Editors note: Friday’s (Jan. 20) Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce Installation & Awards Dinner has been postponed to 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, at Tenaya Lodge due to expected inclement weather.
Ron Colgate is a very private, unassuming, quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of guy, so when he heard the news, his first reaction was “no, no, no. I don’t deserve the recognition.”
Ron’s wife of 55 years, Sherry, who retired from Sierra Tel in 2011 after 34 years, was more enthusiastic about the news, saying, “I was thrilled when I heard. I’m just so excited and proud of Ron. He’s good at everything he attempts to do, and has no ego. When he first saw the Sierra Star story on Facebook, he went through shock, denial and finally acceptance.”
At the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce Installation & Awards Dinner on Feb. 3, Ron will be presented with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his remarkable and continuous contributions to this community, which began four decades ago.
A Sierra Tel employee from 1977 to 2010, Ron retired as a building maintenance supervisor. During those years, he volunteered hundreds of hours at community events, most of them during personal time.
To name just a few, he helped install the first play equipment at the Oakhurst Community Park and volunteered for the Christmas Tree Auction, Community Tree Lighting, Elegant Auction to benefit the park, Boys & Girls Club, River Parkway, Children’s Museum of the Sierra, Oakhurst Branch Library, Mountaineer Days and Heritage Days, Chocolate and Fall festivals, Jazz Festival and Showcase of Schools.
He also volunteers at the Visitors Bureau, and was a former chamber Volunteer of the Year and Angels Amongst Us award winner.
At 83, Ron shows no sign of slowing down, continuing to volunteer at a number of functions and events. One of his favorite memories is a particular entry in the Raymond Parade.
“The parade was a really big deal,” Ron said, “and the phone company used to enter telephone trucks or old cars. One year, my crew and I built a massive float with a telephone pole that Harry (Baker) actually climbed. Harry remained on the pole down the parade route, which startled everyone. We even perched a black crow at the top of pole. We continued to create floats for this event and others, which featured both past and present employees, and often their children. It was fun and challenging for us, and also a source of pride.”
Prior to relocating to Oakhurst, Ron, already in the “giving mode,” was involved with the schools, library and rec center. He worked for the City of San Mateo for nearly 15 years, and was responsible for city lighting and signalized intersections.
The Colgates have four children and eight grandchildren. A tradition for 27 years, the entire family was out last weekend to celebrate Christmas. Their daughter, Cori, who has lived in Missouri for the past 20 years, usually leaves a few days later, but decided to stay a while longer for the chamber dinner. She has asked for time off work to attend the event so she can cheer on her dad.
“Ron has always been there for me and for everyone else,” Sherry added, expressing deep love and admiration for a man she calls rare and the wind beneath her wings.
Other chamber honorees are 2016 Man and Woman of the Year Victor Weitzel and Laura Norma, Business of the Year Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, owned by Brandon and Jessica Steel, and Executive Director Award recipient Carrie Proctor.
Chamber officers to be installed are Betty Linn, president; Melanie Barker, president-elect; Donna Smith, secretary; Andrew Pence, treasurer; and Don Eaves, past president.
“I’m looking forward to serving as chamber president for 2017,” Linn said. “Our vision is in place as we continue to promote and support the economic vitality while honoring the unique lifestyles of our Mountain Area.”
Details: Tickets are $45 per person, available at the chamber. Special room rates are being offered by Tenaya Lodge, call the chamber at (559) 683-7766 for the room code.