Russ Kent: Long-time Mansfield columnist and friend Ron Simon has died

North central Ohio is a little less interesting today.

Long-time Mansfield News Journal columnist Ron Simon has died.

I knew this was coming, but I teared up this morning when I learned of Ron’s death.

I’ve teared up several times while writing this.

Ron Simon was a good friend.

Ron Simon was a wonderful writer and reporter.

But most importantly, Ron Simon may have been the BEST PERSON I ever met.

He’s not easy to describe, except to say that he was one of a kind.

Ron Simon was gruff and he was grumpy. But he was lovable.

There are hundreds — maybe thousands — who have benefited from Ron’s big heart and giving soul. There is no one Ron Simon would not help.

Ron marched in honor guards. He volunteered at his church. He spoke eloquently at Memorial Day and Veterans Day events. He spoke often to civic groups and at schools.

And he wrote … a lot.

I have no idea what the final count was, but Ron kept track of every column he wrote at the News Journal, two every week for years. He profiled hundreds of war veterans, from World War I to our brave fighters in the Mideast.

Ron also was a veteran.

He had some ailments that lingered through his life, directly related to his war experience.

But he dealt with them, and wrote about them. He didn’t write to get sympathy, Ron wrote because it was the way he best expressed himself.

I’m a lot like that, which is another reason I liked him.

Ron Simon wrote from the heart. He was the most open and honest of writers.

When Ron retired as a full-time writer/reporter at the News Journal, I kind of became Ron’s conduit to the newsroom.

I didn’t mind a bit.

He would call me weekly and we would work together to set up photo assignments for his veterans profiles.

And every week Ron would trudge up the steps at the News Journal, check his mailbox, and sit down at the desk across from me and we’d have some sort of conversation.

The topics varied. We talked about sports — Ron loved the Cleveland Indians and I know he’ll be watching the Tribe in the World Series from his seat in heaven. We talked about his travels. We talked about his workout at the YMCA. We talked about his weekend plans.

Sometimes we even talked about work.

I loved my Ron Simon encounters. And I miss them.

It’s rare that you remember the first time you meet someone, especially if you don’t end up marrying that person.

But I remember my first Ron Simon encounter. I was working at the Galion Inquirer. I don’t know the year. But Galion Community Hospital had received a bomb threat. Hospital administrators had ordered the evacuation of the hospital and some of the patients were taken to St. Paul United Methodist Church on Cherry Street. It had been a long day. I’d been on the story since the start, and not much was happening. At 5 p.m., we were in the church waiting for a hospital administrator or a police officer or someone to give us one final update.

Ron already had everything he needed for this story. And this last media update kept getting pushed later and later. And Ron wasn’t happy. He was ready to get back to the office, file his story and get the heck out of the office.

And if you know Ron, one thing he was not good at, was hiding his emotions.

He growled and and groused and complained for more than an hour. I still smile when I think of Ron huffing and puffing and fussing and growling about what the heck was taking so long.

Then, five or six years later, I met Ron again, when I started working at the News Journal.

I brought up that first meeting, but Ron had moved on. He didn’t remember it.

He was good at moving on.

Ron never held a grudge. Well, I’ll back-track on that.

Ron always forgave, but he didn’t always forget.

But if Ron was a friend, he was a friend forever.

Ron had been in failing health the last four or five years. He had knees issues, he broke some bones and then he was diagnosed with brain cancer

He wrote about all of those things in his bi-weekly column. Often with humor.

We all knew Ron was slowing down. And he didn’t like it.

I read every column he wrote once I started working in Mansfield. For the last 10 years or so I edited most of his stuff.

It’s not the writing I’ll miss the most.

I’m going to miss Ron Simon, the person, the friend.

I’ll miss the train-themed Christmas card he sent me each year. I never saw it coming, but in December it always ended up on my desk or in my mailbox at the Mansfield News Journal.

I’ll miss his loud voice. I’ll miss his phone tantrums.

I’ll miss Ron visiting the copy desk on a weekend night. Perhaps he’d had a drink or two, but he’d come into the office with that big cigar in his mouth and visit.

He loved a good cigar and a good stiff drink.

I think Ron’s idea of a perfect day would be a good book, a good cigar, a drink or three and a chair sitting atop Mount Jeez at Malabar Farm.

I’m going to have to do that one day. In memory of Ron Simon

I’ll miss the way technology flustered Ron. He went kicking and screaming into the cell phone age. I won’t share it here, but ask anyone who worked with Ron to tell you the cell phone story. It’s classic Ron Simon.

I’ll miss hearing of his travels — from San Franciso, to his Alaskan cruise, to his drives up to and around Michigan, to the stories about every old book store in the state of Ohio .. and beyond.

Mention a city in Ohio, and if it has a book store, Ron Simon has likely been there.

I never got to his house. But I heard about the thousands of books he had collected through the years. He was an avid reader. If a friend or acquaintance wrote a book, Ron had read it.

He even had extra humidifiers in his home to keep the books from drying out. And as is typical of Ron, he fussed about his electric bill because of those humidifiers.

Ron gave away books all the time. He’d buy new ones and give old ones away. I know he had plans to donate his entire collection.

This man is going to be missed.

By yours truly and by legions of others.

There will never be another Ron Simon, and the world will be worse off.

I’ve never met anyone like him. I never will.

But that’s OK. I knew the original.

And Ron, I love you.

You’re in a good place today and those aches and pains that have plagued you for years .. they’re gone.

Rest in peace my friend.

I think Ron Simon’s idea of a perfect day would be a good book, a good cigar, a drink or three and a chair sitting atop Mount Jeez at Malabar Farm. (File photo) think Ron Simon’s idea of a perfect day would be a good book, a good cigar, a drink or three and a chair sitting atop Mount Jeez at Malabar Farm. (File photo)

Russ Kent