The memorial service for Ron Sheppeard, 60, started like a 12-step program meeting. A man stood up in front of the crowd at the South Valley Multi-Purpose Center and announced, “Hi. I’m John, and I’m an addict.” Everyone said “Hi, John.” There was a moment of silence, and then the recitation of the Serenity Prayer.
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
A large news obituary ran the day before the service, but it was the classified obit that first caught my interest in this memorial event. Part of it read:
As husband, friend, wise counselor, inventor and impresario, Ron was a loving, creative, dynamic force. His commitment to helping addicts find a new way of life drove 32 years of service locally and around the world. An ongoing spiritual quest brought him to Sikh Dharma and later the Tetzkatlipokha tradition. His vampire fang business made him a legend in the costume world. Most recently, Ron was director of Outpatient Addiction Services at Rehoboth-McKinley Behavioral Health in Gallup, NM.
An extended family of blood and choice were gathered to remember and say goodbye to a multidimensional man, and the event reflected his unique qualities. The first half hour focused on comments from family members, then everyone was invited to go eat food and share stories in an adjoining room, or stay and listen to open comments from the attendees. Many of the dishes were prepared from Ron’s recipes.
His wife said that Ron was a kind man who had many issues and helped a lot of people. They had many adventures together over 25 years and both learned a lot, especially in their spiritual seeking. He was feeling good about himself and at peace with God just before he died of a heart attack in late October.
As more people spoke, a portrait emerged of a man who listened well, spoke honestly, acted thoughtfully, and loved unconditionally. He loved good food and was an excellent cook. His enchiladas were legendary, and he knew how to throw a good party. He had a wicked sense of humor, a cackling laugh, and theatrical flair.
References were made to Ron’s various businesses – a used car lot, a costume rental shop, and the vampire fang business, Fangtastics. When one speaker asked who in the room had ever packed Ron’s fangs for shipping, half the hands went up.
After being drafted into the military and serving in Germany during the Vietnam War, he became a peace activist and helped veterans reintegrate after the war. He had his own struggles with addiction, which he overcame with treatment before he moved to New Mexico in the 1980s. He sponsored many of the men who got up to speak. They all commented on his unconditional love for each one of them, and how he provided a living example of integrity through adversity.
One friend said, “I can hear his voice saying, ‘People die! Get over it!'” Another speaker suggested, “Say what you have to say, you might not be here tomorrow. Tell people you love them now.”
There were plenty of bear hugs and tears as each member of Ron’s extended family spoke their piece. His cremated remains have been scattered in the wind.
Ron Sheppeard, your memory lives on through the many people you have helped.