Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Ron's History

Gone But Not Forgotten

Ron.jpg Captain Ronald G. Bliss, United States Air Force Academy Class of 1964, died of cancer in Houston, TX on February 8, 2005.

We all lost a hero when Ron Bliss passed away after a six-year struggle against cancer. I was with Ron about 10 days before his death. We spent several hours talking about life and death. He told me he was going to ask St. Peter two questions when he arrived at the gates of heaven: “Was I a good man?” and “Did I make a difference?” No doubt St. Peter's answers to both were positive. Ron was one of the best, and he made a great difference in the lives of everyone he touched.

After pilot training Ron went to Nellis AFB, NV for his F-105 checkout and then headed for Takhli AB, Thailand. He was shot down over North Vietnam on his 37th mission and spent the next six and a half years as a Prisoner of War. Many of us wore his name on a copper bracelet during those years. His wife, Charlene, and son Erik rejoiced when on March 4, 1973 he was released and rejoined his family. A second son, Jason, was born shortly thereafter. After returning from Hanoi, Ron gave the Air Force another chance, but it was not to be. He said that he had already done everything in an airplane one could wish for, and he opted for a second career as a lawyer. Ron was hired by the prestigious Houston firm Fulbright & Jaworski, quickly became a partner, and was the guiding force behind the development of the firm's intellectual property division into an internationally recognized force of 130 attorneys. If the Air Force was Ron's first family, Fulbright & Jaworski became his second family. When Ron was diagnosed with cancer, he didn't take it personally. He considered it just another challenge, like his time in Hanoi, that he and Charlene would endure and defeat. The staff at M.D. Anderson became Ron's third family and together they engaged the new enemy. Initially it looked like the battle had been won, but the cancer returned. In spite of his pain. Ron was always positive and an inspiration to all of us. He went on with his life the only way he knew how - full speed ahead.

Ron attended our 40th class reunion in September 2004. Who will ever forget Harry Pearce's emotional presentation delivered via the telephone when Ron's name was the first of 10 POWs from ‘64 to be called? After much prodding, Ron and five other former POWs from ‘64 stood together on the floor to receive a standing ovation from the class. Ron later talked about how much that evening meant to him. He said that the finest honor a man can receive is the respect of his peers. While this was true that evening in September 2004, in a greater sense Ron Bliss had no peers.

Nineteenth Squadron Class of ‘64 came together in Houston in late January of this year for what was to be a final visit with Ron. None of us will forget his positive spirit and the sense of peace that radiated from this amazing individual. Ron was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on March 4,2005, the 32nd anniversary of his release from Hanoi. While not planned in advance, Charlene was sure that Ron had orchestrated this auspicious timing from his new home.

Many at Ron's memorial service in Houston and again at his funeral in Arlington were touched by the comments of one of Ron's colleagues from Fulbright & Jaworski who read a tribute from the popular novel Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry that was carved by the principal character on the gravestone of a fallen comrade. All who knew Ron can make their own slight changes to these words to reflect Ron's impact on their lives. Comments included, "Served with me for 30 years," "Twenty-one engagements against the Comanche and Kiowa," "Cheerful in all weathers," "Never shirked a task," and "Splendid behavior," just to name a few.

“Was I a good man?” “Did I make a difference?” Ron. the rest of us only hope to be half the man you were, We all thank you for touching our lives and showing us what it means to live life to the fullest.

(Mike Robbins and the rest of the ‘64 Playboys of 19th Squadron, Gone But Not Forgotten, Checkpoints, July 2005)
[ Ron Bliss - True American Hero ]
[ Flying With A True American Hero ]
[ Tribute To A Hero ]
from April 2005 Checkpoints - written by Ron himself
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