By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun
Whether it’s tossing a gaggle of rubber ducks into the Kern River, or putting up American flags along Lake Isabella Boulevard during holidays honoring Veterans, Ron and Marsha Smith have been at the center of Kern River Valley events.
But the couple whose name is synonymous with community involvement and enhancement will soon bid adieu to the place they have called home for the past 31 years and head to their new home in Florida.
With the announcement of the sale of the Kern Valley Sun, Ron and Marsha have announced that they will be leaving the Kern River Valley to start a new life chapter in the home they have purchased in Dunnellen, Florida.
Their move will create a void in the community that will be noticed by many and one that will be difficult to fill.
The Smiths bought their first vacation home in the Kern River Valley in 1978 and moved here permanently in 1989. Ron, a licensed general contractor since 1977, established a reputation for the builder of custom and spec homes in the valley. Marsha went to work at the Kern Valley Sun in October 1991 as a bookkeeper. In 2005, she became the publisher of the newspaper.
In 2011, the Smiths purchased the Kern Valley Sun, which celebrated its 60th anniversary of continuous publication last year.
Despite their busy schedules, both have been actively involved in community organizations, including the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Kern Valley Exchange Club, finding the time to work tirelessly on projects that would benefit the Kern Valley, whether it was for Veterans, enhanced tourism or youth programs.
But their involvement goes beyond simple membership. Because they are “doers”, they found themselves moving up the ranks of the service organizations looking for ways to add fun to an event while raising money and improving the community. They have served as President of both the KRV Chamber of Commerce and Kern Valley Exchange Club – more than once.
When asked if they had a favorite project that they were proud of, Marsha responded that enhancing the Rubber Ducky Race for the Exchange Club and the Lake Isabella Boulevard sidewalk enhancement project would be at the top of her list.
During the annual Rubber Ducky Race sponsored by Kern Valley Exchange Club, the Smiths’ would pull their motorhome into Riverside Park to serve as Event headquarters for the long 12-hour day. The event became more than rubber ducky races, it has developed into an all-day event that included family activities, while raising thousands of dollars to benefit the scholarship program for local youth.
“We have been part of 22 Rubber Ducky races,” Ron said. “It was a lot of work, but satisfying because it raised money for scholarships.”
Several years ago, Marsha proposed the “Adopt a Flag” program for the KRV Chamber, where members sponsor an American flag that is put up along Lake Isabella Blvd. during Veteran holidays. She said he got the idea while traveling and seeing the program in other communities.
There are other projects that the Smiths have been involved with that they won’t see completed before their departure, including the Bob Powers Gateway Visitor’s Center and the Lake Isabella sidewalk project.
The couple will be moving to their new home in Florida once they have finalized a few things in the valley.
And they are looking forward to exploring and seeing new sights along the East Coast.
“We have seen about all we can from this side of the United States in our motorhome. We really want to visit all there is on the East coast and if we don’t move there, we will never be able to,” Marsha said. “We also want to be somewhere greener.”
Marsha’s sister and brother-in-law live in Florida, and during a recent trip there, they started to consider a move. After looking at several areas, they said they found the right one. “We walked into the one we bought, and it felt like home,” Marsha said.
“We love to boat and fish and have our own boat dock,” Marsha said. “We can boat to my sister’s home or to the gulf from our back door. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
“It’s time to see something new, and there is so much to see on the East coast,” Ron said.
While leaving the valley will be hard in some ways, they look forward to starting their new chapter: retirement.
“I don’t feel that the valley is what it was 30 years ago. And California has become very unfriendly to small businesses,” Ron said. “At our age it was time to let the younger generation deal with it.
“We do not think we are too old to make the final chapter in our life memorable. I don’t think you are ever too old to start a new adventure,” Ron said. “I don’t want to turn 80 and think about all the things that we missed.
We are pretty excited about this move.”
Marsha said that the sale of the Kern Valley Sun and move has been hard.
But she is looking forward to their new adventure.
“Of course, I will have to keep our dogs out of the water and away from the gators,” she said with a smile.
Editor’s Note: Ron and I want to thank the Kern River Valley community for the support and friendship we have experienced over the past 30 years living in the valley. We will miss you all as much as we look forward to our new adventure. We hope you will give the new owners the same support as they transport the Sun into a new beginning.
-Marsha Smith, former Kern Valley Sun Publisher