“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.” – “The Dash,” by Linda Ellis
Dr. Ronald (Ron) Adelbert Gum fought the good fight with grace and courage over many years until, peacefully slumbering, he succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease while living out his final days at Holmes Park Hospice House in Medford, Oregon.
He was born in San Antonio on June 19, 1938, to proud parents, Adelbert Eugene (A.E.) and Irene Wendland Gum. Throughout his 80-plus years, Dr. Gum reached toward and accomplished his goals with fierce determination.
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, his path was forged.
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, where the now Lt. Col. Gum was named Assistant Chief of Plastic Surgery Services. His tour ending, he was assigned to Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio, and 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 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. 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 childhood anomalies and disfigurements. He received recognition awards for his unselfish and dedicated service to the children of the El Paso region.
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 lived in El Paso after his second retirement from his civilian practice, and in 2002 bought a home 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.
We are forever indebted to all of Dr. Gum’s tender, loving caregivers, in our home, at Skylark Memory Care, Ashland, Oregon, and the Holmes Park Hospice Home who blessed our lives over many years.
Celebration of Life Memorial Service in El Paso is at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 10 at St. Clement’s Anglican Church, 810 N. Campbell. Pastor Lenae Rasmussen and Pastor Ron Thomson, presiding. Burial at 2:30 p.m. at Fort Bliss National Cemetery, 5200 Fred Wilson, in El Paso.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Ascencion Lutheran Church, University of Texas Medical Branch Department of Plastic Surgery, Friends of Hospice, Providence Hospice Foundation, National Alzheimer’s Association or your local Alzheimer’s Association.