Column No. 55

Ring Brothers Lose Biggest Fan


Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

This column wasn’t planned as one of the series on the history of events along the Ruby Road. Rather it’s a special column about a life event, celebrating the life of Bob and Al Ring’s father, Clinton E. Ring, who died suddenly in September. So in the Ring brothers’ words:

“Dad was born in Flat River, Kansas on October 1, 1915. His father Ambrose was a mining engineer (more later), so as a youngster Dad moved around the western states, living in one mining camp after another. We remember fondly his story of playing golf on desert courses with oiled sand ‘greens’ as a putting surface. He was smart enough to skip a grade of school and started college at the University of Utah at the age of 15. When the mining business re-located Ambrose and our grandmother Grace to Tucson, Dad came along too, switched schools, and graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the young age of 19.

“Two major events quickly followed graduation. The first was hooking up with the General Electric Company, where he was to work for 40 years. The second was marrying our mother, Charlotte A. Brehm, who he had met at the U. of A. and who grew up in Bisbee, Arizona, the daughter of Le Ray Brehm town jeweler. Characteristically holding on to a good thing, his marriage lasted almost 60 years until ‘death did them part.’

“We were born in the 1940s and have wonderful memories of a full and happy home life. As children we lived at first in Bridgeport, Connecticut and then Louisville, Kentucky – places where General Electric had plants. We remember, and have plenty of family photos to jog that memory, many cross-country family trips to visit grandparents in Arizona.

“Dad was promoted into management in the refrigeration part of General Electric and became one of the pioneers in the booming air conditioning business. He contributed very heavily to the development and success of a new GE product line. When he retired in 1976, he was Manager of Product Planning for GE Room Air Conditioning, with several patents for airflow control devices.

“After Dad left GE, he and Mom moved back to Tucson, built a house in the Catalina foothills, and enjoyed 20 wonderful years together.

“In 1987, while one of Bob’s sons John was attending the U. of A., Dad rediscovered one of Ambrose’s old photo albums containing 33 photos from 1905/1906 of a place in south-central borderland Arizona called Oro Blanco. One quiet Sunday Dad and John hopped in John’s station wagon and drove south through Arivaca and on towards the border to explore the mining country of Oro Blanco. It had been 80 years since Ambrose and Grace had left the area after only a few months there on Ambrose’s first mining job. Ambrose’s diary cryptically states, ‘We stayed until conditions became intolerable, personally.’ Why Ambrose and Grace left Oro Blanco remains a Ring family mystery today.

“As many of you have read in previous columns, those 33 old photographs and that trip started the Ring family on a quest to find out where those photos were taken and understand our grandparents history as well as the history of the area. The quest was reborn when Bob moved to Tucson in 1993 and accelerated greatly when Al moved to Tucson in 1998.

“Mom died in 1997 after a series of illnesses that taxed her greatly and gradually wore her down. During that period Dad was the caregiver, reversing the roles of more than a half century of marriage, doing everything for Mom with incredible love, dedication, and energy. (We appreciate that many of you readers remember or are now having similar experiences in your family.)

“Within a year of Mom’s death, Dad sold the house in the foothills and moved to Santa Catalina Villas independent living community, nestled at the foot of the Catalina Mountains, only a half-mile from where he and Mom had lived. In his eight years at Santa Catalina Villas, Dad made many new friends and had an amazingly (to his sons) active life with all sorts of entertainment and cultural activities. Such was the conviviality at the Villas, that our families and we often visited Dad there, periodically attending the Friday night cocktail party, and many special occasion dinners.

“Meanwhile our research on Oro Blanco and Ruby had resulted in several history papers that we presented to five annual Arizona History Conventions. We used Dad as a sounding board for our papers and made him and some of his Villas friends sit through our presentation rehearsals. Actually, he eagerly participated in our efforts and became our biggest fan. We couldn’t have asked for more support! He even went with us on one of our bumpy back road trips to the Oro Blanco mining country. In fact that was the trip that we blew out a tire on Al’s jeep.

“Years of research culminated in our recently published book, Ruby, Arizona – Mining, Mayhem, and Murder. Dad was very proud of our efforts on the book, and thankfully he lived to see and enjoy the product. Drawing on his business background, he was keenly interested in how we marketed the book. He helped us put together a mailing list for our initial book announcement brochure. He couldn’t believe how many books we sold on a supposedly narrow subject, an old mining district and the mining camp of Ruby. (To date we’ve sold over 800 copies of the book.) We remember with a smile how mad Dad would get when someone he knew, and he thought should buy a book, didn’t.

“The family was all set to celebrate Dad’s 90th birthday on October 1st of this year. We were going to have a party at Bob’s house with family and a few friends. We had asked everyone to write a letter about Dad, relating his or her fondest experiences with him. But then Dad went and died suddenly on September 12th. Thankfully, he was active until the end, attending the Pops Concert in Tucson’s Randolph Park the night before his death, and didn’t suffer a lingering final illness.

“It was his Villas friends that we had invited to celebrate Dad’s 90th birthday. We decided to go ahead with the party anyway, a celebration of Dad’s life. Al made a wonderful DVD of family photos of Dad. The out-of-town family and special friends gathered again. We switched the venue to Santa Catalina Villas so more people could attend. We shared the happy experiences we remembered with Dad. It was a rousing party – at least as rousing as 90-year olds can have.

“Since we didn’t get a chance to give Dad our letters at the party, let us close this column with a few words directly to him: Dad, thank you for being so generous with your time, support, affection, and yes, your money. Thank you for being our friend as well as our Father. You were a gentleman’s gentleman and that characteristic positively affected not only us, but also everyone you met. We particularly appreciate your loving support to our families. You will be missed dearly. Happy Birthday, Dad!”

Dad helps change a tire on a rough off-road trip to Oro Blanco’s mining country. (Photo by Bob Ring, 1998)

Clinton E. Ring, a gentleman’s gentleman and our biggest fan, lives on in our hearts.

Next time: Wayne Winters’ Battle with the Jolly Green Giants
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