With the pandemic socially distancing and isolating people, Ron Reid set out to reconnect.
The long-time, Minden-based volunteer’s children said Reid called and emailed others throughout COVID-19. He messaged friends from across his life, even those who he had not talked to in years.
At one point, the 73-year-old could not sleep and got up at 4 a.m. to finish a letter to a former boss. That was two days before he passed suddenly due to a heart attack Dec. 10.
“He was always there for people,” Reid’s son, Simon Reid, said. “If somebody needed something, or if he saw there was a need for someone, he would always be there to volunteer and help.”
The elder Reid became a well-known figure in the community. The biologist first moved to the County for a temporary position at the Dorset Research Centre in 1976. But he would go on to spend the rest of his life in the area.
Reid’s early days in Minden came with some struggle. His farmhouse burned down – right around Christmas – just two years after he arrived. The family with two young children lost everything, but Reid’s daughter, Jody Berringer, said the community response inspired him in the years to come.
“The community just came out and gave a lot,” Berringer said. “Because of how much the community gave, I think that was a really big driver for him to continue to give back.”
He acted as a long-time chair for the Help A Village Effort (HAVE), helping them secure hundreds of thousands in grant funding. The charity helps provide clean drinking water and sanitary facilities for rural villages in India, including more than 1,200 wells since the organization was founded in 1982. Reid also volunteered and headed a variety of other causes, including the Minden Food Bank where he co-ordinated the Christmas basket program, and the Garlic Festival.
“His positive and happy attitude was really able to attract other people to want to help out,” his other son, Matt Reid, said. “He just made people feel good about helping out and that would get more people involved.”
“It wasn’t about what he could achieve. It was about what was needed and how he could help get there,” Simon Reid said.
But despite a busy volunteer life, he made time for family.
“He was always there for us,” Simon Reid said. “Playing and helping and encouraging and making us think we could do what we wanted to do, be what we wanted to be.”
Berringer described him as a passionate environmentalist, working as a research scientist for the provincial government and installing solar panels at his home. Reid also enjoyed gathering syrup from dozens of maple trees, planting gardens and farming cows and rabbits on a small scale.
“They were modern-day homesteaders,” Simon Reid said of his parents. “He always threw himself wholeheartedly into his hobbies.”
The community responded to Reid’s passing with an outpouring of support and grief. A virtual visitation was held Dec. 16, with a larger celebration of life planned once the pandemic is over.
“Basically, everybody we talked to said, ‘your dad just called me, we hadn’t talked in years, he called me up and we had a great conversation’,” Matt Reid said.
During the virtual service, the Reid children said their father’s example was one to follow.
“Dad will be forever in all our hearts, as the indomitable spirit he always was. He undoubtedly made the world a better place in so many ways, but perhaps most by being open to connection,” Simon Reid said. “Next time you think, ‘I should reach out,’ pull a Ron Reid. Just pick up the phone, jump in the car, and just show up. I’m sure you’ll make someone’s day.”