Kenneth Ronald White

Kenneth Ronald White

August 5, 1936 – January 13, 2024

Kenneth “Kenny” Ronald White, 87, of Sweet Home passed away January 13, 2024. Kenny was born August 5, 1936 in Vernonia the only child of Kenneth G. and Olive V. (Hobin) White. The family relocated to Sweet Home in 1943. His parents started a radio repair shop, expanding to White’s Furniture and Sporting Goods. Kenny grew up and went to local schools while they lived in an apartment above the family business on Main Street.

In the 1950’s uranium was discovered in the American West. The US government began to purchase uranium ore and people filed mining claims. They all wanted a better and affordable Geiger counter to locate the valuable ore. Kenny and his dad owned a Geiger counter but discovered it didn’t work as well as they thought it should. So, Kenneth designed a Geiger counter far superior to the ones on the market. The family set out to manufacture Geiger counters and soon had orders for as many as they could produce. Expansion began with a small army jeep, handheld shovels and wheelbarrows to dig a basement under the building they lived in and housed their White’s Furniture business.

The new basement was designed to manufacture White’s Electronics Geiger Counters. Kenny worked before and after school to bend and paint the metal boxes, Kenneth assembled the electronics and Olive handled the furniture store.

Kenneth, Olive and Kenny planned family vacations around gold prospecting, rockhounding and places with history. Kenneth set out to improve the ability to find gold, coins and artifacts using a metal detector. When the government placed restrictions on uranium in 1957 and the market for Geiger counters collapsed, the White’s were ready to start manufacturing White’s Metal Detectors.

The business grew and the White’s family purchased acreage across Pleasant Valley bridge, built their home and started building a factory for what became the largest manufacturer of metal detectors in the world. White’s Electronics, Inc. was owned and managed by the three family members until Kenneth’s and Olive’s health declined in 1987. Kenneth G. passed away in 1991 followed by Olive’s passing in1996. With Kenny’s careful leadership alongside his wife Mary, White’s Electronics continued its growth and success for 28 years until being sold to a competitor. Kenny was personally involved in the design, manufacturing, marketing and distribution of White’s Metal Detectors, in the US and White’s Manufacturing and Distribution in the UK, Europe and Asia. Kenny always credited the remarkable success of White’s to its employees who in turn credited their success to Kenny and Mary who valued each employee like family. White’s employees became a family who took pride in designing and building the best performing metal detectors with a reputation for quality and customer service. Kenny and Mary remained successful partners even after their divorce in 2008.

White’s designed and manufactured underwater detectors to Kenny’s specifications. Kenny converted a 50’ prototype boat built by Sikorsky to patrol Vietnam rivers into a treasure hunting boat. Each underwater metal detector model was tested and perfected while being used on Kenny’s boat searching for Spanish treasure. He subleased wreck sites held by Mel Fisher on the east coast of Florida, also known as the Treasure Coast. Seven Spanish Galleons sank on the treasure coast during a hurricane on July 31, 1715. The ships were returning to Spain from Peru and Mexico carrying tons of gold and silver. Kenny, Mary, Ronnie White, Jimmy Jewell, Alan Row, Lance Dewitt and others worked on the treasure sites, recovering numerous artifacts, cannonballs, pottery, tableware, silver and gold Spanish coins.

Kenny loved fishing and hunting and was good at both. He fished out of Newport, Oregon, and Ft. Pierce, Florida and hunted on his Montana property located in Beaverhead County.

Kenny was a Phenomenal Man. He will be forever missed by many.

Kenny White is survived by his beloved wife, Cheri (Morris) White, daughter, Tamara White; son, Jimmy Jewell; stepson, Cody Crites; grandchildren: Logan White, Cortney White, Karissa Jewell, Eli Crites, Cutter Crites and six great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his father Kenneth, mother Olive, his first wife Myrna (Vorderstrasse) (White) Nelson, son, Ronald C. White, grandsons: Dillon K. White and Tanner J. Jewell.

Viewing will be 4-6 pm Friday January 19th at Sweet Home Funeral Chapel. Graveside service will be 1pm Saturday January 20th at Gilliland Cemetery. Potluck celebration will follow at 2 pm at Sweet Home Elks Lodge. Sweet Home Funeral Chapel is handling arrangements.