Obituary: Ronald Robert Whitacre

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February 9, 1940 – October 31, 2022

Ronald Whitacre, loving partner, artist, and father, passed away peacefully on October 31, 2022 in his home in Laguna Beach, California. He was 82 years old. His last days were eased by calls and visits from friends and family and the loving care of his partner Kathryn Slattery and her daughter, Erin.

Ron was born in his paternal grandparents’ home in Ludlow Falls, Ohio, on February 9, 1940, the only child of Cleo and Robert Whitacre. When Ron was two, his father was killed in a traffic accident, and after that tragedy, he was raised by his mother and his maternal grandmother in West Milton, Ohio. Ron exhibited an early talent for art, and his mother took him regularly to the Dayton Art Institute for classes in drawing and painting. As a youth, Ron was an outstanding student. His friend since childhood said of Ron’s days at Milton Union High School, “He got all As. Never studied. Never opened a textbook.” Besides continuing to study art, Ron became a ham radio operator and talked to people around the world in Morse code. He also developed his life-long love of jazz, and self-taught himself drums, becoming proficient enough to sometimes be invited to play with jazz combos in area nightclubs.

Ron married his high school sweetheart in 1957, and by his early twenties, he was the father of three small children, two daughters and a son. In 1964, he moved his young family to Long Beach, California, where he loved the warm weather and the ocean. When his marriage ended in 1967, Ron moved to Laguna Beach and blossomed as a sculptor. In 1968, 1969, and 1970, Ron exhibited at the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts, and in later years, he was a regular participant at the Art-A-Fair. Over his 50-plus-year career, Ron created commissioned works for institutions, businesses, and private individuals.

Ron’s original sculptures, executed mainly in welded steel, but sometimes carved in wood, most often depict the human figure or animals in motion. Noted for their balance, power, and sensitivity, his work was often inspired by the grace and movement of dancers, acrobats, musicians, and goddesses. His best-known sculpture, “Harmony,” has arched over the entrance of the Laguna Beach Art-A-Fair since 1998. Currently, two of his large, expressive figures can be seen on public display: “Finish Line” at the Newport Beach Civic Center Park and “Reaching Man” at the Santa Clarita Trailhead Project.

Besides his artistic work, Ron followed many other career paths. Over the years, he worked as a designer and representative of jewelry for a national firm, a bartender, a cross-country trucker driving his own 18-wheeler, a real estate agent, a manager for a security firm, and a retail salesperson for a boating and nautical outfitter. Ron loved to read the classics and long books about art and politics. In his mid-40s, he became an avid skydiver, scuba diver, sailor, and traveler. During the last six years of his life, Ron returned full-time to his artistic career and was extremely productive. He leaves a legacy of more than twenty pieces on public display, countless pieces in the homes of collectors, and an inventory of over forty sculptures and dozens of drawings which can be seen on his website: www.whitacrestudio.com.

Ron is survived by his daughter, Rachel Cameron, two granddaughters, Ashley and Kevin, two great-grandchildren, his partner, Kathryn Lang-Slattery and her daughter, Erin Slattery, and a son, Michael.

A Celebration of Life and retrospective art show is being planned for later this winter, date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, please support a local artist with a purchase of their work.

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