I seem to start most of my conversations about my friend, Ronny, with that phrase. “The thing about Ronny is…” If you knew Ronny Jo Villarreal, you know how lucky you were. If you didn’t know her? I wish you had.
The thing about Ronny is that she was tough. Ronny was tough without being hard. She took on so many challenges and conquered most of them. We would all be better with a fraction of her toughness.
The thing about Ronny is that she was caring. Ronny wanted to know how you were. If she asked you, she really wanted to know, it wasn’t just a platitude with her. And no matter how busy her world was, she always wanted to know.
The thing about Ronny is that she was funny. This woman made me (and most people) laugh so hard I’d get cramps in my side. A few weeks ago I sent Ronny a little gift. In her thank-you note she said, “The plaque went perfect in my bathroom, so I hung it in front of the toilet. Now I think of you every time I have to go.” Only Ronny could work using the toilet into a thank-you note.
The thing about Ronny is that she was thoughtful. The number of times I got a something small from Ronny, at exactly the right time, is too many to count. Flowers when Mark was in the hospital, baby gifts for both of my boys, phone calls, notes, texts, emails, compliments, advice. No matter how long it had been since we had talked, I knew she was with me. I told her just the other day that I think of her and Andy most nights when I cover Tobin in the blanket they sent when he was born. It made her happy that she was in my thoughts, and she was, often.
The thing about Ronny is that she was smart. She wasn’t just book smart, although she was that, Ronny was also clever. She was good at reading people, she was good at judging situations, and she was creative.
The thing about Ronny is that she was driven. Ronny achieved. She worked her butt off in school and college. She worked hard to become a cheerleader. She worked hard to succeed professionally. She worked hard to perfect her photography. She worked hard on her relationships. She worked hard to make a home. She worked hard to have her Maddy. She worked hard to be a good mom and wife. She may have worked too hard at school, I mean, who doesn’t miss any school between kindergarten and her senior year? That’s just weird.
The thing about Ronny is that she was proud. This is one of my favorite things about Ronny. She was proud of her extended family, proud of our tiny town, proud of where we came from. Ronny was proud of her accomplishments without being boastful. Ronny was proud when her hard work resulted in success. I think that’s a rare quality in a lot of women, and it’s something I’m always striving for.
The thing about Ronny is that she was radiant. I would challenge *anyone* to look at Ronny’s smiling face and not smile back. That woman’s smile was an amazing, contagious, wonderful sight.
The thing about Ronny is that she was loyal. I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone else who had the quality of friendships that Ronny had, for the length of time she had them. She was a fierce friend. But she wasn’t blindly loyal, she told you what you needed to hear for you to be a better person, even if it hurt to hear her say it.
The thing about Ronny is that she was courageous. Like her pride, Ronny’s courage is one of my favorite things about her. Ronny was courageous in her thoughts, she didn’t believe in injustice and didn’t let others get away with it around her. Ronny was courageous in her actions, becoming a college cheerleader, getting married again, moving across the country and away from her family, trusting her instincts enough to follow her passion for photography and putting her career on hold. Making the hard choices to fight the cancer when it probably would have been easier and less painful not to. There are big, tough men who don’t have a speck of the courage that this one small woman had.
I’m lucky that I got to be Ronny’s friend, it’s just that simple. There is so much more I could say about Ronny, and so much more I’ll never know about her. I’m glad I got to share a tiny slice of her life.
Mr. and Mrs. Villarreal ~ You raised an incredible person.
Andy and Maddy~Thank you for sharing Ronny with us. You didn’t have to, but I’m so glad you did.
Ronny~ I know you’re looking down on me and telling me to suck it up, enough with the tears. I love you so much. Thanks for being my friend.