It is difficult to overestimate the impact Ronald White had on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln community. Those who knew him said he was a coworker, a friend, a father and a ray of sunshine.
White was the assistant manager of the East Campus Dining Center. He died early Friday morning after his car crashed into a metal barricade at The Moose’s Tooth at North 27th and Vine streets.
White had the biggest smile and brought laughter and fun wherever he went, according to Kathryn Sildmets, manager of University Catering. Sildmets said she met White when he first started working at the East Campus Dining in September 2010, and they became really close while working in catering together.
Jennifer Gilbert, a senior environmental studies major, said she first met White while eating dinner at the old East Campus Dining during her freshman year. Gilbert said she got to know White better when she became a resident assistant on East Campus last fall. Gilbert said he was one of the most accommodating and friendly individuals she ever met.
“Regardless of whether you knew Ron for 20 seconds or 20 years, his inspiring passion for his work and care for those he served was incredibly clear,” Gilbert said.
Before she really knew who White was, Gilbert said she would get dinner with a friend at East Campus Dining once a week. Every time she was there, she would ask White for soy milk from the back of the kitchen.
Eventually, White would see Gilbert in the dining hall and run to the back of the kitchen to grab her soy milk before she could say anything.
“That is just the kind of person and devoted customer service employee Ron was,” Gilbert said. “He never gave off the perception that his work was actually work. He appeared to love every second of his job, which reflected in the respect and joy his coworkers had working for him.”
Pam Edwards, assistant director of University Dining, said she first met White when he first started working at East Campus Dining, and that they had worked together ever since. Edwards said White was overflowing with joy all the time and had a love for people.
Sildmets said family was everything to White, who would talk about his four children all the time. She said she will never forget the joy he had for cooking his mom’s recipes and sharing them with others.
Sildmets and Edwards said Mardi Gras was White’s day. White was originally from New Orleans, Edwards said, so it was no secret how much he loved it there. In February, 10/11 NOW came out with a story about White and East Campus Dining’s Fat Tuesday meal.
White treated everyone like family and would do anything for anyone, Sildmets said.
“My mother passed away a few weeks ago, and Ron called me every day to check up on me,” she said. “If I was having a bad day, he’d call me multiple times and tell me, ‘You got this sis’ or, ‘You’ll be alright.’”
Beatrice Hernandez, senior retail associate at East Campus Dining, said her fondest memory of White was their last day working together on April 8. Hernandez said she left work early, and he thanked her for helping him out with his phone earlier that day. She told him if he needed anything, he could call or text her.
“He always called me Hernandez, so when I was leaving for the day — and this is my best memory — he told me, ‘Love you, Hernandez,’ to which I answered ‘Love you too, Ron,’” she said. “That was the last time I saw him.”
Hernandez said the employees at East Campus Dining want to rename their dining room after White or something similar as a way to honor him and his passion for his work.
White created a remarkable and irreplaceable connection with the people in the East Campus community that will never be forgotten, Gilbert said. Gilbert, Sildmets, Hernandez and Edwards all agreed there is no one like White.
“He was loved by us all,” Sildmets said. “East Dining is one big family, and we’ve lost our sunshine.”