Tribute given by Ron's daughter on 9/11/2015
My dad was a resilient man and he instilled that in our family from a very early age. Whenever my brother and I would get upset that something was not going the way he wanted, he would impart his words of wisdom…or dad “isms” if you will. “You have to bend like a reed in the wind” meaning, you never break but you can be flexible. Another popular one was “You just need to go with the flow”. Sometimes by doing that, you figured out another way to do what you needed.
Most people have heard the story of how my dad became the “Flying Fireman”. For those of you who don’t, I’ll give a brief recap. In 1986, he fell 5 stories off a fire escape trying to gain access to a building during a fire. He broke his back but while on the stretcher, he told my mom he would be back to work in a year and he was true to his word. Most people don’t know what went on during that year but it taught me an incredible amount about resiliency.
During that year, my dad became Tetris champion. We had recently gotten Nintendo much to mine and my brother’s excitement. However, we did not realize we would have to fight my dad for playing time. He really got into trying to fit those Tetris pieces into the puzzle. He also got to the highest level of the Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? computer game. We’re going back a few years but it was a game where you had to try and figure out where Carmen San Diego was hiding around the world by the clues that she left. When he was a bit more mobile, he started to help me train for the annual mile run at my elementary school. It was a really big event at the school and I was determined to improve my time. So my dad would take me down to the local track and practice running with me. I think it was as good for him as it was for me. The day of the race he ran along side me and I didn’t win first but I had a personal best time. The most important part for me was when I was really tired during the race and wanted to slow down and walk, I would look at my dad next to me and it made me determined to do my best. I apparently was not the only one inspired by my dad because after a year, when he returned to work after his accident, he contributed to the fitness program at the Rock because a number of people had said how inspiring his recovery had been.
My dad could have given up after the accident. He could have laid around and felt sorry himself but that’s not who he was. He kept him mind going with Tetris and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? He set challenges for himself and when he met the challenge, he created his next one. And I very clearly remember my dad still being silly and goofy and keeping his sense of humor. If something wasn't great, he would flat out say it and then laugh at himself. This taught me resiliency. This taught me there is more than one way to do something. It also taught me that resiliency comes from within and from without. My dad had the tools within him to help him move forward but he also had a good support network. My mom believed in him. My brother and I believed in him. His family believed in him. I’d like to think it was a combination of all those things that made him stronger and able to move forward. It’s made us, as a family, able to move forward even when he is not with us.