February 24, 1945 - June 6, 2015
Ronny Lee Ward was born at home on February 24, 1945 in Dexter, Texas. Cousins Jack Ward and Norman Ward kept his older brother Doyle away from the house and out from under the feet of parents Ervin and Lenoma Ward during his birth. Ronny was a fat, happy, good-natured baby and that set the tone for the next seventy years.
He grew up running the hills, creeks and woods around Callisburg and Gainesville. Hunting (gun and bow) and fishing were daily activities as well as playing practical jokes and pulling stunts. Visits to the principal’s office for paddlings were common. One of his bright ideas was to nail the Ag teacher’s field shoes to the floor which resulted in the teacher failing on his face after slipping them on and attempting to walk off. “Pursey” involved tying fishing line to a purse that was then left in the middle of the road. When cars drove by and started to back up to get the purse, he would yank it back into the trees. His partner in crime was usually his best friend Kenneth Mosely who remained his lifelong brother.
At Callisburg High School, Ronny stayed very busy, lettering in football (Sr. Captain), baseball, basketball, and cross country track. He was voted class favorite his Jr. year and campus favorite his Sr. year as well as being Student Council President, FFA Vice-President, Sentinel and Reporter and also found time to box in the Golden Gloves.
As hard as he played, Ronny worked just as hard and saved his money from hot summers in the hay fields and working at his grandfather’s gas station to put himself through college. In the fall of 1963, he headed off for Texas A&M University in College Station intent on becoming a veterinarian. The 1st time he was caught with girls and beer in his dorm room, he was warned that the next time he would be sent home. The following week found him back on the road to Callisburg.
After a short stint in the oil fields, Ronny started working for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company where he remained for the next 22 years, starting as a lineman and working his way up to a PBX installer, then as a Horizon and Dimension systems installer. Just after he started at Bell, he and Ronnie Peel were in a nightclub in Oklahoma, and the waitress asked if they were minors. Ronny said “No, we are phone men” and for years when asked what he did, Ronny would say “I’m just a little fat phone man”. Early in his SWBT career he received his draft notice, put his car up on blocks in the barn, and rode the bus to the induction center in Dallas. After undergoing the medical testing, the government decided he had a heart murmur and sent him home where he returned to SWBT. Eventually he transferred to Dallas where he took early retirement in 1985 and started Paragon Communications, selling and installing business telephone systems for the next 11 years. The remainder of his career was in the telecommunications structured cabling industry. In Dallas, Ronny continued playing sports including softball, darts, shuffleboard, pool, water skiing, snow skiing, scuba diving, dirt biking, 4-wheeling, and golf. Just about the only thing he would not try was sky diving as he said he saw no reason to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. He really enjoyed the annual week long camping trips to Lake Texoma, the State Fair of Texas, the boat show and the dove hunting in Italy, Texas with Ronnie, Gary, James, Malcolm, Potter, Friday, Tommy, Johnson, Batman and the rest of the boys at Bell as well as the cold beer on the Coit Road parking lot. Weekends would generally find him on the Red River or Lake Texoma camping and fishing. His extended family would gather around roaring campfires and play dominos into the night. He loved being in the country and was never far away from his family. We took his 87 year old father to Alaska for a two week trip and he did everything that we did but the white water rafting.
Ronny was a master craftsman when it came to plywood and sheetrock screws. He fashioned everything from custom drink holders to a camper conversion from a 72 passenger school bus to a pontoon boat. He loved carpet and double-stick tape. If he couldn’t cover it with carpet, stick it or screw it, he didn’t have much use for it.
Of all the things Ronny was and did, he will also be remembered as a prolific pooter. He little sister Judy will always laugh about the numerous times Ronny would lean slightly to the side, grinning like a fool, eyes sparkling and rolling in his head. Judy would get in trouble for falling out laughing in church, doctor’s offices, just wherever Ronny was when he decided to cut loose. When his daughter Rachel was a child, she would implore him to not embarrass her at family functions and he would chuckle and say “Now Rachel, you know I wouldn’t do that” all the time knowing that he would. He could clear a room in less than 5 seconds and be laughing so hard, tears would be streaming down his face, always saying “It was just a little poot” or “ I might be sick” or one of the other many stock phrases he used for those occasions. When asked what caused this, he would just laugh harder and say “air”, but we think it started when he was about 3 years old and refused to eat anything but pork and beans. His mother had to buy them by the case because he ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a long time.
Ronny was an excellent cook, especially when making his favorite meal of chicken fried steak, soft fried potatoes and cream gravy. He made cream gravy no matter what the cost of flour was at the time. His granddaughters Raegan and Riley would wake him up on Sunday mornings just to get him to make his famous SOS. They would sit in the kitchen watching him work his magic and wait for that wonderful sausage gravy and hot biscuits. He always cooked the patty sausage, never the link sausage and had a special way of ordering his choice in restaurants. His fried catfish was awesome and he could grill a pretty mean steak or country ribs.
