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 55.
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 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, he would be there taking photos and bringing them in to us.
Then, as now, there was no shortage of police and fire-related incidents in Surrey and Delta, and it was a rare week when we didn’t get a good photo from him that we could use somewhere in the paper and share with the Peace Arch News.
As it was an age before the Internet, 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 obtaining those photos in those situations cannot be underestimated. They were often tricky situations. But they were like gold for the newspaper.
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 derailment (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 of the Leader’s production work was done in Abbotsford, and that necessitated several runs a day to and from the office there. There were also regular runs to other newspapers in the group.
A newspaper is the result of work of many people, from the reporter and photographer to the sales representative and, ultimately, to the carrier. 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 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 everyone 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 his 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 so sorely missed, by so many of us.
Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.