Friday, October 03, 2014

Remembering Ron Nixon

Ron on the subscription wrapping machine on the 12th floor of building 2
     A good friend of mine died this week.  Cancer got him – an unusual type that moved fast and was inoperable.  Up until now, death had only picked the old ones from my small, close circle – the ones whose time had expired. Ron Nixon had plenty of time left and was not through living. Six months ago we were we were laughing on the phone about some silly thing that happened when we were Bethel boys together.
     Ron and I had a deal.  If you get a party invite, I go with you.  If I get a party invite, you come with me. You could say we had an active social calendar.  One party (the euphemism “gathering” hadn’t been invented yet) took us all the way to the outskirts of Philadelphia.  No problem – subway to Penn Station, train to the Red Arrow Bus stop, bus to the party.  What else did we have to do on a Saturday afternoon?  It was dark by the time we got there.  Ron, always conscious of social protocol, insisted we bring a bottle of something.  We chose an affordable bottle of sake and wrote a note on the bag that said, “Sake to me!” It seemed high comedy to us at the time.
Ron in 2012 on special assignment for the branch
      When the clock struck 12, and it was time to go, we figured we would just retrace our route. Catch the Red Arrow back to the train and the train back to New York. We discovered to our horror that the busses didn’t run after 10 p.m. and the next train to New York wasn’t until 7 a.m.  I made a kazoo out of a pocket comb and a crisp dollar bill, and played a fuzzy version of “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” while Ron made an impassioned plea about helping two lost Bethelites find their way home.  A pretty sister and her friend volunteered to drive us all the way back to 124 Columbia Heights.  
      We were waiters together at Le Fleur de Lis. Our routine was to combine our tables and put on a show.  The other waiters couldn’t figure out why our tips were so high.
       In 1984, I was on my back deck in Louisville, Kentucky zipping open the congregation mail.  One letter was from Watchtower telling us that our next circuit overseer would be Bro. R.E. Nixon.  “I wonder if he is related Ron,” I muttered to myself, having no clue that it would be Ron in the flesh.  It had been 15 years since I had last seen him  We had a great three years together.  He was the same fun-loving guy I knew back then, only another side had emerged – that of a deep, spiritual man who knew the scriptures and could wield them like a kind warrior.  We would be Ron’s last circuit.  He and Minta would move to Italy and stay for the next 20 years.
       I know I will see him again, but I don’t do well with these things.  I don’t know what to say to those who grieve.   Words are hollow sounds that may as well be howls at the moon.    


Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing, didn't know Ron as well, he just was a friend of a friend, who was my wife's roommate.
But the proof of a person is how he is remembered, and you remember well. The era of the late 60s, early 70s at Bethel is entering a new phase for those of us who carried on from our teachers, parents, spiritual dads, & moms. May we stay faithful and leave a spiritual legacy, for those who follow as Ron has.
A well put comment Tom.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful memories, well written, thanks for sharing. Didn't know him, but I do know that death, no matter who, what, when, where or how is never, ever right. We are fortunate to know there is more to it all than this. It is always then coolest thing in this org, to know that even though we may be separated by years and years, we are all still family and we can still feel that sense of closeness in spite of being afar. Glad you experienced this with your friend Ron. Keeping you guys in our thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tom for your thoughts about Ron.

He lived next door to me on the 8th. floor of 107. I new his roommate, Jim Boyce, because we worked together in the bindery.

Always admired Ron, he dressed well, was funny, and a good guy. Like most of us who served at Bethel in the late '60's early '70's we did a lot of crazy things, but when you look around the congregations today, we are the ones who are a 'pillar and support of the truth' just like Ron.

Alexander Smarius said...

Mourning my friend Ron, I found your web site. Here's what I have to say. I'd had Bible study in my home town Amsterdam when I moved to Rome for a few months in the spring of 2001. Coming to the English congregation there, I witnessed Ron doing an absolutely great Watchtower study. He was a major influence for me coming into the truth and getting baptized in 2002. On returning to Rome, again for some months in 2003, Ron immediately assigned me and my family to canvass as yet uncharted territory in the outskirts of the city, a wonderful privilege. Later he and I really became friends and made sure we'd meet everytime I had the opportunity to come to Rome for a few days, even when he and Minta moved back to Fresno in 2006. He visited us in Amsterdam twice, and we last saw him on his second visit two years ago. During his illness it was simply impossible to go and see him. The last time we spoke was last August, via Skype. He was of course visibly ill, but in high spirits as ever. I was used to seeing Ron only once a year or less, so it took time to fully understand the fact that he is no more. I had little knowledge of his American years prior to the years in Rome, but he shared many an anecdote, including the unforgettable episode of the man, sitting on his porch, drinking nothing but Coca Cola, seemingly listening to what Ron had to say to him and finally responding with a slow and heavy southern accent: "Did they really go to the mooooon?"