Sunday in the Park
June 25, 2010
Within a week of each other, they are leaving us. Ron and Bob: two men of old-fashioned high standards who simply did their jobs with remarkable passion against the odds. They shaped the foundations of Park City over a collective of nearly 50 years.
Ron and I came to Park City about the same time in the late ’70s. The town was under a grand-jury investigation for corrupt practices in City Hall, mostly the building department, in a town that was very busy building. I met the former building official in the Down Under of the Claim Jumper. City Council meetings all ended there and much city business was conducted there. A couple of stiff whiskeys could have your project approved and your permits issued, all in one lively evening. And though he liked his whiskey neat and as much as the next guy, the new chief building official brought in during the investigation never combined the business with his pleasure. The gifted council of that era, including Bob Wells and Tina Lewis, found Ron working in Salt Lake City and offered him the combined job of chief building official and fire marshal, as I recall. Ron Ivie came to town and all the rules changed. Well, actually, all rules became rules.
His concern for public safety changed not only insurance rates in a town that had previously burned down. Ron patiently explained codes to me — a new reporter — and the reasons for them. He walked me through more blueprints for more buildings than ever got built. When I became editor, he continued with that education on why all historic buildings simply had to be retrofitted for fire safety.
When I left the paper and became involved with building the largest public gathering space in Summit County, it was nothing but challenges. School districts in Utah don’t have to abide by local planning and zoning codes. Or building requirements. Ron helped me understand a complex project and he crossed the line from his city position to ensure that The Eccles Center was built to the highest standards possible. And then, when it was complete, he helped me understand mass-gathering rules and fire codes. And when the beautiful Chinese dance troupe, Lily Cai, wanted to perform holding lit candles in flowing gowns, he allowed it so long as I had firemen in the wings holding fire extinguishers. He was serious when he wasn’t laughing with that twinkle in his eye. He wrote legislation that became not only a model statewide but nationwide.
Ron’s also a cowboy, with a working ranch in Duchesne with fences to mend and water gates to open to irrigate fields where his horses run.
Ron is one of the good guys.
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Bob trained to be one of the God guys. He came to town following the very popular Irish priest who started Sunday service as Saturday flipped over, often in the aforementioned Down Under. Pat would leave at 2 a.m., reminding the oft tardy crowd, in his deep brogue, "The 9 a.m. mass will be starting at 9 a.m."
Like Ron, Bob was brought in for a different job. Those of us who spent years in the fundraising world watched in awe as the new priest not only had the construction of a controversial new church approved but then quietly raised the funds for its successful completion and maintenance.
Along with his ability to make good church into good theater and deliver thoughtful homilies, that could have been enough for the cowboy-boot-wearing priest. But Park City’s racial divide then was unkind and unconscious, and so Father Bob stepped up. By speaking out publicly and providing a haven for Hispanics, he taught by example what it means to be fully Christian. His embracing the gay community and defying his church to hold mass for them, as he declared his celibate same-sex preference, nearly cost him his job. It did cost him some parishioners. And it sent him into the kind of dark night of the soul that can crush one or make one — as he became — stronger.
He was the best dinner partner I was ever lucky enough to have. Smart, quick, well read, he always livened up the table. His kindness with my friends with illness or loss was the very comfort one would hope for. I watched him "marry ’em and bury ’em." And watched so many of us, without a church home, get closer to God by being closer to Bob.
My heroes have always been cowboys. Park City loses two of the very best this month. As they ride off into their own spectacular sunsets of adventures, they need to know deeply they will be missed. They rode in when we needed them most and our town was blessed to have them both. They leave behind safe and solid foundations and faith we can celebrate all our Sundays in the Park
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.