Ron Johnson’s legacy will save South Kitsap lives

Benefactor donates land in appreciation of SKFR’s work

PORT ORCHARD — On a winter day in December 2006, Ron Johnson slipped and fell on ice outside his South Kitsap home and suffered a significant injury. His life partner quickly picked up the phone and called Kitsap 911.

A crew from South Kitsap Fire and Rescue was dispatched from its Fircrest Station and arrived at the home of Johnson and life partner within minutes. The injured man’s life was saved and he recovered from the potentially fatal fall.

According to his partner of 50 years, Robert Roblee, Johnson was so grateful for the care he received from an SKFR crew that snowy day that he bequeathed property he owned to be used to purchase a new ambulance for the agency. Following his death and according to his wishes, the property transfer was made last week, and it will be sold, with proceeds going to SKFR.

The fire district will purchase a new ambulance like the one that responded to his home in 2006. However, according to Johnson’s instructions, the unit will be “state of the art.”

“Ron wanted South Kitsap Fire and Rescue to have the most modern medic unit available to save as many lives as possible,” Roblee said on March 4. “He wanted to do something that made a difference in people’s lives.”

Fire Chief Jeff Faucett was understandably grateful for the generous gift.

“We will save lives in our community, thanks to Ron Johnson’s legacy,” Faucett said.

Johnson’s devotion to the South Kitsap community was deeply rooted. His family has long ties to SKFR. His parents bought property in the early 1940s on Sedgwick Drive in Southworth, just up from the ferry landing. People remember the family farm populated with donkeys and goats at one corner of the intersection. The only political signs his parents would allow over the years were those supporting fire levies and bonds for the agency, Roblee said.

A 1961 graduate from South Kitsap High, Johnson’s connection to SKFR was up-close and personal. His brother Jerry served as a volunteer firefighter in the 1970s, Roblee said.

The partners met in Seattle in 1970. Roblee, a native Seattleite, wanted to live a peaceful life in the country, so the two bought 20 acres in South Kitsap, where they lives for six years, and added emus, alpacas and one pig to the family farm. After living in Seahurst for 15 years, the couple returned to Kitsap County in 1992, where they lived until Johnson’s passing on May 7, 2021.

Johnson’s celebration of life was held July 25, 2021, at Pilgrim Firs, and Roblee gets choked up talking about it.

“As a gay couple, we have made South Kitsap our home for many years and I am trying to fulfill his wishes of giving back to the community where he was raised,” he said.

It can take up to two years until a custom medic unit can be delivered, Faucett said. When the apparatus arrives, a ceremony in honor of the South Kitsap benefactor will be held.

“Every life we save with this apparatus is going to be a legacy to Ron Johnson,” the fire chief said. “We cannot save lives and property without the support of the community. Ron is a local South Kitsap kid. I know he’s still out there and can hear us when we say, ‘Thank you for getting ’er done.’”

— Lieutenant Laine Desilets of SKFR contributed to this story.