Last Saturday, August 29, 2009, I attended another funeral for a high school classmate.
My brother read the obituary in the Friday paper and sent me a text message because he recognized the name and thought he remembered me being in school with Ron.
I've gone to several funerals of my school mates and teachers the last few years. I don't know exactly why I go. It's not as though I've maintained friendships with many of my classmates over the years. Even those few of us that were very close in school have strayed apart.
But there's something about being children together that survives long periods of separation. I notice I now even look much more kindly upon the remembrances of classmates I actually disliked at the time or in some cases considered enemies. Perhaps it is the perspective of time or, more improbably, the onset of some gain in wisdom.
This time it was the funeral for Ron Taylor. I think he and his family arrived at our school when I was beginning high school which then was the 9th grade. He was 2 grades below me but his sister, Verna, was in my class. His father was an assistant principal if memory serves as well as being the drivers' education teacher. I don't remember knowing others in the family and didn't know there were any until the funeral.
They lived south of us about 2 miles and seems to me that we rode the same bus together at least some.
Like several friends of my approximate age Ron had been stricken with polio as a young child. I learned at the funeral that it was when he was 4 in 1953. If the poliovirus could have waited a couple of years, Ron would have undoubtedly benefited from the Salk vaccine.
But polio was not the thing that defined Ron Taylor. Even as a junior high student Ron had a big spirit and an equally big smile. Neither of those have dimmed in my memory even after 46 years or more.
Ron was 59 when he died. It was sudden and unexpected. He was a coach most of his adult life and I had heard about a couple of his assignments. When I knew him he was one strong football player.
When I knew him I was an atheist. Back then I neither knew nor cared what his faith was if any.
I was pleased to learn that he was a devout disciple of Christ and had been for a long time.
Besides me there were about 500 or maybe 600 more people there to pay Ron respect and to try and help his family's grief as much as we could by our mere presence.
I'm not the only one to write something about Ron:
It was in the service that I learned that Ron nearly always ended his conversations with others with a resounding "Smile and Give 'em Heaven!"
I like that.