Don Ohman Sr. had a devastating stroke in 1999.
It hit his left side, affecting his sight, his hearing, his memory, his motor skills.
But not his determination. And not his love for music.
“They didn’t think he’d be able to play guitar again,” recalled daughter Denice Strawn.
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But, “my sister took his guitar to the hospital, and he’d hold it while he walked,” she said. “Pretty soon he started trying to make the chords. Eventually, he started playing again.”
Music was a great love of Ohman’s life — and it’s a big part of his legacy.
Ohman, 70, of Burbank, who died Oct. 22, entertained countless people in the Tri-Cities and beyond with his songs.
He played — perhaps even invented — “construction folk music.” In 1996, he earned national fame when his Please Pass the Asphalt — a collection of original tunes about roofing — made syndicated columnist Dave Barry’s guide to unique and unusual Christmas gifts for the year.
“The next thing I knew, the Smithsonian was asking for a copy of it to put in the museum,” Ohman later told the Herald. “I was so honored by that.”
Ohman was born in Montana and moved to the Tri-Cities in the early 1960s. He loved the community, and “this was his home,” Strawn said.
He attended Kennewick High School, where he helped start a rodeo club.
In 1964, he met Pamela Kay Green while attending an auction. They married the next year.
As they raised their family — they have five children — they also ran a roofing company together.
Ohman also worked for years in the railroad industry, starting with Northern Pacific Railway as a clerk and railroad bull. In 1971 he transferred to Amtrak, as a ticket clerk and agent in Pasco, where he worked 28 years before retiring, his obituary said.
Music and art were central parts of Ohman’s life.
He painted murals, took photos, wrote poetry, did carpentry and was great at telling stories.
And, “there was never a time or place that Don didn’t have his guitar,” his obituary said. “He played for passengers when the train was running late, at all family gatherings, coffee shops, parks. ‘Wherever two or more were gathered’ there was always singing and laughter.”
Ohman’s affection for the Tri-Cities shone through his music, including the song, I Love This Town of Pasco.
He also performed in assisted living facilities around the Tri-Cities and worked with Dayspring Ministries, a jail and prison ministry.
Ohman was a wonderful father, making each of his kids feel like he or she was his favorite, Strawn said.
“He did anything and everything to make things fun,” she said.
On road trips, he’d always make time for side adventures. “We’d say, ‘Can we stop and see that (reptile display)?’ And he would stop. He was amazing,” she said.
“We are going to miss our dad. We feel the loss,” Strawn said. “But we feel joy knowing he made an impact.”
Ohman’s survivors including his wife, Pam; children Don Jr., Deborah, Denice, Dustin and Xavier; and 15 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life recently was held. Donations are being taken in Ohman’s name to Dayspring Ministries.