9/6/1927 – 2/5/2013
Born in Wolverhampton, England, on Sept. 6, 1927, Ron Ron lived an extraordinary life.
His early years, during the depression, were like a Charles Dickens’ novel, where the kids had to work. Cardboard was put in shoes to protect their young feet. At five years old, he walked several miles to school with his little sister, with no roads and no adults to ensure their arrival.
At 17, Ron became an indentured apprentice jockey for the stables of Buckingham Palace. Just as he began to master his apprenticeship, on a fall day in 1944, he was called into the British army to serve during World War II. Weighing only 95 pounds at exactly 5 feet, his rifle and gear weighed more than he did. Shipped initially to Nice, France, then Karlsruhe, Germany, Klagenfurt, Austria, Trieste & Paola, Italy and Egypt, he ultimately spent a large part of his military time in the Middle East, when Tel Aviv was no longer in Palestine, but part of the new country of Israel. In 1948, he arrived back home in Wolverhampton, very tan, 7 inches taller and 35 pounds heavier. His mother didn’t recognize him.
As was the case with all of the returning soldiers, Ron struggled to find a career. He was too heavy to resume as a flat racing jockey, so he redefined himself as a steeplechase jockey. This was his career path for several years until an unfortunate jumping accident where the horse was killed and Ron barely survived. Hoping initially to become a trainer, Ron instead became a freelance agent for a Blood Stock Agency, where he personally accompanied horses that were shipped all over the world.
Recovering from a broken arm in Exmouth, Ron met a lovely young lady name Valerie Hadley, whom he married three years later in Epsom. After several years with the Blood Stock Agency, Ron accepted a position as a steeplechase trainer for an estate in Pennsylvania, USA. After a 22-hour journey, the couple landed in Philadelphia where they started a new life, including the birth of their first child Richard.
After a few years, hearing of an opportunity at Santa Anita Racetrack in Southern California, the Johnsons bought a travel trailer and headed west. Initially, Ron was in charge of pulling the starting gate via a buggy pulled by horses, which also carried the judges. Later, Ron heard of training opportunities at other tracks, like Del Mar. After a few years, Ron left the track and went into the booming new home construction business, building precast fireplaces with a company called Rampart General. At about this time, there was a new addition to the family, Elizabeth. Ron worked for Rampart when Southern California was growing rapidly while the company blossomed.
The marriage to Valerie ended in the early 70s. At this time Ron developed his singing career and remarried several years later to Joanne Stoddard. Ron and Joanne worked together at Rampart for many years traveled back to England and around the US and finally retired in Carpinteria, where they lived happily for many years. Ron developed his acting skills and played in shows like “Me and My Gal” at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara as well other entertaining venues via his “RJ the DJ” business, where he sang with good friend Dorothy Kelly.
In 2007, Ron was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. As a result, Ron’s health significantly declined and on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, he passed away.
Ron was known for singing to the checkers at the grocery store, a hearty handshake, helping a neighbor in need and sharing a joyful smile with the words, “have a lovely day, Yank!”
Ron is survived by his beloved wife, Joanne, his devoted son, Richard, adoring daughter, Elizabeth, and good friends like Dorothy Kelly and the Cuellars.
Remembrances may be made to a charity of your choice.