in the living room. He would have one tuned to Fox and the other to CNN . And of course he would be watching the Blazers or golf if either were available. Prior to his vision failing he read many biographies and his things Sinatra he kept close. But what struck one most were all the photos of family that covered the walls, sat on tables, bookcases, and headboards, - his parents, his brother , his children and their spouses, his grandchildren, and his great grandchildren all prominently displayed. Any care giver who spent much time with him got to know his family. Louis Palumbo passed peacefully on December 13, 2020 . He was preceded in death by his parents Louis and LaVelle, his brother, John, and his son Thomas. He is survived by his children: Steven, Lisa, Jerry, John, Julie, David, and Matthew. He has 13 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. Due to Covid-19 there will be no public funeral. The family plans a celebration of life sometime in the future when gatherings are safe.
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