“For that dash represents all the time that he spent alive on earth, and only those who loved him know what that little line is worth” (from “The Dash”, a lovely poem by Linda Ellis).
Dr. Ronald Adelbert Gum (Ron) fought the good fight with grace and courage over many years until finally, peacefully slumbering, succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease while living out his final days in the beautiful Holmes Park Hospice House, in Medford, OR.
He was born in San Antonio, Texas on June 19, 1938 to proud parents, Adelbert Eugene (A.E.) and Irene Wendland Gum. Throughout his 80+ years, Dr. Gum reached toward and accomplished his goals with fierce determination!
He was a huge baseball fan and throughout his youth snagged a lot of fly balls, later signed by the team. He loved playing “sandlot“ baseball with his dad and neighborhood kids, and through the years often remarked, “I wanted to play baseball in the worst way...and I usually did!”
One day Ron’s 8th-grade teacher took her students to the library to check-out books focusing on career options. Ron unearthed a massive tome describing war casualties and the positive outcomes made possible through advances in the healing arts. As a result of this discovery, his future path was forged.
As a student at Jefferson High School in San Antonio, Ron was well-loved by students and teachers alike. Dozens of notes in his yearbook attest to friendship and service. This popular guy was elected senior class president. Posters reading “Stick with Gum” plastered all over the campus won the day!
Ron completed his undergraduate pre-med studies at Texas Lutheran University, Seguin, TX, graduating in three years. Ron joined the US Army on September 4, 1962, at the rank of Captain. After four years, he was awarded the M.D. degree from U.T. Galveston School of Medicine. He completed his internship at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco, CA, followed by a year-long tour in Korea, and his general surgery residency at Tripler Army Hospital, Oahu, Hawaii.
It was in the “Aloha (Love) State” where Captain Gum met “the girl of my dreams”, Mary Ann Mullin. They were married in 1967, at Holy Family Catholic Church in Mary Ann’s hometown of Pasadena, CA. Afterward, they returned to Hawaii to complete his training.
The couple was so excited to be selected to board Matson’s S.S. Luraline, sailing to the mainland in 1969 with precious little first-born Robin Jeannette on-board. Dr. Gum finalized his Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery residency at Walter Reed Army Hospital and headed to his next station at Beaumont Army Hospital in El Paso, TX, where the now Lt. Col. Gum took the position of Asst. Chief of the Plastic Surgery Service. Tour ending, with next assignment to Brooke Army Hospital, San Antonio, TX, Col. Gum was installed as Chief of the Plastic Surgery Department.
During Dr. Gum’s distinguished careers both in the Army and in private practice, he received the following decorations and awards: Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon “I” Legion of Merit, Army Aviation Medical Officer Badge, National Defense Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Certification of Achievement: Awarded “A” Professional Designation by the Department of the Army. Dr. Gum served in leadership and teaching positions over several years, realizing his youthful dream of repairing the serious injuries afflicting men and women of all stripes wounded in service to their country.
In 1982, after 20 years of service in the Army, Dr. Gum retired as a full Colonel and opened a private practice in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in El Paso, TX. He especially enjoyed his years, in partnership with other specialists, operating the El Paso Cleft Palate Clinic, a facility mainly serving children locally and from across the border in Mexico, who suffered from a wide variety of childhood anomalies and disfigurements. He received recognition awards for his unselfish and dedicated service to the children of El Paso. Dr. Gum also participated as Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. He maintained membership in many societies including Fellow; American College of Surgeons, Fellow, American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons; the Educational Foundation of the ASPRS; American Cleft Palate Association; and the El Paso County Medical Association.
Dr. and Mrs. Gum continued living in El Paso after his second retirement from his civilian practice and bought a home in 2002 in Southern Oregon on the Upper Applegate River in Jacksonville to be near family. In an abiding, wholehearted way, Dr. Gum, nicknamed “Dad Gum,” loved and cherished family. Ron and Mary Ann enjoyed many happy years on the Applegate River, welcoming friends and family, gardening, fly fishing, picking blackberries, and watching visiting children, grandchildren and friends laugh, splash, play and float in the water. Dad Gum delighted in his children: Robin Smith (Kenny), Aspen, CO; Casey Gum, (Rhonda), Austin, TX; Bret Gum (Mary Beth), Venice, CA; and his four “grands” - Gracie, William, Dominic, and Gavin.
