Family mourns truck driver

Becky Vargo • May 23, 2018 at 8:00 AM

During a sad time such as this, Amber McDonald said her father would probably crack some kind of joke to make people smile. 

“They named him ‘funny guy’ Ron White,” said a friend during a gathering at McDonald’s home Tuesday afternoon.

White, 57, died Monday morning when the gravel hauler he was driving collided with a car on M-120 near Twin Lake. On Tuesday, the Fruitport man’s family made arrangements at a local funeral home to celebrate his life.

Police have yet to release the full details of the crash, other than it occurred at 6:15 a.m., the Verplank Trucking Co. semi-truck  hauling two big trailers of construction aggregate flipped and caught on fire. White died at the scene. 

The driver of the car — Brian Smith, 53, of Newaygo — suffered serious injuries in the crash and was taken to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon, according to the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office.

The Ferrysburg trucking company’s president, Ron Matthews, said White was delivering a load to a road commission “up north.” Matthews noted that it was normal for their drivers to get on the road early to avoid traffic.

“We’re all pretty sad over here,” he said. “We all loved him.”

White had worked at Verplank’s for 19 years, agreed family members.

Born in Maryland, White was still an infant when his family moved to Michigan, according to his brother, Jerry Renouf, and sister, Dawn Brandenburg. The family lived in Muskegon and then moved to Fruitport. Ron attended Fruitport schools until his family moved to Ferrysburg. He graduated from Grand Haven High School in 1979.

White worked at Burger Chef in Grand Haven (which was located on the southeast corner of Jackson Street and Beacon Boulevard) and then worked for the Ferrysburg Department of Public Works after graduation. Renouf said his brother moved on to Dykstra Construction, and then hauled oil for Major Brands before becoming employed by Verplank Trucking.

Family members on Tuesday pulled out their cellphones to share pictures of the classic cars White had worked on over the years.

“His favorite car was a 1967 Chevy Impala/Caprice,” said McDonald’s mother, Jodi Koster. “He bought that when he was 15. He sold that after Amber was born.”

“He was very stubborn and opinionated, but thoughtful and sweet,” said White’s girlfriend of 16 years, Deanna Langlois. “He had a huge heart. He cared for everyone.”

White also liked to have a good time.

“He was always the first one at family parties,” McDonald noted.

“He just liked to get a lot of people together and have a good time,” added his sister-in-law, Marj Renouf.

Langlois said her boyfriend always had advice for her. “He was very wise,” she said with a smile, “and he made me laugh all the time.”

Langlois said they liked to travel together and had just visited Traverse City last week.

“We would stop at wineries along the way,” she said. “He loved to go to breweries and antique stores, too.”

White was most proud of the garage that he built, Langlois said.

“He had two ‘man caves,’” said her daughter, Lindsey Langlois. “One in the basement and one in the garage.”

McDonald spoke fondly of going camping with her father. He also loved being a grandfather, she said.

“The boys call him ‘Poopah,’” McDonald said. “That’s what he wanted to be called when he found out I was pregnant.”

“He also loved his dogs,” his brother added.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Sytsema Funeral Home of Norton Shores.

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