Our Hometown Hero! Written by Barbara Thackston Rendel
Did you know that one of the greatest heroes of all time lived in Highland County? Yes! He never fought on foreign soil but he fought in numerous battles. His name is Ronald Lee Thackston.
His parents, Andy and Ella Thackston and big brother, Dewey, welcomed this precious gift of God into their home just south of Sugartree Ridge, on June 27, 1939. They were so proud when their preacher, Russell Martin and his wife, Alta, came to visit and brought a gift for the new baby boy – although they mistakenly thought Ronald Lee was named after the preacher, Russell Lee Martin.
His family moved into the small town of Sugartree Ridge and in just a few short years Ronnie became big brother to Allen, Barbara and Evelyn. He was an energetic and fun young boy who made friends easily. Jimmy Vanzant, D.D. Gotherman, Larry Walker and many others became some of his closest childhood friends.
Ronnie worked hard (along with his brothers) on the surrounding farms, making a few dollars so they could save for their first cars. He loved basketball and became one of the star players at Whiteoak High School. During high school he met the love of his life, Ann Carr Anderson, who was a cheerleader for basketball at Sardinia High School. They later married and became parents to five children: Donnie, Barry, Anita, Jena and Trisha. He would consider his 5 children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild his crowning achievements but those of us who knew him know he achieved so much more.
The most important step in his Ronnie’s life was when he gave his life to Christ and was baptized in the little creek on the farm where he was born, just south of Sugartree Ridge. He was raised in the Sugartree Ridge Church of Christ where his mother was a Sunday School teacher and women’s leader. His dad was an elder and treasurer.
Ann’s dad, Everett Anderson (a master craftsman) and Ronnie (who could do most anything) built their beautiful home on U.S. 62. Ronnie worked hard, taking his nights and weekends to work around the clock to make the most economical build possible. Ann was so proud of her home. She kept it spic’n span clean for her growing family and for Ronnie to be proud of.
The first real life challenge came when Ann’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Ronnie became the support system and hero for Ann, her mother and Mr. Anderson. Ann was an only child and tragically, Mr. & Mrs. Anderson died within a couple days of each other in the early 1960’s. Tragedy hit again in 1982 when Ronnie and Ann’s oldest son died at the early age of 19. Although this took a toll on both of them, living next door to Ronnie’s parents, Andy and Ella Thackston, and with Ronnie’s sister, Evelyn nearby, the family became a blessing that can only be measured by knowing and experiencing it. Grandma Thackston and Evelyn had a huge impact on the raising of Barry, Anita, Jena and Trisha – only in eternity will we know how much this meant.
Ronnie’s working career after high school began at Irwin Auger-bit (The Irwin Company) in Wilmington. Although during high school, Ronnie had many other interests that distracted him from academics; he had a keen interest and natural ability in the architect and engineering fields. Although not many opportunities for college were available to him, he took his first academic course in architect from the Chicago Correspondence School. He was an “A” student.
Thus, his working career began to soar at Irwin. Ronnie invented several things at Irwin, which the company purchased the rights to. He learned how every machine at Irwin worked and made improvements whenever possible. The officers at Irwin began to promote him from one position to another, earning him a number of awards. His last position was Vice-President of The Irwin Company. He travelled all over the world setting up global satellite companies and teaching the workers how to use the equipment all over the world.
Although Ronnie has been a hero for many, none have felt his heroic efforts like friends and family. He was always willing to do anything for anybody. We had two widowed aunts that desperately want to go to church each Sunday but could no longer drive. He would drive Aunt Leona to the Hillsboro Church of Christ and then go pick up Aunt Marie in Hillsboro and take her to the Sugartree Ridge Church of Christ. When church was over, he would make the two trips again to make sure they were taken care of and back home. He also became their “property managers” when needed. Ronnie was a hero to Aunt Marie and Aunt Leona.
On 9-11, 2001, Ronnie was returning from one of his international trips and found himself delayed for a couple of days in a New York airport. He rented a car and drove home. When he arrived home, he was not feeling well. He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with prostate cancer – a cancer that had already spread outside the prostate. Thus, his cancer battle began. Although, he was in a battle for his life for the past 16 years; he found some of his most heroic times were during his battle with cancer. His brother, Dewey, lost his wife Barbara to cancer in 1999. Dewey and his wife, Barbara, along with their children had returned to the states after many years as missionaries in Europe. After Barbara died, Dewey began to have health problems including a stroke during open-heart surgery. Dewey eventually became a resident in a nursing home near Toledo, Ohio. Ronnie became the hero in Dewey’s life – supporting him in every way possible. With few exceptions, in all the times that Dewey was there, Ronnie made the trip every weekend to visit Dewey.
In 2009 Evelyn became very ill after contracting staph infection from a knee surgery. The staph caused a piece of her heart to split off and go to her brain causing a stroke. Ronnie became Evelyn’s hero – keeping a diary of her every procedure and need. He stayed by her side from the Dayton hospital, the Cincinnati hospital and then rehab and nursing home. Although the doctors and others said she would not live and she would not walk or talk again, Ronnie never gave up on her. She is alive today, primarily, through the heroic efforts of Ronnie’s care of her for many years. She not only is alive but also walks, talks, and plays the piano! In addition, and although we live further away, Ronnie has been a hero and someone for Allen and me to lookup to and admire. We were recipients of his great love and generosity. He is our hero brother!
Last and most importantly, Ronnie is the hero of heroes to his family – his wife of 55 years, his five children, his 10 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. Since retirement he seldom missed a ballgame, a birthday celebration, a holiday, a graduation or any other time to show his family how much he loved them and supported them!
Ronald Lee Thackston’s life is truly what a hometown hero looks like! Now he has gone to his eternal reward with the family and friends who went before him! We may be separated but our hero is not forgotten
Sunday, February 26, 20174:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Hillsboro Church of Christ 155 West Walnut Street Hillsboro, OH 45133 Get Directions on Google Maps
Monday, February 27, 2017
Sugartree Ridge Cemetery Sugartree Ridge, OH Get Directions on Google Maps
Monday, February 27, 201711:00 AM
Hillsboro Church of Christ 155 West Walnut Street Hillsboro, OH 45133