Ron Hamilton and his wife, Shelly, were graduate assistants when I was a freshman in college. They were well-known on campus, perhaps because they were both involved in most school music productions, or perhaps because Shelly’s father, Frank Garlock, was a well-known speaker and the song leader at one of the largest churches in town.
A few years into their marriage, Ron developed a problem with his left eye. After numerous tests, the doctor recommended surgery to see what the trouble was. If nothing serious was wrong, Ron would wake up with a sore eye. But if the trouble was cancer, the eye would have to be removed.
When Ron woke up, his wife told him his eye was gone. Though this was a trial, they were thankful the cancer was contained within the eye and had not spread to his brain, as the doctor had feared.
Some time after his surgery, Ron brought out the cards and verses people had sent him and wrote what became his signature song, “Rejoice in the Lord.” The lyrics contain imagery between spiritual and physical sight.
In darkness, He giveth a song. . .
I could not see through the shadows ahead
So I looked at the cross of my Savior instead . . .
Now I can see testing comes from above. . .
When Ron came home with a “pirate patch,” kids began calling him “Patch the Pirate.” Ron had written a few other songs, and parents asked him if he could write some songs for children. Ron adopted the persona of Patch the Pirate and his wife became Sissy Seagull (mainly because she had laryngitis when they started taping and could only “squawk”). Their first recording took off with parents clamoring for more. They currently have some 42 “Patch the Pirate Adventures,” each usually around a theme, with a story and several songs.
My children listened to Patch the Pirate tapes for years as they went to sleep at night. I sang this to them and to my grandson:
Ron became a local celebrity. We attended a few of his appearances at local Christian bookstores. My youngest two each performed in Patch the Pirate musicals when they were in elementary school.
One of our former pastors was an assistant pastor at the church where Ron served as song leader and music director. Our former pastor said that Ron would quietly visit children in the hospital as Patch.
Many of the songs that I think were originally written for children have ministered to me over the years. One was “How Can I Fear?”
Another was “A Tender Heart.”
“Abba, Father” was a favorite of mine and my youngest son’s. It especially meant a lot to me when recovering from transverse myelitis.
Ron wrote a number of fun songs for the Patch adventures, too, like “The Poochie Lip Disease” and “I Love Broccoli.“
Ron and his family traveled to minister in churches. Shelly’s father had opened Majesty Music, which became an outlet for Patch tapes, CDs, and songbooks as well as the adult music Ron and Shelly wrote.
Later, “Patch clubs” were formed for children to participate in local churches. Now there is a Patch the Pirate app, with the Hamiltons’ daughter and son-in-law taking over the reins.
BBN Radio plays the Patch adventures on Saturday mornings.
The Hamiltons had no way of knowing that an eye surgery would lead to all this.
Yet life was not always rosy. Their oldest son, Jonathan, developed mental problems and took his own life on Mother’s Day, 2013. Jonathan had wanted to serve God with music and had written music for several songs, among them “Higher Ground” and “You Are Always Good.” Ron shared a bit of testimony from that time here:
Then several years ago, Ron was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. He’s been slowly declining the last few years. Shelly has been keeping folks updated via her Facebook page.
Ron just slipped into eternity yesterday.
If there is anyone who has used all their talents for the Lord, it was Ron. Only eternity will tell how God has used him.
Ron would not have wanted to be put on a pedestal. But I like what Elisabeth Elliot said about pedestals in A Lamp for My Feet:
Pedestals are for statues. Usually statues commemorate people who have done something admirable. Is the deed worth imitating? Does it draw me out of myself, set my sights higher? Let me remember the Source of all strength (“The Lord is the strength of my life,” says Ps 27:1 AV) and, cheered by the image of a human being in whom that strength was shown, follow his example.
I didn’t know Ron personally, though I had met him a few times. But he seemed a quiet, humble man who earnestly desired to share God’s truth through song and story. Ron wrote a song for his father titled “I Saw Jesus in You,” but many of us can see we saw Jesus in Ron.
Ron also wrote “Goodnight” for his father as well. The first verse speaks of a father putting children to bed. The second tells of the grown son putting his dad to bed. The last verse looks forward to seeing in the morning those we’ve said “Goodnight” to on earth.
Goodnight, Ron. We can’t thank you enough for the way you have ministered to our hearts for God for more than forty years. We’ll see you in the Morning.