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May 31, 2020

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16 minutes* with Ron Edinger, 1960 BHS grad

He almost drowned in the Buckeye, was paddled in high school, participated in a history-making Panama flyover and lots more

Ron Edinger left Bluffton in the early 1960s, but Bluffton never seemed to leave him. A 1960 BHS grad, the Icon offers this 16-minute* interview with a very loyal Icon viewer who lives in Florida.

So, you attended Bluffton High School?
I was just another face in the crowd. I played baseball and for one season, football.

Can you expand on that?
Yes, I was paddled following a high school assembly, either as a sophomore or junior. Actually, the entire row was paddled. The assembly featured a speaker who encouraged participation from the students. He asked us to clap our hands and the row I happen to sit in must have over-done it. We were stomping our feet. I was sitting in the wrong row.

You’re kidding?
No. It happened.
(Fact check with Rudi Steiner, BHS class of 1961: "This paddling incident did take place. I was in the same assembly.")

Let’s leave high school and go to your career. What happened next?
I attended Bluffton College one year and transferred to the OSU branch in Lima and finished in a five-year engineering program at OSU in Columbus. I became a math teacher at Miami East High School in 1965.

I really wanted to see the world, however. I met a military recruiter and I wanted some adventure in my life. I wanted to get into flight training and I did.

Tell us about that.
I had six months of training in an F4 Phantom and eventually flew 192 combat missions in southeast Asia from November 1969 to November 1970.

After that I applied to the FBI and was accepted to the academy, but didn’t end up going there. (Long story).

Then I became a postal inspector in New York City, but decided that New York living wasn’t for me. So, I met another Air Force recruiter and joined the Air Force Reserve. I flew C-123Ks a couple of years.

I moved to Ft. Walton Beach, Georgia, and worked as a civil engineer, but continued in the Reserve. I flew to Panama in what I thought was a training exercise and ended up participating in the overthrow of Manuel Noriega.

In 1991 I was on-call for Desert Storm.

When did you retire from the Reserve?
I retired in 1994 as a USFA Reserve Colonel. The Reserve and Guard are very demanding positions. You may keep a regular job and I did as an electrical engineer at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida. I retired from there after 10 years, in 2004.

How many flight hours did you rack up?
I flew 4,500 hours, which included 400 combat hours.

So, you set out to see the world and actually saw it. How many countries did you visit or fly over.
Let’s see, Germany Italy, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Panama, Columbia, Peru, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Laos, Viet Nam, Guam, the Philippines, Midway…probably missed some. I’ve been in all 50 states.

I was in Iran before the Shah fell. And, one of the strangest things I witnessed was a World War II Japanese destroyer docked at Midway in 1973.

I’ve learned a lot about other cultures. Yes, I’ve seen the world.

Let’s return to Bluffton for moment.
I can tell you that during school I worked at Jorg Hatchery. I couldn’t eat chickens for years after that.

What was your first car?
It was a 1954 rusted out Chevy Bell-Aire, black with a white roof.

Where did you live in Bluffton when you grew up?
Second house from the county line on Main Street. My brothers are Jim, Jerry and Dick.

Did you take a quarry test?
I almost drowned in the quarry. Seriously. I signed up for swimming lessons and ended up in a class with swimmers much more advanced than I was. The instructor told us to swim across the Buckeye. Everybody did but me. I was exhausted soon after I started. That was my last swim lesson.

Married with children?
My wife, Francie, and I – she’s from Knoxville, Tennessee – have a daughter, Ashley.

*Our interview was fascinating. It lasted much, much longer than 15 minutes, and Ron went way overboard on all types of subjects. Sorry, our note taking wasn’t as fast as he talked.

The Icon and he agreed that we should call this a 16-minute interview. In reality it was a two-part 45-minute, one-of-a-kind discussion. This column barely scratches the surface. And, the Icon apologizes in advance of any factual inaccuracies, but you get the idea: Ron saw the world.