August 28, 1925 - April 30, 2014
Eulogy Shared by Rev. Jane Page at Ron's Memorial Service, May 10, 2014
You always make me smile.
I’ve known Ron for about a decade and a half – and I knew him first as a friend and a fellow member of the UU fellowship before I became his minister. So I got to know the real person that folks don’t always show to their minister --although I don’t think my folks have a problem showing lots to me. In any case, I just loved him from the beginning. Not that Ron was always easy to love, but for some reason, he was easy for me to love. Maybe because he loved me back. I will miss him and will forever cherish his memories. I went to see Marjorie, Heather, and Allison this past Monday afternoon and we had a good time sharing lots of memories. Some of the things they shared with me were stories I had heard before, and some were surprises. So, I’m just going to share a little about his life and loves – and we are also going to have time for his family to share and for some of you to share as well.
Ron was born on August 28, 1925 in Collingdale, Pennsylvania and he was born at home – as many were in those days. His father died when he was just two years old, so he never knew him. The untimely death of his father, however, did open up an opportunity for which Ron was forever grateful. The philanthropist, Stephen Girard, left part of his great fortune for a boarding school in Philadelphia for fatherless boys. And Ron was able to attend both elementary and secondary school at Girard College – graduating in 1943. Now if you had many discussions with Ron, you know that he was proud to have been brought up in an institution where “no man of the cloth” was allowed entry. I decided to look this up and indeed, Stephen Girard’s will reads “Prohibiting any ecclesiastic, missionary or minister of any sect from holding or exercising any station, no such person should ever be admitted for any purpose or as a visitor, within the premises occupied by the College..” Now the teachers and students would lead chapels – but the students were not indoctrinated with any particular creed or dogma. And Ron was proud of that upbringing which allowed him to explore and question on his own – and he never quit doing that!
Of course it was war time when Ron finished school and he went straight into the Navy. He had always wanted to be a sailor. He became a signal man and served for three years. Whenever some of us at UU would get on our high moral horses and condemn the nuclear bombing of Japan, Ron would share with us the other side of that story. You see he was on that ship headed for a Japanese invasion when the bombing occurred. And Ron shares that there was great fear among them that they would never make it back home. With the bombs falling, the war ended – and as far as Ron was concerned, his life and many others were saved.
After attending art school in Philadelphia, Ron worked as a graphic artist and photographer. He was working in the same building as Marjorie and they became acquainted as they would ride the elevator. (Their relationship had a very “up and down” beginning.) He did not ask her out though – and she eventually left Philadelphia and moved to California. And like many fellows – when she was gone, he realized what he missed. He didn’t let that deter him though and used the telephone, making lots of long distance calls to woo her back. He said on the phone that he wanted her to come back and marry him. Now this is before they had ever been on a date! But he was there at the plane to meet her and went back with her parents to visit with them in their home. Her mom liked him and thought he’d be a good catch. So after a few days Marjorie asked him, -- “Well, are you going to marry me or not?” And they made plans right then. That was in October of 1958 and they got married that December. They made their home in Center City Philadelphia and had two daughters, Heather and Allison. When Heather was 11 and Allison was 2, they moved here to Statesboro where Ron had taken a job with Brooks Instrument. And we sitting here today are so glad they made that decision to make their home with us.
Ron later worked with the Publications Department at Georgia Southern and retired from there when he was 70. He continued to enjoy his photography; and his family brought some of their photos to share with you today. Now Ron is not in many of these pictures – because he was taking them. He also enjoyed building things with his neighbor Roy Roundtree. Heather and Allison recall their childhood vacations with him, and he took lots of pictures, of course. In addition to the regular kinds of activities – like going to Disney World, they would do some alternative activities – (shhhh) like snitching some of the grapefruit from the trees along the roadside. Ron also enjoyed going to concerts and even took Allison to see John Schneider of the Dukes of Hazzard. Ron loved his family, good conversation, good art, good music, and good food – MMMM MMMM – especially that wonderful contraband – M & M’s. I thought about having an M and M communion in honor of Ron, but thought this setting might not be appropriate for that. However, I’ve placed some on the tables in the Parrish Hall and invite you to partake of these in memory of Ron.
I’ll leave it for others of you to share about Ron at UU and in other places – but I will say this. Ron was a faithful man – not in the traditional way many folks think of faith and religion. But faithful nonetheless. Ron said his higher power was the group, the gathering of souls together. And whether that gathering was in the back room with his home group, or at our UU Fellowship, or most recently with fellow seniors at the Silver Lining Club; the gathering was a divine place – a place where he could connect with others in those relationships that nurture our minds, bodies, and souls and make us better people. I’m so glad that he connected with me.
Ron liked to take pictures of birds. And I had a special encounter this morning that I’d like to tell you about. Every morning I go for a run around Lakewood Drive – which is a circle in a wooded neighborhood across the pond dam from my house – no traffic there. And I just go around and around that circle. As I made my first round, I saw this really beautiful red bird sitting on a low tree by the side of the road. And it stayed there till I was fairly close then flew away. I took that as a message that Ron’s wonderful spirit and energy had been released to the universe – to all of nature, and that little red bird was expressing his gratitude for that good spirit and energy. When I came around the circle on my last lap, there was that same little bird – sitting in the middle of the road, just waiting on me. And when I got close – he fluttered away with his wings waving a very GOOD bye.
Ron Lyall – Ron Lyall
You’ll always make me smile.