The Irish Person of the Year (IPOY), is the Irish American Society’s annual award to one of its outstanding members. The award recognizes the recipient’s commitment to the promotion of the social and cultural goals not only of the Irish American Society but also of those of other Irish organizations in the area.
Before I share the highlight or low lights (whichever the case might be) of my personal resume, I want to express my genuine appreciation to the Irish American Society and past Irish Person of the Year recipients for honoring me with this wonderful award. I am humbled, pleased, surprised and just downright delighted to be so honored.
Now a little about my background. I was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo. For the first 10 years at home, I ruled the roost as an only child until I found myself gently nudged aside with the arrival of my baby sister, Carol. Carol is now married with four grown children and living in Salem, Or. With a few exceptions, my childhood was pretty much like the other kids I knew. I attended a Catholic grade school, sang in the choir, served as an altar boy, thought about being a priest before getting exposed to girls, and learned to cuss, tell nasty stories, loved sports and enjoyed boxing.
When I was 119, I enlisted in the Air Force through a reserve unit being activated during the Korean War. I was restless and looking for action. To hear the stories I tell my grandkids about my hardships and heroism during the war, you would think I found it. In truth, I was stationed an air base in Burlington, VT. My entire four and the only action I saw was in the pubs, where the locals didn’t always show the proper amount of patriotic respect for the military.
After being discharged from the military, I went to work for a family-owned wholesaler of food and liquor products and with a few bucks in my pocket, made the best decision of my life. I proposed to Cathy, whom I had dated briefly before going into the Air Force and while I was home on military leave, after the service, I remember putting serious moves on Cathy because I knew I was competing with a couple other beaus. One in particular had me really concerned, but she said, “yes,” and it was the happiest day of my life.
Two years after we were married, we had our first child, a boy named Ron Jr. I was working and attending night school at Washington University in St. Louis. I remember coming home one night and remembering that I didn’t think I would last the eight or nine years it would take me to complete my degree in night school. Now, Cathy had always been supportive, but that night was exceptional. She asked about the alternative and I said moving to Columbia, Mo. And attending college full time at Missouri University. She simply said, okay, let’s do it. I absolutely couldn’t believe it, not only the confidence she showed in me but the willingness to make the sacrifice to help me achieve my goals. So we moved to Columbia. Cathy went to work at the University. I worked at Kroger’s, Ronnie stayed in a nursery and we had financial help from the GI Bill.
Four months after graduating, we had our second child, whom we called Eileen. I went to work for a manufacturing company and then moved into consulting. The income was good; we had our first house and generally felt quite content. I only had one nagging concern and that was the three-plus years since Eileen was born and fearful we maybe wouldn’t have any more children. I even thought briefly about adoption. How the Good Lord must have chuckled at my self-indulgence. Then He blessed us with our third child, named Kenneth, then He blessed us with our fourth child, named Cathy, then He blessed us with our fifth child, named Tim, then He blessed us with our sixth child, named Christy. I prayed, “whoa, Lord, your blessings are bountiful, but I can’t stand any more. As he always does… He listened and directed His blessings elsewhere.
In 1978, we transferred to Dallas. I was named a regional partner with Arthur Andersen and Co., which essentially fulfilled my long-term career goal. Quite a happy ending. Neither Cathy nor I have ever had a moment’’ requite about moving to Dallas. How could we? The firm provided us with opportunities for worldwide travel; we’ve had a good fortune of befriending wonderful people (especially those in the IAS); our children have all been healthy, completed their college education’s and moved on to successful lives. It’s truly been a wonderful life.
I’ve always preached to my children that the quality of life in a community or and organization depends upon what its members are willing to give back. I truly believe that. Through the years, I’ve been very active in the community, serving on the Mayor’s Committee for Inner City Schools, holding board positions for several not-for-profit organizations such as the Red Cross – where I was awarded the Clara Barton Award, the highest award given to a volunteer – president of the West End Association during the particularly hairy time DART was planning its route through the West End, lectured at SMU’s Graduated School of Business and taught Bible studies for men at St. Rita’s Catholic Church.
But my most enjoyable experiences have been with the IAS because of the great people involved in the organization. Cathy and I had the good fortune of serving on the IAS board for several years and then served as IAS co-presidents. I’ve been active with the downtown Dallas St. Patrick’s Day Parade for more years than I can recall. The same can be said for the annual golf tournaments, where we raised funds for charity and the parade. For two years I emceed the Rose of Tralee Ball. I’ve also had the benefit of serving on the Irish American Cultural Board working with Joan DeDitus, a tireless promoter of Irish culture.
So you can see why I feel Irish. I’ve been totally immersed in the culture. I am ever so grateful to be selected Irish Person of the Year.