Not an Obituary But a Celebration
of the Wind Beneath My Wings

When Ron Reid, my husband of 63 years died the end of November, I honored his wish to not have an obituary in our local newspaper.  He said that no one would remember him.

He was wrong.  Friends and former colleagues did remember him and asked if there was an obituary.  This article is for them.  An obituary states the facts about someone’s life so this is not an obituary.  Instead it is a celebration of the life of the man who was the wind  beneath my wings and will include stories that you may not know.

Ron was born eight years after the birth of his older brother, Donald, to Harry Leroy and Beatrice Reid.  Leroy (or Roy as he was called) had been born in Sandwich Illinois but his parents moved to a mining town in Nevada when Roy was a boy.

Summer Home FarmHis father had to find a way to make a living since, according to tradition at that time, his older brother inherited the family farm.  Roy’s father drove wagons for the mines in Nevada until 1919 when he either purchased or took over operation of Summer Home Farm, a resort in the Santa Cruz, California  mountains near the town of Glenwood.  He moved his wife and Roy to the resort in the middle of the redwoods where he would pick up summer vacationers from San Francisco at the Glenwood train station.  Many of them came year after year and became friends with the Reids.  Ron stayed in touch with some of these visitors long after we were married.

While Roy was probably in his late teens or early twenties, Bianca Gai, came to the farm to help with the chores of running a tourist resort.  She had emigrated from Asti, Italy with her mother and brothers when she was just six years old and joined her father on a farm in Bonny Doon, California.  In addition to farming, they had grape orchards and made wine.

Bianca had learned to read by watching the silent movies but was still a teenager when she went to work at Summer Home Farm.  In addition to her chores, she attended school near the farm.  Sometime during that period, she changed her name to Beatrice.

She said that she and Roy had been sweethearts for 16 years before they were married but I suspect this was the years that she had worked for his family at Summer Home Farm.

Ron spent his first seven or eight years growing up at Summer Home Farm enjoying the family and visitors and animals.  He said his primary chore was chopping the kindling for the wood stoves.  His grandfather, father, and older brother managed the farm, vineyards, and even had a small sawmill where they made barrel staves and shingles.  I’m sure they were also called on to help with the visitors.

Summer Home Farm still exists today.  If interested, there is a story about it here.

When WWII was over, Roy’s parents decided to sell the farm and retire to Santa Cruz, California which wasn’t very far from Glenwood.  I suspect the primary reason they made this decision was their age and the hard work involved with operating it.  They sold it to the Salvation Army who used it for summer camps and leased it to the city of San Jose for use by students for environmental studies during the school year.

Ron spent the rest of his school years in Santa Cruz in the house on Market Street where his parents lived until they died.  He graduated from Santa Cruz High School in 1956 and briefly attended the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, California.  Deciding that wasn’t for him, he returned to Santa Cruz and joined two of his friends who were working for the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Ron, Tom, and Don worked in the railroad yards in Watsonville and San Francisco and on the road where they were fireman on some of the last of the steam engines.

Ron decided that he wanted to see more of the world so joined the U.S. Navy becoming a weatherman.  He was stationed in several locations including San Diego and New Jersey but was eventually transferred to Milton, Florida.

That’s where I come in.  I was born and grew up in Pensacola, Florida in a little area on the outskirts called Brownsville.  My mother, sister, and I had moved to her parent’s farm in Perdido, Alabama when my father was drafted during WWII.  When he returned, he eventually got a job as a pipefitter with St. Regis Paper Company.  As a side note, after returning, he couldn’t find a job anywhere as he had little skills and education.  My mother wrote to her congressman telling him about the situation and how the country was letting these servicemen down.  I don’t know if it was the result of the letter or not but he was suddenly hired at St. Regis where he was trained as a pipefitter.

They purchased a lot in Brownsville and, as they had extra money, bought bricks which he used to build, one brick at a time, a two-room home for us to live in.  It was later expanded into a three-bedroom house.

