Our family diminished this week with the passing of my sister Bettye. Bettye was 75 and had lived with us, as a quadriplegic, for the past 12-years. Few lives have been more beautiful or more tragic. This is her story. Bettye married her husband and moved to California and gave birth to their only daughter Stacey. Dave worked for the surfing legend of Greg Knoll and the family later moved to Hawaii to develop a surfboard outlet. Time passed and Dave and Betty started their own surfboard shop and enjoyed the island life. As the surfboard industry transitioned to “homemade” boards Dave transitioned to the Hawaii Police force where at the age of 40 he became the valedictorian of his graduating class. Then tragedy visited one night when a driver passed 6-cars on a curve and had a head on collision with Stacey then 21 and two of her friends. All three women were killed. The two other girlfriends left behind young babies.
18-months later Dave while serving a restraining order was shot and killed in the line of duty. The news the day of the funeral reported a double tragedy for the Ronk family, as the man that killed Stacey was convicted that very day for manslaughter. Bettye lost it for a while. There were periods up to year in which we did not hear from her or even know where she was. When she did call, she would never tell us where she was or what she was doing.
Bettye resurfaced in the 90’s and came home to Ky. some to help care for my dad and visit. Then in the later 90’s she met Tim and they set up house in Colorado Springs and from a while life was good again. Bettye liked to help people and had friend Darlene who had went through a divorce was in deep depression. Darlene had lived with Bettye in Hawaii for some time then met a guy got married, found a good job and had a couple of children. Then in the late 90’s Darlene when through a 2nd divorce and lost her job. Bettye invited her to come stay with her and Tim in Colorado Springs; Bettye considered Darlene her best friend. Darlene was never stable, and my sister is not an easy person to live with and during an argument Darlene, Bettye’s best friend, shot her in the neck.
Darlene was convicted and when on to serve a 9-year term. Bettye served a life-term as a paraplegic and they quadriplegic. Bettye did not share the news of the shooting with me and Aprile until six months later and told me to not tell anyone else, including her mother. Thankfully, Tim her significant other stayed with Bettye and they setup home in Palm Springs with Bettye as a functional paraplegic.
Under the difficult circumstances, Bettye and Tim were good again for a while, until Bettye had a complication of the injury resulting in a 107-degree temperature. Brain damaged resulted and Bettye was a quadriplegic. Tim called with the bad news and we offered to come out right then and help. He declined and said she was in the hospital now, but he would really need our help when she came home. One-week later Tim died of a fatal heart attack while mowing the yard.
We got the news at 9PM and the next day at noon were in Palm Springs. Aprile and I spent the next two months getting Bettye well enough to move her back with us. My wife Aprile, an angel, did not hesitate to bring her in our home. We built an addition on our house and she lived with us for the next 12-years; it was a challenge; mentally, physically and spiritually. My sister was perhaps the most independent person I know and then she became the most dependent person knew. She resented this and we were often the only outlet for her resentment. We were never really able to make her happy, but we were able to make he as comfortable as possible. This is not say Bettye did not smile again, she did but having lost everyone, and everything at the hand of her best friend weighted heavily at times. We had host of help Carlene her friend (when her health allowed) would go out to the movies and dinner. Cousins Brenda and Donnie would stop and visit. Her friend Ruth in Hawaii sent her an email letter every week for 12-years. There were a host of sitters, Sheila, Dee, Emily, Jill, Janea, Lindsey, Brittany Hannah, Lauren, Renee… over the years that helped out and became close friends with her and us. Bettye in 12-years never had a cold or sniffle as a result of the exceptional care and training Aprile administered and trained the sitter on. I cannot begin to tell you how much Aprile sacrificed for my sister and I will never come close to being able to express my gratitude. Bettye’s doctor told Aprile that if she had been in charge of Christopher Reeves care he would still be alive.
Bettye’s broken body final gave way and passed this week, however before she passed, she accepted Christ. She clutched a tiny bible for the last 9-hours of her life. Her last request was to have her cremated remains to rest at graves of her daughter and husband in Hawaii.
So, with this letter ends the chapter of Bettye Ann Ronk and beginning of a new chapter in our lives.
For those who read this to the end, thank you. For those who knew of Bettye and provide comfort and prayers, thank you. God did not answer all the prays but did answer the ones that matters.
I am so sorry to hear this i took care of Bettye for many years at Redbanks may she be at peace and i give all the family my deepest sympathy
We will all miss Bettye. She was a good friend and a long time neighbor in Hawaii. Aloha oe, Bettye. We love you.
Ruth and Glen Powell
I was friends with Bettye’s daughter Stacey. We grew up together. I was very sad to lose Stacey. I don’t know how Bettye survived the agony of that loss and then later losing Dave. I have always admired Bettye’s strength and resilience. She remained a close and caring friend to me and to my family. We miss you, Bettye. Rest in Peace.
Bettye Ann (Sandefur) Ronk, 75, of Evansville, Indiana, passed away peacefully on January 13, 2019, at Deaconess Gateway Hospital with her family at her side. She was born June 14, 1943, in Union Co., Kentucky to the late Thomas and Margaret (Waggener) Sandefur of Henderson, Kentucky.
Bettye was a graduate of Henderson High School in 1961. Dave and Bettye began their life together in Hermosa, California working for Greg Knoll Surfboards. They moved to the Hawaiian island of Oahu starting their own business, Island Surfboards, crafting custom surfboards. Professional surfer, Leah Dawson, created a wonderful tribute video in April of 2013 titled, “Peanut Butter,” about a surfboard created by Dave and Bettye Ronk in 1971 at Island Surfboards.
Bettye returned to the mainland after Dave’s death to live among family and friends and spent the last 18 years of her life as a quadriplegic after an accident in Colorado. She was a long-time member of the VFW Ladies Axillary and enjoyed researching the family genealogy, traveling, sewing, country music and reading mysteries.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 24 years, Honolulu Police Officer David “Dave” Nicholas Ronk; daughter, Stacey Lynn Ronk; brother, David Sandefur; and friend, Timothy Brown.
She is survived by her brother, Michael Lynn Sandefur and his wife Aprile, of Evansville, Indiana; Aunt Virginia “Ginny” Sandefur of Portland, Oregon; numerous cousins and favorite companion dog, Mia.
Proverbs 10:7 Good people will be remembered as a blessing…
The family would like to extend a special thank you for the loving, compassionate friendship provided to Bettye by Sheila Stambush, Dee Koberstein, Emily Baker, Jill Scott, Janea Wagler, Lindsey Deig, Brittany Finch, Hannah Quirey, Lauren Grabert, Renee Titzer, Carlene and John Gabe of Henderson, Kentucky, Glen and Ruth Powell of Haleiwa, Hawaii and Jo and Jack Sterling of Palm Springs, California; and to the Deaconess VNA Home Care staff, Deaconess Gateway Hospital physicians and staff, and Dr. Mary Ann Bieker for their kind and compassionate care.
In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may take the form of memorial contributions to Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center at 3701 Bellemeade Avenue, Evansville, Indiana 47714.
A memorial service and inurnment will take place at Mililani Memorial Park’s cemetery in Waipahu, Hawaii.
Aloha Bettye, rest in peace as you are now with our Lord Jesus Christ.
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