Ron West was one of the nicest guys around.
The longtime Black Press employee died suddenly two weeks ago at Surrey Memorial Hospital, where he had been scheduled to undergo a routine operation. He was 56.
He had spent the past quarter-century doing a variety of tasks at newspaper offices, from courier work to photography and darkroom efforts. Darkrooms, of course, are a thing of the past at newspapers these days, as are the film cameras that were the mainstay of photographers for many years.
Ron (below) loved to take photos. That’s how we met, when I worked as editor at The Surrey-North Delta Leader. He knew that newspapers welcomed photos taken at fires, car crashes and other high-profile public incidents, and he started to supply us with a steady stream of them.
It didn’t seem to matter what time of day (or usually night) these incidents occurred.
At the time, the newspaper or TV newscasts were the only places where people could see visual images of these types of incidents. Ron was often on scene with Gary Hanney, a longtime BCTV camera operator who frequently attended breaking news events in Surrey.
The role Ron played in those situations cannot be underestimated.
The Leader was competing for the attention of busy Surrey residents, and while they may not have been interested in the doings of council, they had far more interest in the major car crash, fire or train detainment (Ron attended several of those) that occurred down the street or even a few miles away.
Ron continued to do this work, but was around often enough that he branched into helping out in the darkroom and doing courier work. At that time, all The Leader’s production work was done in Abbotsford, and that necessitated several runs a day to and from the office there.
Ron was an integral part of making sure the papers were produced, printed and delivered.
When I first met him, he lived in Newton, and he later lived in Whalley for many years. He had no immediate family in B.C. He loved to take photos of animals and frequently visited Stanley Park to see and photograph the squirrels.
He was a hard worker, who worked at numerous other jobs to pay the bills. Most recently, he was employed as a dishwasher at Montana’s Cookhouse in South Surrey.
I never heard him complain about anything. He was cheerful and had a smile on his face. He knew everybody in the local Black Press organization and got along with everyone.
Like everybody else, I was shocked to hear of his death. I’d just seen him a few days before, and as usual, he didn’t mention any personal issues. He did his job, kept smiling and headed off to the next stop.
There are a lot of people like Ron who make our businesses, schools, organizations and non-profits succeed. They don’t get a lot of glory, but they are the heart and soul of organizations. That’s why Ron is sorely missed by so many of us.
Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.