Better Late Than Never
Crossing into Ron Vanover's home county, the traveler is struck with the realization that this is a land of voices, a place where the rocks cry out. From the echoes of God's first song that breathed life into these hills to the roar of the Cumberland River, McCreary County in Southeastern Kentucky is alive and singing. It's within this chorus of steep coves and falling waters that Ron's own voice found it's harmony and power, within a stone's throw of Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. A Southern United Baptist's preacher's boy brought up in the work ethic of an Appalachian subsistence farm, few would have foreseen what God had in mind for the middle child of The Reverend and Mrs. Jimmie Vanover, the child whose speech impediment and hearing difficulties isolated him for a time as a young lad. But once the Creator settled that early fog, an impressive view was waiting. A few years down the road -- at McCreary Central High School in Stearns - Ron's assigned path brought him into contact with choral director Chris Hubbs. Hubbs would prove to be one of Ron's earliest musical mentors. "Mr. Hubbs had a tremendous influence upon my life," says Ron. "He taught me to appreciate music and use my God-given talents so everyone could enjoy them." Building creative momentum with each passing year, Ron's studies broadened at Union College in Barbourville to include not only music, but also training in theatre. He credits Dr. Betty Stroud and Dr. Rebecca Pettys, his vocal and theatre coaches, respectively, with taking his singing and acting to the next level. His talents became so well-honed, in fact, that his instructors and peers noticed, and by the time Ron graduated from Union in 1989, he had collected a number of honors, including Best Actor Awards for three different seasons. Also during his undergraduate years, he earned the Drama Phoenix Award, the Alpha Psi Omega Award in Drama, the Partridge Theta Pi Delta Award and the Music Faculty Award. His theatrical and musical credits between 1987 and 1989 included roles as John Proctor in The Crucible, Oscar in The Odd Couple, the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance, Billy Bigelow in Carousel and many others. It's interesting how the opus that God was writing for this young and unassuming McCreary County boy included the voices of those same rivers, streams and forests of Ron's upbringing. Ron supplemented his degree in Applied Vocal Music from Union with a minor in environmental studies and ultimately chose a career path that would place him in the heart of Kentucky's most valued natural areas. He now serves as park manager for Natural Bridge State Resort Park, the culmination of 16 years of dedication to Kentucky State Parks, a dedication that also includes 13 years as park naturalist for Jenny Wiley State Resort Park. Furthermore, Ron is responsible for the Elk Viewing Tours that have proven to be such an ecotourism draw to the economy of Eastern Kentucky. In 1997, he earned a Master of Arts Degree in Outdoor Recreation from Morehead State University, where he still teaches seniors and graduate students to better comprehend the natural world. Ron's life is a testament to the balance among family, faith, music and nature. He owes his greatest successes to the love that has surrounded him throughout his life: the love of God, the love of his parents, the love of his wife, Kathy. "Kathy accepted me for who I am, and she always provides a positive outlook on me and my life. It's great to be loved for who you are and what you do - never negative but always positive." Ron has two sons, Johnathon and Christian, whom he is able to show the tradition of love and nurturing demonstrated to him by both his father and mother. When Ron isn't spending time with his family or managing the natural resources placed in his care at Natural Bridge State Resort Park, you might find him onstage at "The Kentucky Opry," where he performs about 20 shows each year. It's Ron's father who finally convinced him to make an album, a project that Ron explains is truly "Better Late Than Never."