As we’ve mentioned here before, many of the guestrooms at the Kennedy School are in the process of being renamed for people who attended the school, taught there, or otherwise had an influence in the school’s history – such as Ron the Painter.
Many of you may remember Ron. He spent more than two decades with Pacific Crest Construction and worked on countless McMenamins projects. Ron passed away due to illness in 2010. Below is the text from the framed panel that will hang in the Ron the Painter room at Kennedy.
For decades, Ron the Painter led a crew in coating McMenamins’ walls in layers of rich, carefully considered color. He wasn’t one of the artists, mind you; Ron was The Painter. He equipped himself with rollers and sprayers, tape and scrapers, buckets, masks and a pair of ever-present, old-school headphones blasting sports radio.
Ron knew the Rodda paint sample wheel by number – not that that made things any simpler, when it came to choosing a color. In Mike McMenamin’s words: “Say we decided on the color Kelp Weed, which we have used several times in different circumstances. It goes by the number 73. Well, some painters would look at the number 73, immediately convert it to 37, which would be the painter’s equivalent to 73. When the painter orders the paint at the store he or she would say 73, knowing all along that it was really 37. Where the problem sometimes occurs is when I would double check with the painter the next day and he or she would say 37. I would say, ‘No, it’s 73,’ and he or she would respond, ‘That’s right, it’s 37….”
Not only was Ron a union-certified and trained painter (and numerologist?), he was an accomplished musician. He had played keyboard in several bands throughout the 1970s and ’80s – Atlantis, Jokers Wild and Flashback, to name a few. Perhaps his most successful band was called The Morning After, which performed both originals and cover music, from 1973-78. One review said, “They had a unique two-guitar harmony sound with great fills from keyboards.” The band even opened for such acts as B.B. King, Nils Lofgren, Sons of Chaplin, The Babys and Sugarloaf. And twenty years later, on the job, Ron would belt out extremely loud renditions of anything from rock ‘n’ roll to country to opera. “Ron could name a tune, any tune, within a few beats,” a friend said. “He was true musician.”
Perhaps his most endearing quality was his romantic side. Ron the Painter and his wife Terrie were best friends for years, married for 20. “At first glance, Ron was ordinary; but when you took a deeper look, you found an extraordinary, caring, loving, happy man. He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for me,” Terrie said. During the renovation of Kennedy School, at a late-night employee party, the couple sneaked into all the guest rooms and drew big hearts on the chalkboards: Ron and Terrie were here. And during another party at Edgefield, the newly engaged couple was discovered to have been fooling around in one of the freshly painted bathrooms. “We wouldn’t have been caught if I hadn’t accidentally left my purse behind,” Terrie remembers with a laugh. The couple even renewed their marriage vows on the Portland Sternwheeler’s Valentine’s Day Cruise: “The captain said to us, ‘Do you promise to love, honor and obey,’ and Ron says, ‘Hey, isn’t that a multiple choice question?’ Everyone just collapsed, laughing.”
While Ron and Terrie, having married later in life, did not have any kids together, they nonetheless adored their stepson Michael, their nieces, nephews and friends’ children. Ron played Santa Claus every year, a treasured family tradition – before the kids arrived, he’d even assemble a toy race track that went throughout the entire house. Kids just loved being around Ron, because he was a truly happy person. Frequently, when painting friends’ homes, the children would start following him, and he was always more than happy to entertain them. But he realized he’d need to pay closer attention after he discovered one of them coming out a window onto the roof to be with him while he was painting!
The tale of Ron the Painter is not complete without retelling at least one of the legendary escapades that his friends and family remember. Perhaps the story most often recalled is the time at Kennedy School when a group of the renovation crew decided they’d take a late-night dip in the soaking pool. The only problem was that Ron had no swimsuit. So he attempted to fashion himself a suit out of a t-shirt – but ended up with spectacularly unsuccessful and revealing results. Watching with one of the wives from an upper window, Terrie says, “We were laughing so hard, we could barely breathe,” while one of Ron’s co-workers admits his wife “still has nightmares about that night.”
Above all, Ron is remembered by his wife, his friends and co-workers, his family and employers as a simply wonderful person. He loved his job, he took pride in his work and he is sorely missed by all who knew him. “He was just a lot of fun to be around.”
We raise a can of Busch Lite, Ron’s favorite, in his honor.