“ Live Die Live Again” – A True and Inspiring Story

river between trees
Dalat - Vietnam, Photo by Le Vu 🇻🇳 on Unsplash

“ Live Die Live Again”, a true story by Ron Irwin is so amazing that it could easily be fiction.  But it isn’t.  This is a quick, fascinating read. Briefly,as Ron tells it, “It all started back in August 2012 when I happened upon a little bio I had been working on so that just in case I died my family would have some of the key elements of my early life.  What motivated me to write that then?  Did my inner self know something my conscious self didn’t know?  Because it was only a few months later December 18th 2012 when I actually did drop dead .  

This is a story of a rough childhood followed by a very exciting time as a United States Marine; an experience that gave me the discipline I so deeply needed and wanted.  

three men and one woman soldiers standing on rock during daytime
Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

That discipline gave me the focus and energy to earn my Bachelor’s degree in 18 months, go to law school, graduate and pass the bar exam.  But that alone is by no means the whole story.

I had many times put myself in harm’s way doing things that should have killed me but they didn’t.   Then, December 18th 2012 came and everything changed.  

From that I regained focus and drive.  I also embraced the great love of my family.  I also came to understand that to survive in this world we need to develop and maintain a strong sense of humor.  Problems are less harmful when you can laugh at them. “

Ron Irwin, then and now

Ron graciously agreed to be interviewed as follows.

Splash: In your book, you have described a childhood that at the very least was not up to your needs as a child.  Children today in similar situations are frequently offered intervention, at least in Illinois, by the Department of Child and Family Services.  If this intervention had been offered what impact would you guess it might have had?

Ron:  Well actually I essentially I did have an intervention of sorts, but that came at age 11.  Had there been something sooner, say a placement in a foster home or possibly in some sort of juvenile facility from what I knew of those options at the time it may have been better or it may also have been even worse.  

women's blue dress shirt
Photo by Tra Nguyen on Unsplash

Splash:  When you were eleven, with your father’s assistance, arrangements were made for you to move to Arden Shore, a residence for high IQ, disadvantaged children.  Can you share the best and the worst memory of your stay?

Ron: In many ways it was a whole lot of better.  Arden Shore was located on beautiful property just north of super upscale Lake Bluff, Ilinois,  We even had our own beach.  The food was good and we were given many opportunities that I would never have had without being at Arden Shore.  I got to spend two weeks with then super star Jane Morgan at her summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine;  I was a guest of Senator Everett Dirksen at the U. S. Senate in Washington, DC where I also met Senator – soon to become President – John F. Kennedy and other unbelievable opportunities that were truly inspiring.  Not to mention that the towns of Lake Bluff and Lake Forest are clearly top end communities and that however also presented the downside.  Sure we went to Lake Forest High School and one of our Arden Shore boys even did play quarterback for the High School Football team.  But basically we were “Arden Shore” boys meaning we were clearly beneath our classmates in terms of stature and perceived value.  That feeling of being not quite good enough left a big sore.

Splash:  Your book divides itself by the part you wrote before your heart attack and what you wrote after you recovered.  Can you describe what it was like to return to the memoir after you were “reborn”?

Cover of “Live Die Live Again” book

Ron: I had traveled from being basically an abused child to being at outcast teen.  Then I joined the Marines and gained one thing I desperately needed and that was real discipline.  The Marines also allowed me to live my dream of finally going to and for a bit more than two years, living in and traveling about Asia.  Because of that discipline and a new focus on life I was able to earn my Bachelor’s degree in under two years and a Juris Doctor in two and half more years allowing me to take the Illinois Bar Exam which I passed,  becoming a lawyer.  That is a truly amazing transition but it is far short of a complete transition.  My first marriage was a true and deep disaster literally, from day one.  After 13 years, mostly miserable even though earning substantial money, I needed to escape the heel and soon found my way to Los Angeles, California.  There I became a radio talk show host and ultimately, a publicist.  Along the way I met the true woman of my dreams and we were married in Hong Kong in 1984.  Finally, things were coming together.  But there was still too much clutter from the past that kept getting in the way without me ever knowing it.  This takes me up to December 18th 2012, when I dropped dead in my house.  

