An unexpected farewell

October 9, 2009

Faith Outdoors


I got a phone call recently from Jack Kolars, the director of advancement at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault. He asked about photos I took of the new Divine Mercy church building in July.

After I agreed to send him a photo, I asked how Ron Thibault was doing. Ron and I struck up a friendship in the course of my work at The Catholic Spirit. Ron is a graduate of the school and came back to spend 42 years as a teacher and administrator.
About 11 or 12 years ago, Ron invited me down for the school’s annual fundraiser, which they called a lobster boil. We discovered a mutual passion for hunting and fishing and I have always made it a point to see Ron when I’m down in Faribault on assignment for the paper. In fact, I had a nice visit with him in July on my way back from taking pictures of the new church with its pastor, Father Kevin Finnegan.
I ended up photographing three of his four daughters’ weddings and I enjoyed them all. The most recent was Laura’s almost two years ago. Ron and I talked about going hunting together someday and I came close to talking him into trying a spring wild turkey hunt.
Sadly, we’ll never get that chance. Jack informed me that Ron died Sept. 6 of cancer at the age of 68. I was stunned, and so were his wife, Connie, and the rest of the family. He was diagnosed just two days before he died, Jack told me. Doctors thought it was pneumonia at first, but decided to do more testing when Ron wasn’t getting better.
Fittingly, his funeral Mass was celebrated at the new church. I have to admit, Ron’s death hit me hard — very hard. He had such a love for life, for Bethlehem Academy, for the outdoors. His family owns a nice piece of land outside of town and he wanted me to come down and hunt there with him someday. He said there are lots of wild turkeys in the area, and he and I were going to hunt them one of these years.
I’m really going to miss Ron. He was always cheerful when I saw him, always excited about hunts past, present and future. Yet, he wasn’t in a hurry to leave B.A. And, I’m sure the folks at B.A. were in no hurry to see him go.
I’m sure many, many lives were touched by Ron. Mine is one of them. I’m disappointed we won’t have the chance to get out in the woods together. Now that hunting season is in full swing, I’m sure I’ll think of Ron often. And, when I do, I’ll offer prayers for Connie and their four daughters.
May he rest in peace.
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About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek