Jon Preston

September 15, 1958- May 14, 2024

Jon Preston was born on September 15, 1958. He passed away May 14, 2024, at the age of 65 at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.

Jon was a mischievous middle child, born in Los Angeles to Mary Lou and Jack Preston. The family quickly moved to Florida, following Jack’s busy life as a commercial plumber and business accountant when hotels and businesses were going up at an astounding rate around America.

During this nomadic and tumultuous period, the family also lived in Puerto Rico and later headed to Hawaii where all of Jon’s primary schooling occurred.

In Hawaii, Jon’s love affair with nature took hold, and he recalled how upset he was as the lush valleys were scraped clear of vegetation and replaced with hotels, apartments and homes.

He surfed and ran a dive business that included cleaning boat hulls and taking tourists out for day tours. While he had dropped out of school after ninth grade, he came to understand he needed to do something different with his life when the food chain he had created by scraping boat hulls yielded several hammerhead sharks passing by him in the murky water. He passed his general equivalency degree and persuaded his parents to sign the papers to allow him to join the U.S. Navy at the age of 17.

His math aptitude served him well and he tested high enough to qualify for torpedoman’s mate “A” school in Orlando, Fla., following boot camp in San Diego, Calif. He graduated first in his final torpedo class of 16. He was sent to Misawa, Japan, for 18 months to set up a new torpedo shop. That’s right Boomers, the 18-year-old was in charge of nuclear torpedoes.

A tour in Naval Air Station Cubi Point in the jungles of the Philippines followed where the monkeys were a constant and engaging presence despite the high-stress job of Cold War torpedo business.

Upon his honorable departure from active service, Jon returned to the U.S. for a job at Boeing Aerospace in Seattle where he worked on AWACS, the cruise missile and Minuteman Missile support equipment.

In the early 1980s, he took his father’s advice to have a trade in your back pocket and worked as a plumber’s apprentice in California as well as attending classes at Fullerton

College, including theater classes that enhanced his existing talent for dramatic storytelling.

While attending school, he also worked at a record store and saw some of the early punk bands like the Stooges, Stiff Little Fingers and The Clash. He worked on the plumbing for the movie “Die Hard” and liked to point to the scene with Bruce Willis pulling glass out of his feet and say, “That’s my sink!” (It’s a Christmas movie for the Preston family.)

On one fateful day, as he sat in Los Angeles traffic and a large refinery fire filled the air with noxious fumes, Jon pulled the plug on life in L.A. He packed up and drove to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state where his father had taken the family for vacations many times.

He lived in a tent outside of Port Angeles for awhile with his dog, Siskiyou, working for a plumber and volunteering for Olympic National Park. He finally realized the dream of becoming a seasonal park ranger working at Hurricane Ridge in the early 1990s and the main visitor center in town. His natural talent for conveying his love of science, nature and the awe and wonder that went with it, made him a visitor favorite. He attended classes at Peninsula College as part of his work for Olympic National Park.

It was there he caught the eye of a photojournalist/reporter at the Peninsula Daily News. They met several times as part of stories for the paper, including the day a young cougar took down a deer in front of visitors at Hurricane Ridge.

He asked that photojournalist out and entertained her with a dancing frog routine that was hard to resist. They each had the album “The Best of the Waitresses.” They considered it kismet and music was always a thread in their relationship.

He proposed to Debbie on Mt. Angeles during a snowstorm, quipping, “She was backed up to a drop-off – she had to say yes.” They were married in 1995 at Lake Crescent. They explored, climbed and hiked Washington and wherever travels landed them. A highlight was a three-month tour of the Southwest, where they climbed the highest peaks of most of the states and got a rowboat ride to a small village in Mexico for the afternoon. The Hawaii kid was especially intent on putting one limb in each of the four states at Four Corners.

Jon also worked a few seasons for North Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary based in Port Angeles. He was a jack of all trades, with his diving experience coming in handy. He also spent a winter season at Big Cypress National Preserve, giving canoe tours of the mangrove forests and telling tales of the gators.

He also qualified for his federal fire card, and was dispatched to fires in Washington several times, interpreting the landscape while digging fire line. “Preston – forward! Interpretation required!”

The couple eventually toured the various outposts of Olympic National Park, including Staircase, and he finally landed the coveted permanent job at the Hoh Ranger Station. Both of their children were born during Jon’s tenure as the visitor center lead in Forks and finally, the lead interpreter at the Hoh Rain Forest.

The kids spent many hours watching Dad work at evening programs, tidepool and rainforest walks or spent a few minutes of his lunch hour to feed flies to the salmon fry in the creek. Kid life was never so good as when Dad was blowing on the kelp “horn” at the beach or helping to look for fossils and other geologic treasures in the family travels.

Dad was often featured on news shows, in newspaper or radio shows, doing what he did best – sharing his love of the rainforest and all the life that thrived there.

He finished his career at Olympic National Park with a few years in IT, work he was doing throughout his career and also a hobby. He traveled with his boss to other parks in the region, such as Fort Vancouver, as part of the work.

During this time, he served one term on the Forks City Council. He also loved caring for the Rosmond trees at the Preston home in Forks. He was a passionate rocketeer, sharing his knowledge of rockets and homemade smoke bombs with students and friends. He built a rocket that had to be flown in the plains of eastern Washington and took all the tests to qualify to fly it. Most of the folks in Forks knew who to call when they found rocket parts in their fields. He delighted in making things like the shop vac hovercraft.

In Port Angeles and Forks, Jon participated in many local theater productions, part of a group of actors who worked together often and enjoyed the camaraderie of the stage. In retirement, he loved crafting the perfect comment to The Washington Post stories, often irreverent or ironic, ever the entertainer. There was always a car to fix, repairs to the house or a friend to assist. He spent three months in New Mexico with friends and his new faithful canine, Bandit. He told his son at Christmas of 2023 that he was satisfied with his remarkable life.

Jon is predeceased by his parents, Jack and Mary Lou Preston, as well as two siblings. He is survived by his wife, Debbie Preston, and their two children Deimos (Erin) and Archer Preston; one sibling, Ginny Ing and her children Heidi Ing, Dan O’Sullivan and son Ciaran; Lena Ing and daughter Sadie; Brad Ing and children Rachael and Ethan; and Tami and Derek Schleich and daughter Poppy.

Jon was an organ donor and at least three individuals benefitted directly along with tissue research. A life that was hard to contain conventionally will go on in these recipients. Internment of ashes will be in the family wall in Longview, Wash.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 2 p.m., June 8, at the Olympic Natural Resources Center, 1455 S. Forks Ave., Forks, WA 98331. Potluck appreciated, if you are able, main dish provided.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to Friends of Olympic National Park ( and/or Sarge’s Veteran Support in Forks and Port Angeles (