Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ron's Legacy

Ron with one of his high tunnelsThe following eulogy was given by his second daughter, Tami Hale, at Ron's funeral:

You probably knew our dad was in the military for 21 years. You may even know the reason he went into the military was so he could retire and dedicate his life to farming the land he loved. But you may not know the rest of the story...

Our dad's father worked hard on the farm and outside the farm to support his family. Even still, they didn't have much money and couldn't always afford the basics. In the harsh Missouri winters of his youth, there were nights when our dad laid in bed, wrapped in his winter coat, shivering from the cold with his stomach growling, dreaming of what could be.

He dreamt of a day when he had a family of his own and could provide everything they needed. In this dream, he was a farmer, working the land he loved to provide for his family and for his community. It seemed impossible to have it all, but he was determined to find a way.

He knew part of the answer was education, so he worked 3 jobs to put himself through college and graduated with honors. It was there he met and fell in love with our mom. In order to provide for his family, he put his dream of farming on hold, and pursued a career in the military.

He didn't know which branch to sign up for until he learned that being a Meteorologist in the Navy had shorter deployments that would allow him to spend more time with his family. That's all it took to convince him to join--even though at the time he couldn't swim and was afraid of the water.

His drive to provide for his family was so much stronger than any fear, which is what gave him the courage to jump off the high dive into the water to complete his officers training.

Graveside ServiceThroughout his 21 years in the Navy, he never stopped dreaming about returning to the land he loved. He took advantage of every educational opportunity offered while he was in the Navy, so he could take farming to the next level, whenever he finally got his chance.

He never stayed inside the lines of conventional farming. He had dreams of getting into new markets and inventing new methods and technologies to make farming more efficient and to make the bounty more plentiful.

I remember a time when he was taking MBA night classes, working full time, and planning his future farm in his spare time. He would tell us about the research he had done to identify the untapped market for bullfrogs, used for frog legs and scientific research. Millions of pounds were imported into the US every year and he was determined to become one of the first domestic suppliers.

We would look over his shoulder as he graphed out the placement and size of each bullfrog pond, designed systems to ward off predators, and created an environment where the frogs could really thrive.

One year, we spent our summer vacation on the farm, planting 1000 Christmas tree seedlings so they would be mature enough to sell by the time he retired and returned to the land.

For 19 years after he retired from the Navy, he lived his dream. He worked the land and experimented every year with dozens of varieties of tomatoes and other produce, setup crop-specific composting to achieve the right balance of soil nutrition for each type of plant, built high tunnels to extend the growing season and deliver vine ripened tomatoes in June, and invented countless planting techniques and irrigation systems.

Granddaughter KamiDuring his 19 years on the farm, his family stayed close. He experienced the success of his children and the birth of his first grandchild. As a family, we continued to grow and learn about each other and depend on each other and lift each other up through good and bad times. Ron was not just a great father and grandfather; he was a great friend.

Words cannot express how much we loved him and how much we will miss him.

So, as one of his favorite commentators Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.

1 comment:

wendy dashner said...

I was absolutely shocked to hear of Ron's death. I was also shocked at my reaction to it. I logged on Sunday evening (the 22nd) to see what would be available for the weekend and was unable to comprehend what I was reading. I still tear up thinking about this, although I am doing better.

Ron was incredible. Every visit to the market or to the farm was a lesson in farming, quality, crop timing, etc.

My son and I visited the farm on the 14th. Typical Ron had just mowed a field and baled hay and told me to take my little boy over to play. While we were over that way we walked over to the greenhouses and talked more with Ron. He never minded my dumb "city" questions and explained the farm to my 4 year old. Then he sent us over to have my son pick strawberries right out of the field.

I know that the farm was a lot of work for Ron, but I also knew he loved it. I am happy to have known him. He is truly a great man.