Ron enjoyed spending his off-duty time with fellow sailors visiting towns around Milton and getting to know the people.  He dated several girls during that period.  One of them, Edna,  lived in Brewton, Alabama.  I guess he was seeing her fairly regularly as she and her father decided Ron and Edna should get married.  When Ron told them he wasn’t ready to get married, Edna told him to not come back.

It was on that same day that I was waiting for the bus to ride to downtown Pensacola where I worked at Kress Department Store on Friday nights after school and on Saturdays.   Ron got off the bus from Brewton to catch a bus to downtown Pensacola.  We got to talking and he learned where I worked.

He came into the store several times to see me and asked me to go to the movies with him after work on a Friday night.  I agreed but had to be home by 10:00 — a curfew set by my parents.  We went to the movies but also spent several Friday nights just sitting in the park and talking until I had to catch the bus to go home.

One Friday night, he said he wanted to meet my parents so we took a taxi to my house in Brownsville where I introduced him to them.  Now, I had dated several other sailors previously and my Dad had been in the navy so he wasn’t fond of me dating sailors.  When I introduced Ron, my dad’s response was, ” So now you’ve met us.  Goodbye.”

That didn’t deter Ron, however.  We continued dating. My parents stipulated that any boys that I dated had to go to church with me.  Even though the church was Southern Baptist and he was Catholic –although in name only — Ron would attend church with me when he could on Sunday mornings or evenings.

I graduated from high school and in the fall went to a small Southern Baptist college, Judson College, in Marion Alabama.  We wrote letters to each other and he and a navy buddy even traveled to Marion one weekend to see me.  And, of course, I saw him when I went home on holidays.

During my freshman year at Judson, Ron was transferred to Washington DC where he was trained to map ice bergs around Newfoundland, Greenland, etc.  He would spend part of the year in Washington and then a month or so at a time at a navy base in the artic.

One day, he called me at Judson and asked if I would marry him.  I said yes,  He bought both an engagement and wedding ring and sent them to me certified mail for me to wear the one and keep the other safe.

My parents accepted that we were going to get married.  My mother and I planned the wedding during the summer after my freshman year.  The date was set for September 4, 1960 just two weeks before my 19th birthday.  He was 22.

He had left his car with me when he came to visit earlier in the summer since he was being sent for a tour in the artic and would return shortly before the wedding.  He flew to Pensacola and stayed at the Pensacola Air Station until the day of the wedding after which we drove to Washington.

The time in Washington was exciting.  We found a furnished basement apartment in Suitland, Md which is where his office was located.  I got a job with the U.S. Census Bureau in the same building.  He was sent back to the artic to map ice in November but it was only for about a month and my landlady was great to this young bride while he was gone.

We took advantage of our time time in Washington visiting all the historic sights, buildings, and Civil War battlegrounds in and around the area.  But the day I remember most, all these many years later, is the day that we stood on the Capital grounds and watched as President Jack Kennedy was inaugurated.  There had been a snow storm the night before and it was very cold.  But it was a day that I will always remember.  There weren’t the large number of crowds that you see today at inaugurations so we were able to be very close and could see and hear everything very clearly.

The war in Viet Nam had started and a ship had been destroyed.  In February 1961, to save money, the government released Ron and others earlier than the end of their four years active duty. The government packed our few belongings and shipped them to Santa Cruz where we were going to begin the next phase of our life together.  The Southern Pacific Railroad had kept his job open for him so he was returning to be a firemen for them once again.  I’m not sure but I think companies were required to give the returning servicemen their former jobs at that time.

We travelled to Pensacola to say goodbye to my family and took our time sightseeing as we travelled across the country to California.  I remember him laughing at me because I was frightened when a herd of sheep surrounded our car as we drove through the Navajo reservation.  And also how impressed I was when seeing the San Francisco Peaks (the first snow covered mountain I had ever seen).  The only things that I really knew about the state we were travelling to was from what I had read about the Monterey Bay area in John Steinbeck novels and Santa Cruz was located in that area.

I had corresponded with his mother long before our wedding but had never met his family.  They couldn’t afford to travel to Pensacola for the wedding.  I knew from our letters that I liked her and that she would be accepting of me and I was right.

