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Hoisting some cold ones for Ron Muir

Posted: July 3, 2014 9:52 a.m.
Updated: July 4, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Just the other day, I was out by the Atlantic Brewery when a friend reminded me of a memorial service we’d attended there a few years earlier.

This was on the Maine island where Wife Nancy and I spend time. One chilly October afternoon about a decade ago, they dumped Ron Muir’s ashes in a Skippy peanut butter jar and then had a fine time celebrating his life.

There is, of course, a story behind this.

To say that Ron Muir was a people person wouldn’t do him justice. During his too-brief time on this planet, he might have connected with more people, more times, more easily, than anyone else I’ve known.

There’s an old cliché that’s repeated about people with big personalities: “He never met a stranger.” Well, Ron met thousands of strangers. Only thing is, within 30 seconds they weren’t strangers anymore.

He and his family lived there on the Maine coast, but the location isn’t important. This story would be the same in South Carolina or Oklahoma or Timbuktu.

By vocation, Ron was a Marine Patrol Officer for the State of Maine. By avocation, he was a tour guide; expert canoeist; traveler; teller of truths, half-truths and just plain untruths; and people expert, nonpareil.

Cancer grabbed him a few years ago -- the bad kind, one of those where the doctors tell people to go home and get their affairs in order. He did that, but he didn’t give in to what he sometimes called “the beast inside me.” He fought it valiantly, sometimes reeling from the virulent chemotherapy his oncologists pumped into him.

When the beast finally got the best of him, his family decided the best place to remember his life was at Atlantic Brewery near Bar Harbor, where he had worked part-time conducting tours and welcoming those who wanted to taste the expertly crafted beers made there.

So it was that dozens of Ron’s friends gathered to hoist a couple cold ones and celebrate the bright light he’d always been.

His wife, Cindy, led off with some comments, and then his daughter, Kate, read a poem she’d written for him upon his diagnosis. “Dear Dad,” it was called, and it was straight from her heart.

Friends chimed in with stories about Ron, nearly all of them humorous. Many revolved around his insatiable hunger for making new friends.

The champion make-a-connection story? Ron once asked a brewery visitor where he was from. Back came a gravel-voiced answer: “Albania.”

Ron never even paused. “Oh, yeah, I had a friend who once had an Albanian midwife.” The conversation took off from there. You couldn’t stump the guy, absolutely couldn’t keep him from engaging others.

One friend recalled Outrageous Ron, whose politically incorrect comments -- never delivered in a whisper -- made some people cringe. For Ron, they were merely ice-breakers.

And, of course, his tender side was recalled, though I’m not sure Ron would have owned up to it.

Once, when he was in Boston doing the chemo thing, a woman asked him to speak to her mother, who was skeptical of taking treatments. The older woman asked Ron why she should subject herself to such cruel medicine just so she could live an additional three months.

“Because that’s three more months you can have to touch your daughter,” he told her.

The service at the brewery was funny and poignant and uplifting, all at once.

There are some who would say that a brewery isn’t an appropriate place to memorialize a departed friend and family member, that there should have been a properly somber church service with mournful dirges sung by a choir in robes.

Those people could probably stand to have their sphincters loosened a tad.

It was, indeed, a terrific way to remember a terrific guy.

And by the way, I’m going to be on the lookout for anyone from Albania. Chances are good they’ll have a Ron Muir story to tell.

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