MONTPELIER - Rev. Ronald C. Lawson was a seventh-generation Vermonter born Dec. 21, 1934, in Montpelier, Vermont. He died on Aug. 22, 2018.
Ron was the second child of former Fire Chief Sidney F. Lawson Sr. and his wife, Ruth Ella Russell, of Montpelier. He attended school locally, graduating from Montpelier High School in 1952. He went on to earn his A.B. degree in Russian from Middlebury College.
Upon graduation in 1956, he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army. This led to an interesting period in his life while serving with Army Intelligence. His first assignment was the Pentagon. He later completed a dual language course in German and Polish while assigned to a language school in Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany. Ron fell in love with Oberammergau and the surrounding area. He spent his free time hiking or skiing the Alps.
While living in Oberammergau, he formed lifelong friendships with many residents and although raised a Methodist, he felt a strong call to Catholicism. Oberammergau is the site of the world-famous Passion play. A year later, he was baptized at nearby Ettal Monastery and confirmed a Roman Catholic.
He was stationed in West Berlin, Germany, during the Cold War. He witnessed the building of the Berlin Wall and often served as a Russian interpreter for official functions.
Ron resigned from the Army in 1961 to begin priestly studies at St. John's Seminary in Boston, Massachusetts. Maria Von Trapp was a spiritual mentor and guided him in his developing religious life. She arranged a sabbatical for him back in Bavaria. He assisted at a local parish while working for a hospital in Preen. Ron continued his studies at the Grand Seminary of Montreal, PQ. He quickly brushed up his high school French.
On May 5, 1970, Ron was ordained a Roman Catholic priest at St. Augustine's Church in Montpelier. Father Ron, as he was now known, returned to Canada and, for over a decade, acted as chaplain for St. Thomas High School in Pointe Claire, Quebec.
In 1984, Father Ron was recalled to serve as a chaplain in the U.S. Army. After stateside assignments at Fort Meade, Maryland, and Fort Benning, Georgia, he returned to Germany. He served as a chaplain in Stuttgart before time back in West Berlin. He witnessed the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Father Ron served in Desert Storm during 1991. He often slept in a tent in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Father Ron completed his military service as a U.S. Army captain after serving as hospital chaplain in Heidelberg, Germany.
At the age of 58, Father Ron spent the next decade with the Department of Veterans Affairs as a chaplain. During this period, Father Ron completed his master's degree at Boston College and became an addiction therapist. Later, he served as associate director for the VA National Headquarters in Hampton, Virginia. Father Ron retired from U.S. government service in 2002.
He spent several years as senior priest-in-residence in Winchester and Chelmsford, Massachusetts, parishes. A parishioner, Richard Rotelli, wrote a biography of Father Ron called "Let there be light."
As his health declined, Father Ron retired to his native Vermont. On Fridays, he enjoyed visiting the farmers market in Hardwick and sharing a pizza with his two brothers. His older brother, Milan, died in 2017. Father Ron is survived by his younger brother, Sidney Jr., of Montpelier, and his sister-in-law, Corinne Kelly Lawson and her son, Daniel, also of Montpelier. Father Ron enjoyed his many cousins and often celebrated outside Mass at Nelson Pond.
He had a lifelong interest in his background and belonged to several genealogical organizations. He was an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox. Father Ron relished in the good cheer and fellowship of his many friends. He was proud of armed forces and all veterans. Father Ron had a deep faith.
Rev. Lawson will lie in state at St. Augustine Church, 16 Barre Street, Montpelier, from 10 to 11 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 5. Funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Burial will be in the family lot in Waterbury Center Cemetery.
Online condolences may be sent to www.guareandsons.com.