Shinn column: Triumph of spirit -The Rev. Dr. Ron Molrine did not let diabetes define his life
By Susan Shinn
The medal is engraved with these words, “Triumph for Man and Medicine ó For 50 courageous years with diabetes.”
The Rev. Dr. Ron Molrine did not let the disease define his life.
Rather, he was defined by his vocation as an Episcopal priest, as a husband of 52 years to Char, as a father of three daughters and a son, as a grandfather of eight.
But having diabetes since age 22 eventually took its toll on Ron’s body. He died June 5. He’d had a heart attack after surgery to amputate a toe.
On Wednesday, his family will travel to St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Trexlertown, Pa., where Ron served 21 years. There, his ashes will be interred in a memorial garden.
Not only did Ron build this congregation and one other, he oversaw building programs for both parishes.
Along the way, someone joked that he had an “edifice complex.”
When Ron and Char celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2005, they created an oral history for their family, bound in a lovely blue cover. It’s titled, “The Porch Light Is On! The Story of Ron and Char Molrine.”
The story did not end there.
That December, the Molrines moved to Trinity Oaks. Because of Ron’s work as a chaplain at a continuing-care retirement community in Williamsburg, the couple decided this would be the right move for them.
They chose the area because daughter Julie lives in Kannapolis. They knew they should be close to one child. With daughters Charlotte in Pennsylvania and Debbie in Boston (too cold) and son Ron in Florida (too hot), they figured North Carolina would be just right.They looked in the phone book and found Trinity Oaks. They came to visit and liked what they saw.
Trinity Oaks is an active retirement community, and the Molrines were among its most active members.
With Ron serving as president of the Trinity Oaks Residents Association (or TORA ó is that just the coolest name or what?), the couple hosted Sundaes on Sunday, get-togethers with a dozen residents at a time. The couple opened their cottage for tours. They served as co-editors of “The Acorn,” the community’s quarterly newsletter. They joined the Singers and Ringers. (“We just sang,” Char says.)
When the Trinity Oaks bus pulled out for the symphony or the theater, they were on it.
“That’s kinda the way our life has always been,” Char says. “Ron had his energy here.”Meanwhile, Char reached out in the larger community. A retired guidance counselor, she has tutored at North Rowan Elementary School, volunteered at Rowan Helping Ministries and is a literacy volunteer.
The Molrines were interdependent, Char says, “but we had our own independent lives. I would never tell anybody I was a minister’s wife, because they put you in a box. I didn’t want to be defined by my husband’s profession.”
That Ron lived 50-plus years with type 1 diabetes is “amazing” to Char.
He was one of only 2,700 recipients to receive commendation from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston since their recognition program began in 1970.”Basically, our whole life has been involved with diabetes,” she says. “You just learned to live a very structured life as far as eating.”
Even so, Ron took his family on month-long camping trips during the summertime. In retirement, Ron and Char traveled extensively. They cruised to Hawaii in November, and cruised the Panama Canal in February.
Looking back, Char realizes Ron was tiring more easily. He’d had bypass surgery seven years ago.
“I just think his heart was wearing out,” she says. The diabetes led to his heart problems.The decision to move to Trinity Oaks gave them much peace of mind.
“We made plans and then we lived our lives,” Char says. “Ron and I felt we had to celebrate life every single day when you have diabetes.”
At 6 feet 4, Ron was a big man, with a big presence. But was also man of peace. He worked for consensus and inclusiveness, Char says.
Although they had no idea that Ron would have a heart attack, they did talk about the upcoming procedure.
“We said, there’s nothing that’s going to happen that we can’t handle together and God will be with us,” Char says.
When Ron fell ill, all four children came to the hospital, and spent the week he died together.
“There was a lot of fun and laughter,” Char says. “It was kind of the last gift he gave us. It was just perfect.”
The last lines of the couple’s book now seem especially perfect, too.
“We have learned over 50 years there is no room for fear. There is always God and He always has us in his care.”
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