Roaming the County with Ronnie, one last time.

At first I thought it was a joke. The text on the website was so short. Sudden. Poorly written.

Ronnie Gallagher, Sports Editor of the Salisbury Post, had died from an upset stomach.

At least that is what the website said.

After a frantic few minutes of trying to contact folks that I had worked with at the Post, indeed Ronnie had passed away. Nobody I spoke with knew why, but the fact remained — Ronnie was dead.

When I came to the Post several years ago, my duty was to take a newsroom and company that had largely resisted working online and pull them into the present. They were a print-first company, and many people that were there did not want anything to do with the internet. Heck, many of them resented my presence.

But not Ronnie.

Ronnie understood where we needed to be in regards to the newspaper being online. Together we worked to create a weekly sports show “Roaming the County”, where Ronnie would interview players or coaches from local teams that were headed into a big game of some sort. Ronnie loved it, and so did I. It was hard work, but it was fun.

I finally got them to start using twitter and facebook, and we were updating scores and key plays throughout the evening on the Post’s web properties and through social media channels.

I couldn’t have done that without Ronnie.

I haven’t spoken to Ronnie since I quit the post several years ago. Even though I lived in the area, I didn’t subscribe to the Post or read it online daily. I hadn’t heard that he had health problems, but apparently he’d had a heart attack recently.

One of my friends still at the Post said he didn’t look very good on Wednesday.

Ronnie always had a good story. Sometimes he told them more than once, but they were always good enough to hear over and over. He was one of the people that congratulated me when I got out of the newspaper business.

I’ll never forget Roaming the County with Ronnie and how he wanted to give every person we interviewed a Cheerwine and Moon Pie.

The video here at the top of this post is from one of our first Roaming the County episodes back in 2008.

And hearing about how Ronnie left behind a wife and two young men that will be without their father as they enter a crucial time in their lives makes me feel physically ill. As a father myself, you think you’ll be there forever for your kids.

But you won’t. That’s the cold reality. Enjoy them. Enjoy life. Do what you love to do for a living. Make sure your affairs are in order and that you are prepared for whatever life (or death) may throw at you.

RIP Ronz. Thanks for the memories.

Read a beautifully written piece by the Post’s Mark Wineka regarding Ronnie and his passing.