Lebanon native Ronnie Lawson passed away in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 18, after battling brain cancer for more than a decade. He was 34-years-old.
Although his own life was not long, friends said they will always remember the positive impact he had on theirs. The Wednesday prior to his passing, more than 100 friends surrounded Lawson's home to pray for him and his family.
"Ronnie was quick to tell you that his strength came from the Lord," said family friend Kandi Ray. "He fought a good fight and now claims victory over cancer."
Services for Lawson were conducted by Brother Dusty Desimone, Brother Glen Denton and Brother Nathan Thomason at Hillcrest Baptist Church, where the family are members, on Monday.
Interment followed in Wilson County Memorial Gardens.
Lawson is survived by his wife, Brittany, and their 8-year-old son, Jordan; parents, Ronald L. and Stephanie Armor Lawson, Sr.; sister, Darla (Quan Eddings) Lawson; nephews, A.J. and J.J. Eddings; grandmother, Marie Lawson; and numerous family and friends.
The Lawsons would have celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary this August. Brittany shared their journey with The Wilson Post in a January 2015 interview.
The couple met through a mutual friend that Brittany worked with after graduating from White House High School. "If you ask him, he'll tell you we met on his doorstep because I came over to their house they lived in before we all went out," she said. "The rest is history."
They married in 2003 - the same year Lawson received his brain cancer diagnosis. "Mainly the first sign was when he had a seizure while we were driving down the interstate one night," Brittany recalled. An MRI showed that Lawson had a tumor which needed immediate surgery. He was admitted and had surgery the following day.
After a month-long stay in the hospital, Lawson began extensive radiation, oral and intravenous chemotherapy. Brittany credited the hardship with making both their marital bond and her spiritual life stronger.
"When Ronnie first got sick, I didn't have a relationship with God... After his surgery and treatments we started going to church and our life forever changed," she told The Post.
In 2011, a routine MRI checkup showed the tumor had resurfaced and needed to be surgically removed, as well as chemotherapy for six months. In 2012 the family met with a new doctor and decided to try Cyberknife laser surgery. Brittany said he had five consecutive sessions.
He also participated in a study for oral chemotherapy through the Sarah Cannon Research Institute for nearly a year until an MRI showed chemo was not working and another tumor had formed.
His last surgery was in 2013.
Brittany said that Lawson requested to take a break from chemotherapy in spring 2014, which his medical team allowed with the advice that if any MRIs showed changes he would start again. When he went in for an MRI in October 2014, the doctor told the couple that cancer had spread and that Lawson would need chemotherapy treatment immediately.
Although the couple looked into new options at some of the country's most advanced hospitals, they decided that doctors could not offer him anything different than what he was receiving locally.
Brittany said that throughout his battle, Lawson always put his family's needs before his own.
"He is a great father and husband... He always says he wants to be a good witness for our God and show people that no matter what you are going through it doesn't have to own you."
A-Plus Print & Design owner Monica Alsup created T-shirts as a fundraiser for the Lawson's a couple of years ago and sold close to 400 shirts. The shirts, fashioned to look like a Superman symbol, read: Keep Calm and Pray for Ronnie.
"Some never had the privilege to know him but knew who Super Ron was," Alsup said. "We will make sure to continue the legacy of Super Ron and to share his story of faith and strength. Ronnie is one of the most faithful and God-loving people I knew. My life is forever changed because of knowing him and calling him my friend.
"I'll miss our talks about God, our milkshake obsessions and even our UT (University of Tennessee) - Florida disagreements."
Other friends, Valerie Nokes and Heather Landers, shared their own stories of Lawson.
"Ronnie was a dear, close friend. We had known each other since we were 10. He used to sit behind me in class and pull my hair," Landers remembered. "He sure knew how to make me mad, but I've loved him for a long time. He will be missed."
Nokes thanks Lawson for not only being a great friend, but bringing a great friend, Brittany, into her life.
"I'm thankful for his friendship. He was truly an inspiration to me. He brought his wife to me, and without her I would be lost. He was a best friend all my life," she said. "If I ever needed someone he was there for me."
Nokes and Lawson went Christmas shopping for Brittany together the past two years. "I am so thankful he was part of my life."
Memorial Donations for the family can be made at CedarStone Bank in the "Super Ron fund" or Jordan's college fund.
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.