We went to a funeral today. Ron Conran was 86 and he was one of the most interesting men I have ever known. As I sat and listened to family members give their eulogies, one thing above all others stood out: Ron was a strong, loving husband, father, and grandfather. As family members shared their stories, they all related in some form or fashion back to his helpful nature, loving heart, and what a good role model he was for them because of his patient caring nature.
I had only known Ron for about five years. It took a while for us to get together, but every Sunday after church we would share 5-15 of interesting conversation that ranged from some of his work history, he was an engineer who solved problems others found difficult – more about that later, to what he was reading – we shared a few books back and forth, to current politics or whatever was on our mind at the time. I began to treasure those little interludes after service where we would talk until his wife grew impatient and dragged him home. He would chuckle and say, “The boss is calling,” and off he would go.
Most engineers, especially the really smart ones, seem to border on the Asperger’s scale and usually are not very good at dealing with emotions. Both my father and my father-in-law were like that. But though Ron was a truly gifted engineer, I would say he was easily a 1 percenter who could fix problems that befuddled others, he had a heart a mile deep. So many people are a mile wide and two inches deep. Not Ron, he loved his family and he genuinely loved people. That is a very rare combination of intelligence and heart.
As to his engineering skills, two stories among many will suffice. Admiral Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy had a problem. When the first ship came up for refueling of its nuclear powerplant the effort was a disaster. He gave the job to Ron to fix and Ron fixed it. He created the processes and procedures used to this day to refuel nuclear powerplants on Navy ships. It was broke and Ron fixed it. It is what he did. When NASA was getting things ready for its Apollo launches it had a really big problem. A primary fuel component, hydrogen peroxide, was produced on site at the Cape and the plant was broken and so dangerous they considered a complete evacuation and all that would mean because if the plant exploded it would have been like a nuclear bomb going off taking out the Cape and most the town with it. They were in danger of losing the mission. Like Rickover, they brought in Ron to fix it and he did. When he was done, they had no more problems. He told me one of the things he enjoyed most about that assignment was that he got to play cards over lunch with the Apollo 11 astronauts. Hardly anyone knew about Ron’s contribution to the moon mission, but they never would have gotten there without him.
Ron taught me an important lesson, the world may care about how smart you are, but people and your family want to see your heart. Ron was a man’s man and it was my privilege to have known him. Be with Christ Ron, for Paul reminds us that to be absent from the body is to be with the Lord and there you are.