Ron Hampton has gone by a lot of nicknames over the years: from “Blackie” in his childhood to “Country” during his Vietnam-era military service and “Rental Ron” – a name attributed to his former occupation.
But to the folks at Stafford Suites in Sumner, he’s just plain old Ron – musician, entertainer and friend.
“I love everything about him,” said Rita Storino of the 66-year-old musical entertainer. “I listen to him all the time. He’s really a nice man.”
Rosalie Atkinson thought so, too. “His music is varied.”
Hampton performs monthly at the retirement community with the Icicle River Band, where his 1966 Fender guitar can be heard alongside Dick Yacky on rhythm guitar. The friends’ wives, Darlene Hampton and Ruthie Yacky, join in, too.
“I write almost everything I do,” Hampton said. “I’ve written upward of 600 songs and thousands of poems.”
Writing has become a passion for Hampton. Known as “The Bard,” his poetry first appeared in The Snoqualmie Reporter, followed by the Sumner Reporter and is frequently published within this paper’s pages. He has developed a loyal following of both his music and prose – a talent that began as a young boy under circumstances many might call heartbreaking.
Born in Rock Springs, Wyo., Hampton was one of two sets of twins born to a family of 10. As a middle child he was often overlooked yet expected to pull his share of the work.
“We were fruit tramps,” he said. “We went where there was work. We picked cotton and raisin grapes in California during the middle years of World War II. In Oregon we picked beans and berries, along with other fruit in eastern Washington.”
Throughout each move he sought security and stability.
“In grade school, writing was my medium,” he said. “As a middle child, I was the forgotten child. I got lost in the reading and into a world of books; I didn’t like my life so I created my own.” That world was born after an acquaintance uttered stinging remarks.
“(They) told me, ‘You’re (expletive),’” he said. “‘ You’ll never amount to nothing.’”
What was spoken in bitterness served only as a catalyst for Hampton’s need to write more passionately. “It still drives you,” he said of the memory. “The fire is raging – they’re not embers. I still use it.”
And use it, he does; Hampton turned the memory of the slanderous words into a means of reaching out to others.
“I am a man of compassion,” he said. “I especially love old people. Music is a medium that I can use to get across to them. When you talk to them and look in their eyes, you know they absolutely love you because they know you’re giving your time.”
That time is spent with folks like Sharon Engelbert.
“His music touches me,” she said. “I like the lyrics because they’re meaningful.”
Other genres of writing can be meaningful, too, Hampton said – especially portions of a senior’s past.
“Go back in your memory,” he advised. “Don’t let your past slip by. There’s something in your past that can help.”
While Hampton has prompted others to find a silver lining from their own pasts he, too, is following his own advice after suffering a job lay-off two months ago following a 40-year career in the rental industry. He maintains economic optimism by working on commissioned memorial poems and funeral programs for grieving families. And he still dreams of one day being published in a book.
“Embrace life,” he said. “Live. Live your moments – they’re precious.”
Reach Judy Halone at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-802-8210.