Man on a bike made impact in community

Clif Knight

 

Ronnie Strickland will be remembered as one of Hartselle’s most unforgettable characters.

He died Sun., July 3, at the age of 80.

Ronnie and his bicycle were a familiar sight in downtown Hartselle for most of his adult life. He could be seen collecting aluminum cans, eating lunch at the former City Café, chatting with a Main Street merchant or shouting “Roll Tide” to a passing “War Eagle” friend.

Former Hartselle Tiger football and basketball players remember Ronnie as one of their  devoted boosters.

“He was at every practice and every game,” recalled Larry Fields, a fullback and  linebacker on the 1965 team that broke a 27-year losing jinx to the Decatur Red Raiders.

“He ran every sprint we ran at the end of practice in spite of his limp and then got in the huddle and gave us a pep talk after Coach Cain finished his speech.

“We looked at him as being part of the team both on and off the field,” Fields added. “He was a true Tiger fan and a good man.”

Hartselle Junior High School students chose Ronnie as one of the “Seven Wonders of Hartselle” a few years ago and presented him with an award to commemorate the honor at an assembly program.

Ronnie played a big role in helping the Clean City Association get a recycling program off the ground, according to Fred Smith, owner of Adventures Unlimited and former owner of Minor Furniture Co.

“Every day he would ride his bike to town and make his rounds picking up bottles and aluminum cans,” Smith recalled. “He received one cent for each item he collected and dropped off at the city’s recycling warehouse on South Railroad Street. He also sorted bottles and crushed cans there. He would come by the furniture store on Saturday and we’d settle up his pay.”

“We had a giftware department at that time and he had a charge account,”  Smith pointed out. “Ronnie was always buying a gift for someone. He’d pay the balance with the pennies he earned picking up bottles and cans.”

Ronnie’s second home was Hartselle Church of Christ where he was a member and served as a staff volunteer.

“He was at church half a day every day,” said Minister Phillip Hines. He had a key to the building and would come in and do various chores. He removed the communion cups from the pews and added guest cards if needed, among other things. On other days, he would read and listen to tapes.”

“Ronnie was sensitive to the needs of others,” Hines pointed out. “If an announcement of a need was made at a church service, he would bring $5 or $10 to the office as a contribution. Also, probably half of the books in the church library were placed by him in memory of those no longer with us.”

Ronnie lived an unbelievable life when you consider he was blind in one eye and lost part of the use of a leg and his speech from contracting polio at age two,” Hines stated. “Like the Apostle Paul, God used his weakness to make him strong.”

 

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