Friday, July 26, 2013


Name a National Park, a Tennessee/Kentucky/Georgia/Florida state park, or a Southern section of the Appalachian Trail, and my brother-in-law Ron has probably sat foot on it!  He was amazing in his ability to recall the places he had been, but committing to memory every last yard of it was impossible.  

The times I would go hiking with him, and they were many, I, being much more out of shape than he, would ask, "How much further to the trail-head?

His reply was always, "Just around that next bend in the trail...I think!"  Naturally, my tired legs were so disappointed when it turned out to the the 3rd or 5th turn!

He knew my capabilities better than I did, so he allowed me to trick him into a stop by saying, "What kind of wildflower is this?  Or, "Look at this flower!"  He would just grin, that wide grin, stop, and come back over trail he had already covered to see my discovery.  He also usually knew the name of the flower!  His memory was sharp and remained so until the very end.

On Wednesday afternoon, when I entered his bedroom, where he lay connected to oxygen and fans running to cool him.  He looked up at me and with a shaky voice asked me, "Why is Corey (my son) selling his house?"  Right out of the blue!  

Why would this be on a man's mind when he had just hours before asked his wife, Neena, "Is this the day?"  

Simple, he cared about people, especially those that had
given him some pleasure and happiness along the way.  Corey had hiked with us several times, camped in the snow with us, and had eaten out with us, after some serious man-shopping, numerous times.  He always got a kick out of Corey's youth, his sense of humor, and enjoyed his company.

"He's just doing a little downsizing, I suppose," I answered Ron.

He closed his eyes and began working hard at breathing once again.  The medication hospice was giving him eased his pain and made breathing easier, but the price paid is conscientiousness.  Before he slipped off again I squeezed his hand, rubbed his forehead, and told him that I loved him.  His eyes struggled to open as he replied, "I love you too."

I told him that "we (the family) were here," and left the man that I had walked a many mile with to get on with the process of leaving this world.  His daughter lay down next to him and they both went to sleep.  His brother Jackson kept watch as others of the family came and went to say something to him, or simply touch him, but sometime around 5AM, Ron slipped away from us to wait for us on the other side.

All the good times flashed back tonight as I scanned my photo files of all the houseboat trips, the hikes, the vacations, the concerts, the holidays, and just regular days we had spent together.  God gave my family a good man to teach us a little about life and what God has made for us all to see and enjoy.

We spent the day comforting each other and remembering, and even raising a glass or two of beer to Ron.  He always loved a good cold pale ale, and traveling around the country trying new local micro-beers was what he enjoyed. 

When we would go on vacations together, he already had a map of where the famous bars and micro-breweries were.  It was great fun...watching the sun go down sipping a "cold beer" with Ron.

There were more laughs today than crying, and that is a testament to him as well; he loved to laugh and to hear us laugh.  He left us with loads of memories full of smiles.

There is a blank space in my heart as I write this, but doing so, and looking at all the happy memories, I am again filled with love and admiration for my brother...Ron.

Ron will be cremated shortly and a little bit of him will be left in some of those places he loved.  I'm so glad I got to visit some of those places side-by-side...or rather dragging slowly up the rear.  However, reaching the summit was always worth the time, and the time was made more special by sharing it with someone who thoroughly appreciated what God has made.

Here are just a few of the good times:

 We love you Ron.  Thanks for the memories!

Ronald Baldwin, 65, of Kingston, passed away Thursday morning, July 25, at his home.
Ron was a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving in the United States Air Force. He was a retired facility manager with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and was an avid outdoorsman. He was preceded in death by his parents, Edwin and Evelyn Turner Baldwin; and his brother, Dan Baldwin.
Survived by his wife, Neena Poland Baldwin; son, Jason Fine of Michigan; daughter, Jessica Wooldridge of Knoxville; grandchildren, McKenzie and Jaxon Wooldridge, Chandler Fine; brother, Jackson Baldwin and partner, Sandy McFarland, of Lakeside Calif.; sister, Delores Moore and husband, Rhys, of Clearwater, Fla.; many brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews.
Ron requested that no formal services be held. A private interment will be in the Colliers Cemetery in Dunlap. 
In lieu of flowers, the family ask that memorial contributions be made to the Mission of Hope, P.O. Box 51824, Knoxville, TN 37950.