We lived with his parents until we bought a small two-bedroom house on Paul Minnie Road in Santa Cruz.  Ron worked on the railroad — mostly in the yard in the town of Watsonville and mostly on the midnight shift.  I got a job with the Santa Cruz Credit Bureau where I was warmly welcomed and made new friends.  We also spent time with Ron’s high school friends and their wives as well as Ron’s brother’s growing family.

The drive to and from Watsonville for the midnight shift and trying to sleep in the daytime became too much for him so we rented out our house and rented a small apartment in Watsonville.  I left the credit bureau job and got a job with the US Soil Conservation Service in Watsonville.

Ron knew that he didn’t want to be a railroad fireman for the rest of his life and also knew that eventually the railroad would be eliminating that job so he decided to go back to school.  Cabrillo Jr. College had recently opened in the old high school in Watsonville so he enrolled, attending classes in the daytime and working at night.

One of the memorable times of that period was the night that we had dinner with Eleanor Roosevelt.  It was shortly before she died. In addition to his classes, Ron was elected to the Student Council and the night she was to speak in Santa Cruz, student council members and me were invited to have dinner with her.  I really don’t remember what she said but I do remember how dynamic she still was.

Ron decided to transfer to UC Berkeley and major in Landscape Architecture so we moved there and were fortunate to be the first residents in the brand new student housing.  I transferred to the State Office of the Soil Conservation Service which was located in Berkeley.

After awhile, he discovered he didn’t have the artistic ability required for that major so transferred to forestry.  He continued to work for the railroad at night — this time in Oakland.  The yard there was considered to be dangerous so he always carried a gun in his bag at night.  Fortunately, he never had to use it. On some nights when I would drive to pick him up after work, I carried a gun in the side pocket of our car.

UC Berkeley required a summer camp for forestry which Ron would be unable to attend and still work.  So the next move was a transfer to Humboldt State College (now University of California at Arcata)  which had a great forestry program but no summer camp requirement.  He took a leave of absence from the railroad so I was now to be the breadwinner of the family while he finished college.

Rentals were scarce and we ended up renting a one-bedroom cabin on the Mad River.  The river  had recently flooded, all the way to the house but stopped before reaching inside.  We removed mud from the entryway to the house before we could move in.  The cottage had a trash burner in the gas cooking stove and that was the only heat.  Until I finally found a job in the accounting department with the US Forest Service in Eureka, I would drive him to school and then go back home and climb under blankets until later getting dressed and going job hunting.

That didn’t last long as we soon bought a house in Arcata which had heat.  While we were there, the railroads discontinued all of the fireman jobs.  Since he was on a leave of absence, he did receive severance pay.

When he graduated in the top three in his class, he was looking for a job in forestry.  He applied to the Forest Service but they weren’t hiring at the time. So he took a sales job with a lumber company in Santa Clara, California and we were soon back in the Bay area again.  He didn’t like the job so when a New York Life Insurance agent suggested he become an agent, he jumped at it.  That didn’t suit him either.  Then the federal government was setting up a National Teacher’s Corp which he applied for.  He was accepted and we were scheduled to leave for North Carolina when the program was terminated.

Fortunately, about the same time, a job with the US Forest Service was offered to him in Upper Lake, California and we moved once again.  We rented a house in the middle of a commercial pear orchard and I filled our freezer with pear pies. That freezer, which we bought before our first child was born and she is in her 50’s now, is still running and is in our garage today.

Ron liked the job and the people and I though we were finally settled for awhile.  Settled enough, that I became pregnant with our first child.  But that was not to be.

While Ron was looking for jobs after graduation, he had taken a test to be employed by the US Foreign Service.  The Forest Service discovered that he had scored high on that test.  They were in need of people for administrative positions and offered Ron a promotion and an administrative position in Willows, California.  His District Ranger encouraged him to accept it so he did.

Big mistake.  He left forestry, which he loved, for a job behind a desk.  But our first daughter, Melissa, was born while we were in Willows.  When she was still a toddler, he was offered and accepted another administrative position and promotion in Yreka, California near the Oregon border.