Life was full and active until 2010, when Ronny was having difficulty swallowing and went to his primary care dr. who promptly told him it was caused by acid reflux and prescribed medication. It made sense at the time because Ronny had been diagnosed 20 years earlier with a hiatal hernia. After not getting relief and going back to the dr. a couple more times, he was referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist who diagnosed the same problem and prescribed more medications. Finally after a year of misdiagnosis by two doctors, he was sent for a simple swallow test and an obstruction was discovered. Ronny saw Dr. Markus Goldschmiedt shortly thereafter and was accurately diagnosed with esophageal cancer (EC). Dr. Goldschmiedt then coordinated his care with oncologist Dr. Christopher Stokoe, radiologist Dr. Jeffrey Greenberg, and surgical oncologist Dr. David L. Smith. After 26 radiation treatments to his upper abdomen and 2 separate 96 hour chemotherapy treatments, Ronny rested for 6 weeks in preparation for surgery. Under the skilled hands of Dr. Smith and Dr. Thomas LeVoyer, assisted by Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Polly Dorber, Ronny underwent an esophagogastrectomy which removed his entire esophagus and the upper portion of his stomach. The remainder of his stomach was pulled up and reattached to the back of his throat to form a new esophagus. After 8 days in ICU, he was moved to a regular hospital room and released 3 days later on Christmas Eve. On the 9th day under heavy sedation he managed to call Robin on the phone at home at 3:00am asking if she was going to come visit him. When she told him that it was 3 in the morning, she would be by later in the day and asked how many times it took him to remember the phone number he said “several”, but he was going to dial numbers until he got it right because he could be very determined when he wanted to do something, day or night.
During all of his treatments, testing, countless Dr.’s appointments and post-surgery, Ronny was helped during the week by Robin’s cousin Trish. With Trish’s taking care of prescriptions, scheduling and transportation, Robin was able to maintain a regular work schedule. Trish was truly a godsend as for 2 years she was his constant companion. We could not have endured his medical challenges without Trish and we are eternally grateful for her loving care of Ronny. Especially when he was feeling better and drug her to every pawn shop in the area just so he could see if he needed something they might have.
After the long recovery from surgery, Ronny reached a level of health which allowed him to be independent again. For 2 years he continued to put back some of the almost 70 pounds he had lost and get around pretty well. So much so, he was constantly hammering Robin to let him buy a new 4-wheeler and making plans to get back on the lake with his pontoon boat.
In February 2014, he had a cough that had been worsening and was a little “fuzzy” mentally. After a visit to the Dr., he was told he had an upper respiratory infection. We also thought that he was a little dehydrated as he would sometimes become, so we made an appointment for IV fluids at his oncologist’s office. He drove himself to the appointment, but once there was having difficulty walking and was clearly disoriented. They called Robin immediately and she arrived to take him to the ER where within the hour was diagnosed with a brain mass in his cerebellum. Subsequent surgery by Dr. Jeffrey Cattorini resulted in the removal of a malignant tumor. Initially thought to be unrelated to his EC, it was determined to be a metastasis of EC which was completely unexpected because EC rarely travels to the brain especially without being present in other areas first. After surgery, he endured 15 rounds of radiation to his brain which would be his final medical procedures and the ones he never quite recovered from.
But, in many ways Ronny was still his same old hard-headed determined self and not 12 weeks after surgery climbed into the car to travel to Montgomery, AL where his beloved nephew was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. The trip was tough, but Ronny said he was going, and going he did. Before returning home, Ronny and Robin made a side trip to Destin, FL for a few days of rest in the sunshine. On arrival to their accommodations, he stepped out of the car and promptly fell backwards bouncing the back of his head on the pavement. Four days later at home, while lying in bed, he said with the sweetest smile “RB, you need to change the brake fluid on his bed” and off we went to the hospital for a week while he was under observation for his concussion. Released from the hospital, he went into rehab facilities for several weeks. Afterwards for a month, he would be home and night with Robin and the girls then would spend the day at either Melinda and Michael or Vickie and Mike’s houses during the work week with help from Melody. They kept a watchful eye on him, made sure he ate, took his meds, and was safe and comfortable. Without Rachel, Raegan and Riley at home, it would have been extremely difficult for Robin to care for him by herself.
In October, he moved into a residential private care home in Carrollton, then moved into another home in Frisco the following February. He was provided awesome 24 hour a day care by Margaret, Patricia and Beatrice at Hunt Leigh Care Homes in Frisco. They attended to his every need until his passing in June. He had a lot of visitors and every week his sister Judy would spend a day or more with him, bringing special treats to share, he looked forward to their visits. Oftentimes her husband Kim would come along, and they would enjoy watching golf on TV together.
Ronny always said he would lose his life at age 93 in a bar during a knife fight over a woman. Unfortunately this was not the case as on Saturday June 6 he refused to eat or drink, even though Judy tried all day to tempt him. On Sunday, she did manage to get him to take one small ice chip. Early Tuesday morning June 9, 2015 he drew his final breath and quietly passed on. Robin was lying beside him holding his hand resting on his chest and the last thing he heard was “I love you”.
Survived by wife Robin, sister Judy and brother-in-law Kim, children Heath, Rachel and Justin and his two favorite girls of all time, Raegan Leigh and Riley Scout Horton. No matter how granddaddy felt, his little girls would bring a smile to his lips and a light in his eyes.
Ronny joins his parents Ervin and Lenoma, brother Doyle, uncles Bird, Virgil and Tex, and cousin Norman at the great domino table in Heaven ready to slam down the double 5 and take his points. Like a lot of people, Ronny disliked (as in really hated) funerals. As he told Justin when they attended a funeral of a friend, Ronny had signed the guest book and said “Son, are you ready to leave?” and Justin said “We are not staying for the funeral?” he replied “No, I want to remember him smiling and not laying in a box”. Ronny will be cremated and we will spread his ashes on Lake Texoma at a later date. Please tip a glass and smile when you think of him and share a story along the lines of “Guess what Ronny Ward did” as we can see him now at the pearly gates, extending those huge hands and saying “Pete, pull my finger” grinning from ear to ear.
Arrangements are under the direction of
ARIA Cremation Service and Funeral Home
19310 Preston Road
Dallas, Texas 75252
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