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Life Story / Obituary
A man of great courage, honor, and selfless compassion, Ron Refior was an inspiration to so many. He worked hard in everything he did, and no sacrifice was too great in his mind. A family man through and through, it was easy to see that Ron was married to the love of his life and together they experienced so many of the best things life has to offer. Life will never be the same without him here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
The 1940’s brought great challenges along with remarkable achievements. Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey topped the music charts. Color Televisions began finding their way into American homes. Mount Rushmore was well under construction and a gallon of gasoline cost just 11 cents. As WWII raged on and began to engulf the nation in a fight for freedom around the world, there was great cause for celebration and excitement as Jack and Violet (Torcus) Refior announced the birth of the baby boy they named Ron on August 24, 1940, in Grosse Point Woods.
The only child in his family, he was a typical young boy of his generation. He attended local schools and met his future wife while he was in high school. Upon graduation he enrolled full time at Western Michigan University. With the foresight to see that he was likely to be drafted, Ron joined the ROTC while at Western as he wanted to set himself up for success and eventually enter the Army as an officer. He also earned his master’s degree from Western Michigan University.
He married Rosanna in his second year at college. One of his fondest memories with Rosanna was walking in Kleinstuck Preserve in Kalamazoo. Together, they welcomed five children including Michelle, Larry, Christy, Tim, and Cindy into their hearts and home. Their first two children were born while they were still at Western.
While in the military, Ron was known for his dedication and hard work. He was stationed in Germany for two years while in the Army and once he came home he remained in the reserves, later retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He made his career at Plainwell Public Schools teaching and influencing the minds of his students. Ron also coached tennis and led the team to the 1978 state competition. In addition, he taught at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Ron’s students often remarked, even years later, how awesome he was as a teacher and how skillfully he guided their own decisions and career choices. He always seemed to have multiple jobs to keep him busy. As a young father, this made Ron understandably tired. In fact, he was once so tired that he fell asleep while feeding his daughter, Michelle, and the bottle ended up in her ear!
There was never anything that was more important to Ron than providing for his family. Dancing with his wife and traveling were among his favorite things to do together. Some of their best family memories were made camping in the pop-up camper that Ron built himself. They went to Ludington State Park for two weeks every summer, enjoying the beach and looking for Petoskey stones. Their travels also took them to Maryland to visit family when they drove through the night as everyone slept in the car. He took a trip to Las Vegas with his oldest daughter to see the sights including Hoover Dam, Death Valley, and the Grand Canyon. Ron proudly supported his kids at their swim meets, sports games, and school events. He often cheered loud enough that his kids were able to hear him on the sidelines!
A big kid at heart, Ron always said, “Some rules are just meant to be broken.” In the summer’s he’d often take his family to the Shannondale pool, where he was known to be kicked out of on a few occasions for not following the rules. He also took his kids to Hershey Park and tried to pass off two of them as twins to get them in free since he was among the most frugal people you could find. Bad manners at the table for his kids and in school for his students resulted in mandatory push-ups.
There were so many things to appreciate about Ron. As a young man, he took a woodworking class. Little did he know that class would lead to a lifelong passion. He enjoyed the challenge of bringing an idea to life and figuring out how to build whatever he could including furniture for himself and his family, his own sailboat and canoe, and plenty of equipment for the church and schools. One year he built his daughter a dollhouse as a gift from Santa. On Christmas morning she was overjoyed and also convinced that even Dad couldn’t build anything that good. Imagine her surprise as she grew older and learned her dad was in fact just that good. Ron’s fellow teachers always appreciated getting him as a “Secret Santa” since they knew he built the gift himself. He also made gifts for weddings and special occasions.
Frugal at heart, he lived in his vegetable garden during the season, and much of his yield was canned or frozen to enjoy all year. Ron was a card player, especially Kings in the Corner with his kids and grandchildren, even if they didn’t always play by the rules. Camping with family friends every Labor Day and Memorial Day were favorite times. On these trips they’d fish for bass while Ron would fish for bluegills and sunfish because they tasted better, and everyone agreed as Ron’s fish always went first at dinner. An ice cream connoisseur, Ron never passed up a chance for a fresh scoop of ice cream with fresh picked raspberries on top.
As his family and friends can attest, Ron was industrious to his core and liked the challenge of thinking things through. Everything he did had a purpose to it even if others didn’t understand it at the time. Much to the embarrassment of his kids, Ron collected cans and bottles, too many to count, rummaging for cans wherever he could. Later in life, however, they appreciated his vision and effort once they understood the true value that came from this hard and messy work as he collected over $20,000 over the years. Much of what he collected was donated to the school for much needed equipment that wasn’t in the budget. Ron also used some of it to pay for a trip to Hawaii for himself and Rosie where they stayed in a tent on the beach and danced at the military base luau. With his adventurous spirit, he and Rosie would also sometimes fly to Europe, rent a car, and simply wing the rest. There were no hotels, just backpacks and camping where they wanted. Their joy and excitement was in the adventure of not planning what came next, and letting the trip unfold unexpectedly.
All who knew Ron Refior would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and love. With his industrious heart and talents, he enriched the lives of everyone around him. He was a strong role model for the importance of education and hard work. His legacy continues forward in each of them and his laughter will echo in their hearts.
Ron Refior, age 80, died peacefully on November 15, 2020. Ron was preceded in death by his wife, Rosanna. Surviving are his 5 children: Michelle (Joe) Perk, Larry (Debbie) Refior, Christy (Mel) DeYoung, Tim Refior, and Cindy (Jeff) Mudget; grandchildren: Kylie (Jacob Cook), Katie, Zach, Dylan, Michael, Kathleen, Kevin; great-grandchildren: Kinley and Maizey; and many nieces and nephews. Private burial with military honors will take place at Fort Custer National Cemetery. A celebration will be held at a later date. Visit Ron’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Gift of Life Transplant House. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.