On the move once again.  We lived in Yreka for about five years while he worked in the Supervisor’s office and our second daughter, Amber, was born.  His former supervisor while he was working in forestry in Upper Lake had been promoted to District Ranger in the tiny town of Happy Camp, on the Klamath River.  I visited Happy Camp one time for a Forest Service wives luncheon and commented to Ron, “Thank God, we don’t live here.”

We were well established in Yreka where we were active in the local Welcome Wagon Club and I had been elected to the City Council.  But when the new Happy Camp District Ranger learned that Ron didn’t like the administrative part of the Forest Service, he offered Ron the opportunity to get back into forestry on his district.

Ron jumped at it even though it meant a demotion.  We were there for another five years when he applied for and was accepted with a promotion to a forestry position in Springville, California.  We bought a house on the Tule River in Springville and settled in once again.  Our daughters discovered 4-H and became active.  They also discovered a big rough collie name Joshua which we adopted.  Joshua was the neighborhood dog.  People would put out pots of leftovers for him and he would bring the pots home.  We would put the pots, when empty, in front of the house on the street and the neighbor who owned it would pick it up.

We were there for only about a year when another job and promotion opened up in Flagstaff, Arizona.  He applied for and got it.  Another move.  He worked on the Flagstaff Ranger District managing the Forest Service’s interest in the Snow Bowl.  A transfer from there to the Mormon Lake Ranger District and then on to the Supervisor’s Office.  He enjoyed these jobs as they allowed him to spend time in the forest and not always behind the desk.

More budget cuts which included his job and he was offered a transfer to Lake Tahoe.  Our daughters were in high school and drugs were a part of the Lake Tahoe scene.  We felt we could afford it so he decided to just take early retirement.

At the age of 50, he was a retiree but he wasn’t finished.  He went on to head up  the newly established Flagstaff office for the Arizona State Attorney General.  It was part-time, which he loved because it gave him time for hiking and backpacking.  But, then, it became full-time and he resigned. He worked long enough, however, to get retirement in the amount of $33.00 a month until he died.

A friend told him about a driving job with Budget Rental Cars at the airport where he could work part-time and take time off when he wanted to go backpacking.  He did that even as Budget merged with Avis.  He moved on to Hertz which paid better and eventually decided to just retire permanently.

Retirement was spent taking the dogs for walks on the many trails in the Flagstaff/Sedona area, backpacking with friends and the Flagstaff Hiking Club, and later enjoying lunch and friends at the Senior Center.

As he became older, his memory began slipping until he reached the point where it wasn’t safe for him to go on hikes off trail by himself with the dogs. Gradually he began slowing down until the night in November when he fell and hit his head.  The ambulance took him to the hospital on November 28th where a cat scan showed a brain bleed.  He died on the morning of November 29th.

I couldn’t have recalled all these memories and written this back then but the time has come.  He was a good man and took good care of me.  We were best friends for all those 63 years and he was always the wind beneath my wings.


8 thoughts on “Not an Obituary – But A Celebration”

  1. I really enjoyed reading about Ron and your life together What an adventure
    How are you doing?

    • I’m doing okay. Missing him, of course, but living one day at a time and trying to enjoy the rest of the life that I have left.

  2. What an awesome full story of Ron’s life, Joyce. You will be missing his companionship heaps. Thinking of you.

  3. beautifully written story of two persons life together.

    • Ron & I went on many hikes & cross country ski trips / some in the light of the moon on the San Francisco peaks.
      Ron even got me a driving job shuttling cars . One trip we drove to the Grand Canyon . Slept in my truck camper & hiked down & BACK .

  4. I only recently heard the news, (from Jerry Chadwick), Ron and I hiked together many times, (with your 3-legged dog!), and am so sorry to hear of his passing this past November.

    He loved the forest and we shared that!

    Les Cherow

  5. I just learned of Ron’s passing and found this online. Joyce, what a wonderful life you and Ron shared! As a native Pensacolas, I especially enjoyed hearing your stories of Pensacola and Milton, FL.

    May God continue to bless you and your family.

    Cindy Blake Faria
    Sister of Robert M. Blake

  6. Thank you to those of you who reached out to me and shared your memories of Ron. You are appreciated more than you can ever know.


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