Friends, family honor 'Big Book Ron'

Tue, Aug 9, 2005

By Dawn Schuett

The Post-Bulletin 

Ronald Deitschman's friends can't recall when his nickname became "Big Book Ron," but they all know why he earned the moniker.

Deitschman had memorized the "Big Book," the text that describes the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program, and never hesitated to share his knowledge. He often took his copy of the "Big Book," with its cover tattered and pages loose from being read so much, to local bars where he looked for people who might want help.

"He could quote any page number and what was on it," Deitschman's friend, Laurie Abell, said after his funeral Monday at Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester. Deitschman knew the words and, more importantly, understood their meaning, Abell said.

Deitschman, 70, a longtime participant of Alcoholics Anonymous who founded new AA meetings and served as a sponsor to some men in the group, died Thursday at Saint Marys Hospital. Survivors include three sons, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

During the funeral for Deitschman, his son, Mike of Sioux Falls, S.D., said he heard the legend of "Big Book Ron," but it wasn't until Sunday at his dad's visitation when he heard it as truth. About 50 people told Mike that his dad saved their lives.

"His legacy, I realize, is out there with you," Mike Deitschman said, addressing members of his father's AA "family" at the service.

Abell, who met Ronald Deitschman after she came from Los Angeles to Rochester for treatment almost nine years ago, said he touched the lives of thousands of people who struggled with addiction.

"He never gave up on anybody," Abell said.

Although Deitschman was compassionate, he wasn't a pushover, friends said.

"He gave tough love to everybody," said Sheryll Laugen, who knew Deitschman for more than 20 years. Deitschman sometimes told AA participants to "shut up and show up."

Much of his influence came from his actions, Laugen said. He led by example, adhering to the 12-step program described in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book.

Friends said Deitschman didn't talk about how many years he had maintained sobriety. Instead, he kept track of sobriety in terms of hours from the time he woke up in the morning.

When asked at what point people graduated from AA, Deitschman would say "the day you die." In the case of "Big Book Ron," Abell said, not even death can prevent him from passing on what he learned through AA.

"We carry his words and wisdom and spirit in us every day," she said.

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