Always the consummate host, Ron especially enjoyed entertaining, often serving up his legendary smoked barbecued brisket, cheesy jalapeño grits, “no beans about it” chili, and menudo. He always found time to hunt, fish, hike, and ski with family, friends and colleagues. Pastimes also included reading, walking his dogs, listening to and playing music, appreciating the visual arts, and traveling to many exciting places.
In 2013, the Gums relocated to Medford, OR, bringing them closer to medical services and their church.
Ron was preceded in death by his older brother, Lionel Gum, of Wimberley, TX.
Ron’s love of God and steadfast desire to praise and worship Him in prayer and song was an integral part of his life. It began with the Luther League and continued through his high school years, when he was chosen to be a member of the Jefferson HS choir and traveling ensembles. He went on to enjoying membership in several Lutheran churches in his life, singing in the choir and serving on the church council and various committees wherever he was “planted” over the next 62 years. In retrospect, The Gum Family recalls that one day dementia caused this lovely man (born with innate pathfinder abilities) to become very confused as to his whereabouts, even in his home! In his determined effort to find a roadmap in a kitchen drawer, he laid hands on the Ascension Lutheran Church directory, exclaiming, “Aha, this will lead me home!” Finally, rest assured he is Home!
“ … And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”
Ron’s long, painful struggle is over. We may say he died or passed and yet we KNOW...he has never been more alive! His life has been a testament to his enduring Christian faith and hope; not simply a trembling, hesitant faith and hope that perhaps the promises of God may be true. He knew the reasons for the hope that was in him and it was his confident expectation that they cannot be anything else than true!
We are forever indebted to all of Dr. Gum’s tender, loving caregivers, in our home, at Skylark Memory Care, Ashland, OR, and the Holmes Park Hospice Home, Medford, OR, who blessed our lives over many years - especially the seemingly endless love and support of Rob and Pat Randall. Special recognition and gratitude goes to Marya Kain, MS/CMC, Aging Life Care Manager, Interim HealthCare Personal Care & Support Services in Medford, OR. Marya has held our hands and informed our decisions during very challenging times - always conducting herself as a knowledgeable professional while honoring a code of strict confidentiality with beauty, grace, patience, and in a genuine gentle, caring, and compassionate manner.
A memorial service will be held at Ascension Lutheran Church, 675 Black Oak Drive, Medford, on November 10 at 11 o’clock, Pastor Doug Vold presiding. A light lunch will follow.
We would request that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to Ascension Lutheran Church, the University of Texas Medical Branch Department of Plastic Surgery, Friends of Hospice, Providence Hospice Foundation, the National Alzheimer’s Association, or your local Alzheimer’s Association. Contact information below.
Services are entrusted to Perl Funeral Home, 2100 Siskiyou Blvd, Medford, OR. Contact at 541-772-5488, email@example.com.
Celebration of Life Memorial Service in El Paso, TX will take place on Monday, December 10 in St. Clement’s Anglican Church at 11 o’clock located at 810 N Campbell, 79902.
Pastor Lenae Rasmussen and Pastor Ron Thomson, presiding.
Burial at Ft. Bliss National Cemetery, at 2:30 PM, 5200 Fred Wilson Ave., El Paso, TX
Celebration of Life Gathering in Southern California TBA
Donation Contact Information:
Ascension Lutheran Church
675 Black Oak Dr.
Medford, OR 97504
University of Texas Medical Branch
Department of Plastic Surgery
301 University Blvd.
Galveston, TX 77555
Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice
Holmes Park House
217 S Modoc Ave.
Medford, OR 97504
2033 Commerce Drive
Medford, OR 97504
225 N. Michigan Ave. Floor 17
Chicago, IL 60601