A Quiet Hero
THE IDLE AMERICAN
Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury
J. Ron Hardin, from most angles, might appear to be the kind of guy others would enjoy competing against. They might figure him to be a “push-over” in recreational or business endeavors, and they’d be wrong.
He’d probably get so far ahead of ‘em that he’d soon be out of sight to the naked eye.
In his 85 years, he has re-defined “mild-mannered,” maintained humility, held doggedly to Christian optimism, cherished his family, served others, gained distinction in the insurance world and fooled many folks on golf courses.
His exploits might seem to suggest that he’d rival Superman, but even on tiptoe Ron’s 5-8 stature falls short of the “man of steel.”
In many of life’s arenas, though, he has been little short of heroic.
He has proven himself time and again, remaining an enviable modest Christian model, calling on both faith and confidence to reach life’s mountaintops and cope with its valleys.
Married to Geri since August 29, 1954, Ron and his wife are now in their 50th year as Wichita Falls residents, where both have been active members of First Baptist Church.
Folks who have known him only in recent years would do well to consider his earlier years.
They might be surprised to learn that he was valedictorian of his Vera High School senior class (1954), that he’s been married for 67 years, served in the U.S. Army for two years, threw a no-hitter in a men’s softball game, set numerous records as a State Farm Insurance Agent, has underwritten scholarships at Howard Payne and Midwestern State universities, and played golf in a driving rainstorm on the island of Maui, one of 16 international trips he and Geri made during his 30 years with State Farm
Lots of golfers while away retirement hours bragging about “shooting their age.”
Not so with Ron, who still plays 18 holes three times weekly.
He’s a reminder of that old Pet Milk ad that claimed their milk did NOT come from contented cows (a claim made by Carnation). Pet Milk insisted that its cows “are always trying to do better.” He’s a golfer who might strive to match his belt size, and he’s far from porky.
That’s Ron, short version. He’s been “shooting his age” for a decade or so, recently carding a 77. He commonly scores around 80 on his favorite course, River Creek, near Burkburnett.
His ace came on a Par 3 hole at Wichita Falls Country Club in 1990.
Though he never played with President Gerald Ford, he did find an autographed ball hit by the late president. Ron found it on a Colorado course Ford had played a week earlier.
During his 65 years on the links, he has played with such luminaries as Coach Perry Goolsby, a district judge, an architect, and a retired military colonel.
These days, he’s in regular golfing company with a physician’s assistant and a dentist. (His body no doubt thanks him for that!)
Ron learned the art of selling advertising at the Brownwood Bulletin during his HPU years. This served him well when he became advertising manager at the Borger News-Herald and later publisher of the Graham Leader. “Working 18-hour days made me realize that I was short-changing my family,” Ron said.
He and Geri had five children–Jeff, Jana, Janay, Julie Kay and Jennifer Gail, 14 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson. (Jeff died at age 26 in the line of duty as a Wichita Falls Fire Fighter in 1984.)
He was one of three Vera High School graduates, gaining many honors, including letters in all sports each year.
Also an author and poet, he recently published Texas Family Reunion, a “how to” book for planning reunions. Ron has attended most of the 80 Hardin family reunions.
Here’s the final verse of a Hardin poem: “Our hearts are humbled for those we knew; respectful and thoughtful for those who care. Our hearts are big, our number is few, but our glance is backward–friends are there.”
Dr. Newbury is a long-time university president who continues to write and speak regularly. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 817-447-3872. Website: email@example.com. Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @Don Newbury