TOPSFIELD – Ronald Stevenson Fudge, 84, of Topsfield, beloved husband of Marilyn P. Fudge, died May 14, 2020 in Newburyport. He was the son of the late Harold and Nina (Cooney) Fudge. Ron was raised and educated in Medford and a graduate of Medford High School (class of ‘54) and East Coast Aero Tech. He was a resident of Topsfield for 58 years.
He was born in Medford on March 10, 1936, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, three days before his future wife of 55 years, Marilyn Robar would be born in the same hospital. He liked to joke that Marilyn kept him up in the maternity ward with her crying. As a boy, Ron worked at his father’s gas station and auto shop in Somerville. He played trumpet in the school band and basketball in high school. He spent summers with his parents and three brothers in Rockport, MA, and it was there that he developed his deep love for the ocean and made many life-long friends.
After finishing technical school, he got his first job as an airline mechanic in Washington, DC. He soon returned to his beloved New England by landing a job with Northeast Airlines and became an employee of Delta Airlines in 1972. He was an early adopter of new technology, and he saw great potential in cable television. While working full time at Logan Airport, he started his own cable TV installation and construction business, R.S. Fudge & Sons, which he ran with his eldest son, Ronald S. Fudge, Jr. for many years.
In the summer of 1973, he started fishing for bluefin tuna, which became an obsession that consumed his summers for many years. He caught his first giant bluefin in Ipswich Bay in a 16-foot skiff by throwing a harpoon - javelin style - until he hit one. The fish took him and his crew on a Nantucket sleigh ride that ended only when a much larger boat came to their rescue. After that, as Ron would say, he was “hooked” on tuna fishing. The biggest tuna he caught weighed 1,002 pounds, but his favorite fish story was the one about the tuna he caught with a Granny Smith apple. Ron passed on his passion for the ocean to his children and grandchildren, with one (Ron Jr.) becoming a skilled tuna fisherman another (Doug) becoming a marine biologist and his late grandson (Nick) becoming a beloved personality on the reality TV series Wicked Tuna.
Ron was known for his legendary exploits. In 1959, while driving home from work at the airport in DC, he was mistakenly joined a procession of cars that included the Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev. In their spotless black car, sunglasses, and military style haircuts, he and his co-worker waved to the thousands of people lining the streets as if they were meant to be there. Then there was the Super Bowl story. On the morning of January 12, 1969, shortly after arriving at work in Boston, he got hold of two free tickets to Super Bowl III, which was scheduled for later that day in Miami. After finding someone to cover his shift, he got on the next flight and made it in time for the game. Ron’s favorite part of the story was not that it was a historic game or that the tickets were on the 50-yard line; it was that he met a kid outside the stadium who was desperate for a ticket and he was able to make the kid’s dream come true by giving him one. And who could forget the hijacking story? In 1972, a hijacked Delta plane landed at Boston Logan airport during Ron’s shift. Ron worked with FBI agents and volunteered to refuel the plane and deliver a flight engineer, which the hijackers demanded he do in his boxer shorts. He also delivered to them ham and cheese sandwiches, cigarettes, and apples – and sometimes, years later, when his wife Marilyn told the story – the sack with a million dollars in cash. Watching the evening news that night, she also would say that she immediately recognized him on the tarmac because of his distinctive bowlegs. More heroics ensued in the early 1980s. While on a flight to Florida with Marilyn, they had a near miss with another plane and their pilot had a heart attack. A flight attendant asked Ron to come to the cockpit where the pilot was slumped over the controls. Ron moved the pilot onto the floor and served as co-pilot until the plane was safely landed and the pilot taken to the hospital.
No one who met Ron ever mistook him for someone else. His driver’s license may have said his eyes were “hazel,” but they were actually indescribable, except that everyone agrees they were “twinkly.” He was a legendary prankster, which was a skill he cultivated with his younger brother Stevie. He also loved telling jokes, but all of his jokes were elaborate stories that his audience didn’t realize was a joke until the very end. He loved a great meal and was obsessed with his food being either “piping hot” or “ice cold.” He was known to get up in the middle of a meal to microwave his plate. His favorite foods were without a doubt lobster and ice cream, both of which he recommended for breakfast to anyone who would listen. He knew how to perfectly cook lobsters, clams, and corn-on-the-cob with only some seaweed, a wood fire, and a metal trash can. He was a grower of newsworthy zucchinis. In retirement, he became an enthusiastic baker of brownies and an expert on which restaurants had the best fried clams and the biggest portions. He wore dress socks on the beach. He was a builder of backyard ice rinks, but a terrible skater. He was an admirer of circus clowns. He cut his own firewood and, to their dismay, his children’s hair. He was the loudest singer in the room for “Happy Birthday” and dreadfully tone deaf. He was an extraordinary backgammon player. He had a superhero-like intolerance of injustice of any kind and he was known for fearlessly defending underdogs throughout his life. He practiced random acts of kindness long before it was a phrase.
Although he worked two full-time jobs for most of his career, he always made time for his family and friends. After retirement, he delighted in spending time with his family, and especially his grandchildren. He was also devoted to the countless friends he made from his days in Medford, Rockport, and Topsfield, and his many years working at Logan Airport. He will be sorely missed by all who experienced his boundless kindness, generosity, humor, and love.
Ron is survived by his daughters, Dr. Deborah Fudge and her husband Dr. Doug Fryday of Atkinson, NH, and Cheryl Fudge of Nantucket, his sons, Ronald S. Fudge Jr. of Topsfield and Dr. Douglas Fudge and his wife Esta Spalding of Culver City, CA, his grandchildren, Kaitlin, Allison, Cody, and Gemma, his siblings, Richard Fudge and his wife Jane of Wells, ME, Larry Fudge and his wife Judy of Ipswich, MA and several adoring nieces and nephews. He was also the brother of the late Stephen Fudge and grandfather of the late Nicholas Fudge. He was a member of the John T. Heard Masonic Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Ipswich since 1954 and a member of the Aleppo Shrine Temple for 63 years.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a memorial gift to the Boston Shriners Hospital for Children, 51 Blossom Street, Boston, MA 02114, T:617-371-4746 or by making a gift online at https://donate.lovetotherescue.org/, please designate memorial gift to SHC-Bos.
To leave a message or memory for Ron’s family, please sign the guest book. For those who are interested in attending an online open-house celebration for Ron to be held on Sunday May 24 between 3-6 pm, please email Doug Fudge (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Boston Shriners Hospital for Children,
51 Blossom Street, Boston MA 02114