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Saying good-bye to Captain Ron
Firefighters pay respects to Ron Smith
Stern-faced fire department officers wait at the door of the Almond Valley Church for their turn to walk into the service together as a unit - photo by GLEN KAHL
RIPON - “Captain Ron” would have been proud to witness the parade of fire trucks snaking their way down Wilma Avenue in Ripon Saturday morning representing five fire departments on their way to his memorial service.

A Ripon Police motorcycle officer and two patrol cars along with Ripon Fire Chief Dennis Bitters led the engines from Fire Station One on Stockton Street and around a specific route to the Almond Valley Christian Reformed Church as a CHP helicopter out of Fresno circled overhead.

Firefighters were there to pay their respects from Lathrop-Manteca, Linden, Escalon and Farmington - all having “strike teams” that had worked with Smith.

Three California Highway Patrolmen were on hand  as well, including Richard Percy, of the Dublin office, who began his emergency service career as a reserve fireman under Ron Smith’s tutelage.

Ronald Dean Smith, 63, made his life count - as many will agree - not only in his family dedication, his years of service with PG&E, but also in following his passion serving with the Ripon Consolidated Fire Department for 42 years. In addition he served four years on the consolidated fire department’s board of directors.

Firemen, policemen, family members and members of the community filled the Almond Valley Christian Reformed Church for the 10 a.m. memorial service as Ripon Police bagpiper Gary McDaniel played.

Ripon Fire Department Chaplain the Rev. Lloyd Wicker officiated at the service that was followed by a luncheon reception at Fire Station Two on Milgeo Avenue.

“He was always happy,” said fire chief Dennis Bitters. “He was out of the county 44 days last year on five different strike teams,” the chief recalled. “He was everybody’s friend, everybody’s helper. We are going to miss him.”

Bitters said Smith was everywhere in the 2008 fire season serving on strike teams from Butte County to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara - he was everywhere.

Smith headed up the fire reserve program and the department set training days on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that he could be there as the supervising officer for the new recruits.

He had retired from a 37-year career with PG&E some six years earlier where he served as a welder and a welding inspector.

Smith worked with kids as a 4-H sheep leader in addition to being barn chairman at the San Joaquin County Fair and had served in the California National Guard for four years.

He was known to be constantly remodeling his home or tackling another project in his shop as well as helping his son Gary build a home five years ago.  Gary has inherited his dad’s expertise in welding and son Chris has become a firefighter like his dad.

Smith was a 1967 Ripon High School graduate who married his high school sweetheart, Cynthia, 42 years ago. Their family life revolved around their children, Debbie, Chris, Gary and Angela and their grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Ripon Consolidated Fire Department or to the American Cancer Society.  It was just six months ago that “Captain Ron” learned that he was suffering from cancer, but he was able to see his son Chris get married on a cruise in March.