There are people who touch lives, who change lives for the good, who have a facility for making people happier, stronger, better. There aren’t enough of them, but they’re among us.
Not many of them play in Ron Anderson’s league.
Anderson, the multi-gifted actor, director and founding spirit of the Springer Theatre Academy, died early Wednesday after a nearly two-year cancer fight. It was a battle he fought with indescribable courage, and because his experience could (and did, and does) help so many others, it was as public as anything on the Springer stage.
For nearly 20 years, since he returned to his native Georgia from a children’s theater program in Milwaukee, he and college friend Paul Pierce have been the artistic and creative forces that have sustained and grown the Springer Opera House.
But it is Ron Anderson’s love for and leadership of Springer Theatre Academy that made him such a beloved friend, teacher and mentor to so many.
One of his “alumni” and close friends, who was with Anderson and his family in his last moments, is Theresa Garcia Robertson.
“He has this knack for making you feel as if you are the most important person in the room,” Robertson told the Ledger-Enquirer’s Chuck Williams. “He is a builder of confidence, of courage, and of the ability to fail with pride ... at least you tried.”
As news of Anderson’s passing spread throughout the day Wednesday, tributes too numerous to count poured out on Facebook and other social media. There’s not enough room here to include a hundredth of the words of affection, friendship and respect, but representative sample would include this from retired television journalist Dick McMichael, who wrote, “I can't think of anyone in Columbus, Georgia who had more personal friends than Ron Anderson, and I was fortunate to be one of them.”
Marquette McRae McKnight posted, “… We must, we must, we must … laugh with one another as Ron laughed with all of us. Thank you Ron, for the wonderful gift of your life.”
And from local journalist Jim Lynn, a former Ledger-Enquirer reporter and editor who profiled Anderson in Columbus and the Valley magazine, “I will forever cherish those moments and the contribution Ron made to my family and to the human fabric of this community.”
Anderson’s devastating diagnosis in October 2014 came right on the heels of his announced retirement; in the wake of that news, an already planned retirement party at the Springer was a bittersweet love fest — and, due to the inspiration of Anderson himself, far more sweet than bitter. At that celebration of a life and a career, his colleague and friend Pierce said of the crowd on hand, “Each one of these people could be a volume in the Encyclopedia of Ron Anderson.”
What Anderson made clear at that gathering, as he did for the next two years, was that he was going to spend his time among us living, not dying. And so he did.
The life of Ron Anderson was a bravura performance. And what a magnificent final act.