Danner ~ Keyboards
Dave Gaylord ~ Vocals
Dan Sundholm ~ Drums
Jeff Watkins ~ Guitar
Ron Sarver ~ Bass
Ken Vail ~ Vocals
In Memory of
Passing of Dear
March 4, 2009
Up until now, I’ve never written a eulogy. But I guess there’s always a first time.
Sure, I’ve written letters of consolation to friends and relatives when someone close has died. But this is a public testimonial to a friend of mine for 40 years. His name is Ron Sarver, and he passed away in Portland, Oregon, the town where I grew up, about 10 days ago.
One of the reasons I’m making this writing public is that Ron was a musician. That made him different than the vast majority of the students at Jesuit High School, which we both attended back in the late 1960’s. Ron went to Jesuit for two years. He left after our sophomore year, opting instead to go to Sunset High School, a public school. Getting a Catholic education wasn’t high on his priority list.
But early on, at Jesuit, Ron was known as the guy who always had his hair a little too long. “Illegally”so, in fact. But because he played bass in a working band known as The Renegades, he was able to get away with it. Soon enough, given that his bangs hung too low in the front and his hair was too long and curly in back, Ron acquired the nickname “Haircut.” But the nickname was given to him affectionately. There was a group of us that enjoyed going to see him play at high school dances in the area on Friday and Saturday nights. It was fun to watch Ron bobbing his head and smiling from the stage as he rocked out with his band.
Ron was a good musician. He was steadfast about playing bass with his fingers as opposed to with a pick. It gave him a rich tone, and helped him define a sort of rapid-fire playing style. He had studied cello as a child, and making the transition to bass was natural for him. He played lots of sweet little runs, while still holding down the bottom end in fine fashion.
The Renegades in those days sported matching outfits with the big boots similar to what Paul Revere And The Raiders wore. What was impressive was that The Renegades worked a lot. Virtually every weekend they were performing somewhere. Often they’d play out of town and have to load and unload their music equipment in and out of their oversized van. To be performing out of town and staying in hotels when they were still teenagers made The Renegades grow up a little quicker than the rest of us. They always had girlfriends. There were lots of late nights, meals in diners, and life that was a bit on the edge.
Musically, Ron preferred rock music with a groove and a dose of rock-jazz fusion. His favorite bands were The Sons Of Champlain, Steely Dan, and Tower Of Power. He also enjoyed Queen, Willie Nelson, and numerous other artists and musical styles. But he loved that rock-jazz-funk thing the best.
Ron played in various bands through his 20’s. But by then he was settling in as a sound man and union stagehand. He worked the biggest shows to come through Portland, handling sound for the likes of Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and several symphony orchestras. He did the sound and helped set up the stage for virtually every major act in music into the 1990’s. He had good ears and he knew what he was doing.
But when Ron hurt his back in the 90’s, he had to re-invent himself. He chose to pursue a new career in the printing industry. He said, pragmatically, that virtually everything around us contains print of some kind, and that there would always be available work in that business. That proved to be true in his case.
A lifelong smoker, Ron became afflicted with lung cancer a year or so ago. His wife of his final six years, Jan Sarver, said that chemo treatments weren’t working too well. Unsuccesful treatments made it just a matter of time. He kept it quiet, though. When Ron died, very few of us even knew he had cancer.
Keeping one’s ego in check is a challenge for many of us. For Ron, it came natural. He was a genuine person who didn’t have an over-inflated opinion about himself. Though brighter than most, he was cool about it.
I could go on. Indeed, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Ron was a unique, talented individual with a great sense of humor, and as my Dad always said, a particularly good smile. Ron was one of my dearest, most loyal friends. Now he’s gone, and I miss him a lot already.
So long, Ron. It was a pleasure knowing you.
Jim Hudak, March 2009