Two-hundred people shared tears and laughter when friends and family said goodbye to Ron Sloan.
The former Central Valley High School basketball star died June 30 of Hodgkins disease at age 34.
Presbyterian minister Greg Horn, a star runningback for CV in 1980 and basketball teammate of Sloan’s, set the poignant and light-hearted tone of the memorial Saturday at the Berean Bible Church.
Sloan’s buddies and basketball teammates from college took it from there.
He could be eccentric and exasperating, they explained in good humor, yet in a way that saw through people’s pretentions and drew out honesty.
They talked of the Ron Sloan I knew, the one who could subtly find out how I felt about a sporting issue. The one who would show up late or sneak out early after struggling at our softball games, but who was spectacular afield and at bat when we won the tournament.
He always called my wife Tambra “Mrs. V,” even though he was only two years younger. He showed up on a moment’s notice with his equipment when we needed a small excavation project and she discovered his crew on a nearby job. He left his truck at our house for us to load shrubs that we pulled, and came by later to haul them away.
When he billed me for the work he always asked if the price was fair.
Horn today is pastor of a church in Englewood, Colo., who befriended the Sloans while a CV student.
Originally the Bear quarterback, Horn was beaten out by Ron’s brother Rick. He was a basketball substitute in Ron’s senior year.
“We each knew Ron from a different and unique perspective,” said Horn. “I got a good perspective of Ron from the bench. You can see everything from there.”
Ron Sloan, he said, and the other speakers bore him out, was unique.
“You can’t describe him any other way,” said Horn.
He had a nickname for everyone. Grandfather Lynn was “Gent” and grandmother Vera was “Doobie”, shortened from “Scoobie Doobie.” At Western Washington University, teammates Brian Burkes was “Jocko” and Bob Franks was “Meat.”
“I chose Ron as a friend because he was eccentric,” said Burkes. “He had a way of drawing you out. There were no secrets. To me he was your yardstick and barometer of character.”
Horn talked about the time their game with hated rival University was on the line with time running out and CV in possession of the basketball.
“For us the outcome would be utter joy or utter despair,” said Horn, “Everybody knew who was going to get the ball, who was going to take the last shot.”
He then digressed, talking about Ron the person, who always gave his best and did it on his own terms.
“He was a deep thinker, in my mind, but he went against the grain. He tried to beat the system,” said Horn.
Many’s the time they tried to get into a movie for free, even though they had the money.
“He could be sarcastic and annoying and be the biggest jerk,” Horn continued.
But there was a method to this seeming madness. “He used it as a weapon. He exposed a lot of the hypocrisy and pretense of others.”
Horn drifted back to the basketball game and the 45-foot shot that Sloan took. It flew into the basket, rattled around and fell out.
“There was no victory for us,” said Horn. “That day what we wanted didn’t happen. In one sense there is no victory for us today.”
But, as in his daily dealings with people, Sloan found a method to his suffering and struggle just as.
“Ron saw his illness as an opportunity, a challenge and learning experience,” said Horn. “Ron discovered that you enjoy each day as a gift from God.”
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