A Man of Many Talents
Volunteer Spotlight, October 2022
Known as RonTon in the WRAP circle, he is an incredibly talented carpenter, “the saw guy”, measuring expert, retired engineer, and family man.
Ron has been married to Sue, for over 55 years. Together, they have two grown children. Their son, Jerome, who is an engineer at Garmin in Kansas, and their daughter, Wendy, works in the Safety Department at Heartland Express. They have two grandchildren, John and Erica, and a great-granddaughter, Serenity.
His nickname came about in his early years at Collins when there were two or three men named Ron in his department. He was dubbed RonTon to distinguish between him and the others. If you are associated with WRAP, you will also know Ron as “the saw guy” but there is so much more to know, so we wanted to feature him as our Volunteer Focus this month.
Most people know that Ron is a gifted carpenter, and he has been volunteering with WRAP since 2003.
“I started building ramps before WRAP existed in 2003 with the Collins Retiree Volunteers. As of today, I have worked on 350 ramp builds.”
Born in North Dakota, about ten miles south of the Canadian border, he grew up in west central Minnesota. After high school, he attended the North Dakota College of Science, previously known as the North Dakota School of Science. In 1965, he was hired by Collins Radio, now Collins Avionics in Cedar Rapids, and retired from there in 2000. Throughout his engineering career at Collins spanning 35 years from 1965 through 2000, Ron worked on cockpit avionics for various aircraft. He also served six years in the Iowa Army National Guard.
After retirement, Ron became involved with the Collins Retiree Volunteer group and began building ramps to help people gain access to and from their homes. He also did a lot of carpentry work for Safe Haven of Iowa County, a no-kill cat and dog shelter in South Amana, Iowa. When they obtained their current building, he did most of the construction, creating rooms for the cat section of the building. He has also done some beautiful work at Clover Ridge United Methodist Church.
In addition to overseeing the measurements of each ramp, he precisely measures and cuts each part for each ramp he builds. Ron reviews the drawings, measurements, and material lists for the designers for each ramp design. Most recently, he has mentored a few new designers, which he enjoys.
How did he become interested in building things?
“I have worked with wood for as long as I can remember. I think I inherited the gene from my maternal grandfather, as he was a woodworker.”
In his spare time, Ron creates and builds some beautiful furniture for himself and his family. As a challenge, he even built a couple of type F mandolins! That sure sounds like talent to me!
One of Ron’s favorite memories during his work with WRAP was a ramp that they built for a child who was in an electric wheelchair. When the ramp was finished, the child came out and was having a ball riding up and down the ramp. He said it made everyone proud to have helped on the build.
What would Ron tell you if you were considering becoming a volunteer for WRAP?
“Do it! No special abilities are needed. We can always use help lifting and stacking boards to begin.”