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Ron Lambe, age 85, of Ashville, NC died on Monday, June 14, 2021 at the VA Hospice in Asheville NC where he received and brought joy to the many friends who visited him.
There will be a Memorial/Celebration of Ron’s Life on June 26, 2021 at the Asheville Masonic Temple, 80 Biltmore St., Asheville, NC 28801. Doors open at 4:30pm followed by a potluck meal at 5:00 pm. A service will begin at 6:30 pm in the Theatre of the Temple and end at 9:00 PM. Dress in a way that feels joyful and comfortable to you.
Ron was a creative man of many talents and interests that he actively pursued. He was a visionary, who devoted his energy to the service of many ideals and communities. His hallmark was his warm charm delivered with easy infectious laughter. This endearing personality was accompanied by tremendous organizational skills and networking expertise.
Ron was born in Greensboro, NC in 1936 and recalls “I was told that there was a tornado that year that destroyed his family’s garage and took all my diapers off the clothes line. Maybe that was an omen.” During high-school, he took dance lessons at an Arthur Murray Studio, studied Roman Catholicism, developed a love for, and skill with the cello, and with his dance partner Barbara won first prize in a graduation dance contest doing the jitterbug. He joined the Army in August, 1954, and went to basic training at Ft. Gordon near Augusta. Advanced training sent him to Fort Jackson, where he learned to type and be a clerk. He was assigned to Fort Ord, California, where he became the Assistant to an Episcopal Chaplain and enjoyed biking from Monterey to Carmel and back. He was then transferred to Korea, where he worked as an assistant to the same Chaplain he had served in California
He was honorably discharged from the Army in June 1957 and returned to North Carolina, enrolled at UNC and majored in Comparative Literature graduating in 1961. Ron found himself in a rut after graduation, and decided to move to San Francisco. He got a job working in record stores which was a natural fit as Ron loved music. While in California he enjoyed being at the focal point of America’s Cultural Revolution as well as exploring his own native inclination to study different spiritual traditions (mostly ancient Eastern Christian Traditions). Always an adventurer, he even bought a small sailboat to explore the bay area. However, in 1978 Ron decided it was time for him to move back to North Carolina, the state he considered home. His plans included attending an Edgar Cayce Conference in Virginia Beach, VA, driving down the coast along the Outer Banks, which he did. He wanted to also travel to Europe, but this did not materialize until years later.
In 1978,Ron attended a Summer Gathering for gay men at Running Water Farm, which was a life changing experience. These gatherings were an exploration in developing supportive community among gay men. They initially grew out of a meeting at the Southeastern Conference for Lesbians and GayMen in Atlanta. At the gathering, the property owner, Mikel Wilson, announced that he wanted to sell the property. Not having a clear idea of his future plans, Ron explored the idea of homesteading there, and returned to visit the Running Water Property after the gathering.
Soon after he arrived there, down the road came Rocky Patt, Peter Kendrick, and John Jones and some other friends who were interested in exploring the property as a possible homestead. After some negotiations Ron and these three men formed Stepping Stone, Inc to pool their resources and they purchased the property in time to host the Fall 1979 Gathering. These gatherings continued for almost ten more years. During those years, the three other original owners moved on to other places. Ron was the consistent resident on this property. His main source of income was contributions donated at gatherings and publishing the reader-written journal RFD A Country Journal for Gay Men Everywhere, which had found its way to Running Water. This magazine had been in production since 1974 by various gay men groups around the country. Ron oversaw this quarterly publication during his ten years at Running Water, before moving it onto the Short Mountain collective, who publish the magazine to this day.
The major ceremony at a gathering was the Heart Circle. A simple ceremony of passing a talking stick talisman that gave each man the floor to share what came from his heart. By providing an emotional center for this sharing, Ron elicited honest meaningful responses in the men. The ten-year-anniversary Gathering at Running Water, in 1988, was the last. After this gathering, Ron Lambe with Raven Wolfdancer and Peter Kendrick, and the help of others, decided to see if the gathering experience could be successfully turned into a more organized conference. Finding a place to host was a challenge. After a little exploration, they discovered that The Mountain, a Unitarian Universalist Retreat Center in Highlands, NC was eager to host this event. Raven suggested naming the conference Gay Spirit Visions, which focused on the spirituality intrinsic to gay men, which was theme explored at Running Water gatherings. Key note speakers were to be a feature of the conference, and the person chosen for this was Harry Hay. Harry Hay is often described as a father of the modern gay rights movement with his forming the Mattachine Society, an upfront un-apologetic gay rights organization in Los Angeles, CA in the 1950’s. Other conference speakers were Andrew Ramer and Franklin Abbott.
This gathering was a success and it was repeated the following year and has been perennial ever since, now having offered a centered spiritual space for thousands of gay men. Ron Lambe’s unique contribution to GSV was his masterful ability to organize, convene, and MC all of the beginning GSV conferences with grace and warmth. He is the elder who established the model for all those who have followed in convening and conducting these conferences.
While at Running Water, Ron also developed intense interest in environmental causes and became very involved with the environmental organization The Western Carolina Alliance. In 1986 he moved into a leadership position, traveling a great deal, and commuting to Asheville often. In 1987 Ron made the decision to move to Asheville. He bought a small house in West Asheville. His work for the Alliance was successful in creating awareness, getting people involved and promoting donations to keep it going. He retired from the Alliance twelve years later in1998.
In his later years in Asheville, Ron Lambe centered more of his energy on music. Music was always an interest as he did play the piano and compose music even during his time in the Running Water cabin. In Asheville he again took up studying the cello. He formed cello groups that have enjoyed sharing music for many years.
Ron started a concert series at St Matthias church which was helpful in saving the church as well as providing a valued resonant space for musicians to perform. The amazing twenty-four year run of this concert series required the extensive planning of numerous concerts. It was a monumental undertaking of organization, coordinating, and networking. Capabilities which Ron had spent a lifetime honing.
Ron Lambe also ran for city council in Asheville. The run, though unsuccessful, did open opportunities to serve on the Transit Board, where his vision sought to improve the services the city provides.
Never ignoring the spiritual dimension of life, Ron also became a member and intensely involved with the Masons and their wonderful Temple in Asheville. He worked in positions which honored the building and the traditions of the lodge.
In addition Ron was adept at collecting Minton China, cataloging an inherited glass paper weight collection, a regular participation as an ardent Bridge Player, as well as making modest but charming additions to his tiny West Asheville home.
Ron Lambe, Renaissance Man of Asheville, deeply loved, and cherished for his many contributions, will be missed.