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Beaufort loses a ‘bedrock’

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Ron Voegeli – staunch advocate for veterans, children – dies at 77

By Mike McCombs

Sometimes, the word hero is thrown around carelessly.

When it is used in connection with Ron Voegeli, however, you would have a hard time finding anyone in Beaufort who found it misappropriated.

Ronald “Ron” Lee Voegeli, 77, was laid to rest Tuesday, Jan. 7 in Beaufort National Cemetery with full military honors. He died New Year’s Day in Beaufort Memorial Hospital. He had been dealing with numerous health issues.

Beaufort’s veterans and those who work and advocate for the prevention of the abuse of children will feel the loss. They were the causes to which he dedicated his life.

We “lost a bedrock of our community in Ron Voegeli who served his country courageously and paid a personal price for the defense of democracy, cared for veterans from all services in need and was a champion for providing love and care for abused or about to be abused children,” Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said in his newsletter.

“A national hero, after his military service Ron became a local hero and will be remembered as a legend for helping those who needed what they otherwise may not have received. This is a hard act to follow, but hopefully Ron touched so many lives. The many of us he gently touched will follow in his footsteps helping others in our community and beyond. Thanks to his wife Sandy and his many friends for sharing this brave, huge hearted gentleman who made an everlasting mark in our community.”

Even those who didn’t know Voegeli likely encountered him around town. He could be found having his weekly Thursday morning support meeting with veterans at the Hardees on Ribault Road.

Or in small businesses or public spaces around town encouraging veterans to fill out their Veterans Administration paperwork so that they might rightly receive the benefits they had earned in the service of their country.

“He has been a good friend and a buddy,” Disabled American Veterans Chapter 12 Commander Chris Swan said. “He was always looking out for us. Every organization wanted to have him. But his biggest focus was the veteran.”

Voegeli served Beaufort’s DAV chapter in every official capacity up through Commander. At the time of his death, he was serving as the chapter’s Adjutant/Treasurer. He held several positions at the state level and progressed as far as 1st Junior Vice Commander nationally.

According to Swan, Voegeli was likely in line to ascend to the role of National Commander before serious health issues slowed him down. Still, he served as a member of the National Committee.

But Voegeli’s focus was local. He tried to help as many veterans as he could in his own backyard.

He was personally responsible for enlisting the vast majority of DAV Chapter 12’s 1,700 members.

He was responsible for the chapter’s Volunteer Transportation Network and he organized and started the Christmas Food Box.

Wreathes Across America, Beaufort Charities, the Adaptive Golf Program, the American Legion – all were causes by sister organizations he took pride in supporting. And placing flags on the markers of fallen veterans on Veterans Day was an honor.

But his two big habits were standing up for others who had no one to stand for them – veterans who died with no immediate family were guaranteed to receive a proper burial ceremony – and making sure veterans had all the help they needed when filling out paperwork and applying for VA benefits.

Voegeli spent hours counseling veterans and hours on the road when veterans couldn’t come to him … or didn’t know they wanted or needed to.

There may have been no cause closer to Voegeli’s heart than veterans, but if there was a close second, it was children, particularly the ones for which Beaufort’s Child Abuse Prevention Association (CAPA) cared.

Voegeli, according the organization’s Facebook post, was a “devout CAPA volunteer, donor, advocate, auction chairperson, and long-serving board member.”

“He was extremely involved. He never turned away a child. He always wanted to rock the babies in the shelter. And he ran our auction for 30 years,” CAPA Director of Development Jessica Chapman said.

“He was a huge supporter of CAPA. He coordinated our flag events and our ceremonial disposals. He never told us, ‘no.’ He personally gave us support for anything we needed. In return we tried to do the same for him.”

Voegeli enlisted in the U.S. Marines in August of 1960, serving in the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971, according to a DAV statement.

He later served as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island before an assignment to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort as an administrative chief with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing until his retirement as a gunnery sergeant in 1980.

His awards and decorations included the Navy Achievement Medal with a combat “V.”

“He never did anything small and his heart loved large. This community is a little dimmer today without him in it,” CAPA posted on Facebook. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Sandy, his children, and the rest of his family and friends.”

 

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