For many days I was in a coma unable to speak or even hear fully.  But what I did do was for the very first time in my life truly and deeply feel the presence of love in my life.  I am not talking about what most men think of love that being mainly sex, I mean a true deeply undeniable love. Not only from my beautiful wife but my daughters and sons and even friends.  In fact to my utter surprise, a man I had come to know who was indeed a true to life, very real genuine movie star thought enough of me to come to the hospital and sit and joke with me for quite awhile.  All of this very positive energy, all of this genuine love  THAT is what brought me back not only to life but a whole new and vastly better life.  This was a great motivator for me to write “Live, Die, Live Again”, in large part because I present many health tips that can help everyone live a longer stronger life.  None of it is based on theory,  I used every thing to get me down from 316 pounds to my current 170 pounds and keep it there.  I took that love energy and used it to drive a passion to never put those who so clearly loved me through another horrible experience like I had just been through.  The three most important words in the English language:  “Live, Love, Laugh.”  

Splash: In your book, you describe becoming fascinated with Haiku, a Japanese form of rhyming. You have since publish a book of Haiku.  Can you speak to that?

Ron:  The Japanese masters have nothing to fear from this guy.   But one day I became motivated to make my contribution to this ancient art and thus was born.  “Haiku From The Heart”  Here is but one example.  

                        Humor Gives Power

                        Always Embrace the Moment  

                        Laughter Trumps Anger 

Splash: You became a Marine at an extremely young age with you father’s assistance.  Can you describe how that took place?

Ron taking a break 

Ron:  Oh that was simple.  There were two strong motivators.  One, with my illustrious high school performance my future was bleak at best.  Then there was my passion for Asia made in large part due to a book of Japanese Haiku.  So, with those two elements in play, one day I happened to see a Marine recruiting office and so I went in and asked the sergeant if Marines served in Asia.  He said “yes” and I asked that he give me the papers.  He then asked me how old I was and I told him I was 17.  He then told me I needed to get my father to sign to enlist.  No problem.  I went to see my dad and told him that if he signed the papers I would become a Marine and he would never have to pay mom child support again.  BAM!  DONE DEAL.  That is how that took place.  For many reasons to this very day I am very glad that it did happen.  

Splash:  While in service you had some amazing and unique experiences.. Is there one that stands out above the rest?

Allow me to offer two very different experiences, both very powerful but both very different.  

It was 1964 and I was serving aboard the USS Valley Forge, a helicopter carrier.  We pulled into Hong Kong Harbor and I got off, went into the Central District and discovered the Opium Den Bar in the Hong Kong Hilton.  I actually got a room at the hotel for two nights and ordered a suit so as to get out of my uniform. Then I went down to the bar  There I saw maybe a dozen guys from the ship all in civilian clothes.  There was also a man sitting at the bar and he motioned for me to come over which I did.  He asked me if  we were from the Navy ship in the Harbor and I said yes.  Then he leaned over towards the bartender and told the bartender that drinks for the Marines were on him.  Then he turned back to me, put out his hand and said “Hi!  I am William Holden.”  I spent the whole damn night  partying very hardy with a real true A List super star and about dozen other Marines.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  

William Holden’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

But then there was an April day in 1967 and with only 3 days left to serve in Vietnam I was sent to pick up a Marine Corps General.  Now understand for a Marine Corporal to be with a Marine General it is very much like sending an alter boy to pick up Jesus.  Anyhow I got the General and as we were driving to headquarters I asked the General:  “With all due respect General may I ask you an honest question and get your honest answer?”  “Sure thing Marine, what is it?”  “Sir, what the hell are we doing here?”  After a pause the good General said:  “In all truth I don’t know.”  BAM 

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are copyrighted by Ron Irwin and authority granted to SPLASH for publication. 

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