He was as curly and unruly as the blond hair that lapped over his ears.
Ronnie had muscles when the rest of us only dreamed of them on the cover of Muscle Magazine. He was devoted to one thing—to be a champion. When the rest of us were lying on a beach in the summer, Ronnie was training for wrestling in the winter. When the rest of us were eating pizza on Friday night after the match, Ronnie was cutting weight to drop down to the next weight class.
Ronnie Teufel (which in German means devil) struck fear in his opponents and even his teammates on the mat. He was as nice as he could be off the mat but even his crooked innocent smile had a hint of devilishness.
He beat me and most everybody he met on his way to the state championships. But Ronnie was denied a crown each year. He could have wrestled in college, he had offers to play football as the kick off return man but he wanted to be a champion—a national champion.
So while the rest of us worked or studied, Ronnie drove a school bus because it gave him the time he needed to hit the gym in the late 1970s—the height of the body building craze. He’d wave to me on his bus route with his massive arms. When he became Mr. Junior America, Philadelphia Magazine put him on their cover. I ran around my college dorm trying to tell people I used to wrestle this guy, but no one believed me.
Body building magazines around the country featured Ronnie Teufel and his amazing abs. Ronnie set his sight on one thing—an outright Mr. America. But body building is not like wrestling where one guy is pinned and the other guy wins. In body building, the judging can be subjective, and Ronnie was an outlier who would be denied.
One thing that couldn’t be denied was his spirit. He trained harder and he drove his aging Firebird wherever a gym asked him to give a demonstration.
That was the last I heard of Ronnie Teufel. He dropped from my awareness until a few years ago when I found out that he died in 2002, at age forty-five.
A man so strong. A man so positive, so determined. A man who died of natural causes. Natural causes? What does that mean? Life is natural. Life has causes. Death? If death is natural too, then why after twenty years did it shake me to the core? Ronnie was Mr. Junior America. Ronnie was the strongest, most dedicated wrestler I ever knew. Dead? I don’t know what that means anymore.
There seems to be a lot of dead people walking around these days. They get up, they work for the legal tender, they go to bed to get up all over again. And I know a few people who are still alive, even though others tell me they are dead.
It took more than two years to find out my best friend and four-year roommate in college was dead. Mark dead? Mark had more life than anyone I knew. A three-sport athlete, a big bear look, Mark made everyone feel alive. In college I wasn’t just Andy Davidson (blue circle & arrow), I was Mark Alderman’s roommate (red circle). That’s how people knew me.
Mark? He’s still alive. My son? Alive. Ronnie? I hope so. Not because of their death, but because of their life in Christ. And, they are alive because of how they lived on this earth and how they now live in my heart.
I just got back from the 40th reunion of our 1978 Messiah College soccer team. After about five minutes these 60-year-old men were teenagers again. Age–a number, old–a state of mind, and death, well death isn’t just an illusion. Death is real for those who squander life. My teammates didn’t squander the life God game them and it has made all the difference.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10
Andy is a Clinical Psychologist who lost his son in a tragic motorcycle accident and now authors articles on bereavement. The quiz is available! Go to http://andymdavidson.com/Home/Pgd to find out if you may have Prolonged Grief Disorder. Look forward to his upcoming posts, and book, “When Sunday Smiled.” Follow him at his website, AndyMDavidson.com and Facebook.com/ThroughLifeandLoss to find out more about prolonged grief.