A Tribute to Ron deWitt
by Art Lee #7984
I am filled with great sadness as I write about the passing of Ron DeWitt on 28 August, 2013. Ron was the IWCS North East USA Regional Trustee several times, but had to resign because of health issues this spring. He was a devoted IWCS member. As an Associate Editor of World of Wood, he was one of the most prolific writers for the always popular, “A Favorite Wood.”
Through the years, he authored close to 100 “A Favorite Wood” articles.
His articles were painstakingly researched and he often included detailed photos of the leaves, seedpods, the tree, and a specimen of the wood.
Our WoW editor, Mihaly Czako, said he always enjoyed working with Ron because of the detail of his articles and Ron was always cognizant of Mihaly’s publishing deadlines. Mihaly said he met Ron in the early 90’s and they always spent time talking together at the meetings. “Ron always remembered things about me and my family. He and Judy made my family feel welcome at the IWCS meetings.”
Ron retired in 1989 after a successful career with GE. The last 10 years of his job took him too many international destinations. He and Judy moved to their family farm in Hebron, NY and both of them became active in their community.
I first met Ron and Judy at one of the SE Regional meetings at Lake Yale, probably in the early 2000’s. They would always donate several half-gallon containers of their homemade maple syrup. Ron once described to me the process of the maple sap collection and its conversion to maple syrup through careful cooking. One thing I do remember of his story was he made a yoke to “help” Judy carry the sap to the cooking area! For all of the syrup Ron and Judy donated to the IWCS auctions, I never won a drop of it, having been out bid time after time.
Alan Curtis told me he won a container of Ron & Judy’s maple syrup for $75 at one auction, to the delight of the losing bidders (and IWCS!) Ron and Judy hosted several regional meetings in the New York area. Anne & I were able to attend the one at Lake George, NY in 2008 and the meeting at the Shaker Museum near Albany, NY in 2010. They always crafted a wonderful blend of activities, displays, lectures and demonstrations, which captured the history and cultural flavor of the local area. I was always pleasantly pleased at the mix of presentations Ron and Judy assembled for their meetings. The photos from the Shaker Museum meeting are still posted at http://www.woodcollectors.org/2010-northeast-meeting.html
In 2012, the Woodworkers Association (prompted by Ron’s recommendation) invited my wife, Anne, to give the annual Fiske Memorial Lecture, named for Dr. Milan Fiske, one of the eight founders of the NWA. Ron was one of the early members of NWA and served as president for 2 years. A prolific author, Ron contributed over 100 articles to the NWA newsletter. Anne was invited to lecture on her ongoing interest in toxic trees and wood. She was honored by the invitation and gave an interesting and informative lecture to the NWA members. Ron always encouraged Anne to further her knowledge in the field. He and Anne often engaged in lengthy scientific discussions at the IWCS meetings.
His mentorship allowed Anne to expand her personal knowledge, and to share her knowledge with her fellow wood enthusiasts.
During my time in leadership positions with IWCS, Ron was always the voice of reason. His thoughtful counsel was always appreciated and respected by me and the other leaders. At times, our annual Executive Committee and Trustee meetings would get quite “exuberant.” I saw Ron during one such meeting, use his calm demeanor and logical approach to bring the discussions back to a more constructive level.
Ron embodied the personal qualities, which make IWCS a fun organization, and a serious scientific organization. He was gregarious, happy, willing to share his knowledge, and giving of his time and talent. Ron had a motto “always leave the place better than you found it.” He invested in developing the next generations, not only wood folks like us, but the many other people whose lives he touched.