Ronnie was born on February 9, 1954 in Paris, Texas to his parents, William Ray “W.R.” and Ethel Swint Abbott. He was raised in Paris where he undoubtedly gave all his teachers a run for their money with his undeniable charm and contagious laugh. Ronnie was a friend to all, a stranger to none, nominated president of his class and voted “Most Likely to Succeed” his senior year of high school – a superlative he was determined to fulfill.
After graduation he went straight to work. He landed a position as a dispatcher for the Texas Ranger Law Enforcement Association – a chapter in his life for which his first son would eventually be named, then moved on to build houses with his father.
When he was only 21 years old, he laid eyes on the love of his life, Deborah Ann Jones (18), and knew right then he wanted to spend the rest of his days with her. The two wed just six months later on January 24, 1976. Their love was extraordinary, evident to all they encountered, and served as a solid foundation for the life they built together throughout the following 47 years.
When he would tell stories about “their early years” he would note they didn’t have two pennies to rub together, but they had plenty of love – love that saw them through all of life’s highs and lows. Together, Ronnie and Deborah had two sons – Ranger, born in 1980, and Chance, born in 1984. As they raised their boys, they continued to work toward the life they dreamed of creating.
Ronnie was a natural entrepreneur, his mind always dreaming and planning. While he didn’t have formal business training or a college education, he had the innate knowledge – and enough courage – to start many businesses and see them through to success. Ronnie was tenacious, full of grit, and had incredible work ethic. He dug in with only a high school diploma and continued to work his way toward his goals.
In 1982, they opened Abbott’s Furniture together, Ronnie selling furniture on credit and Deborah managing bookkeeping. After selling the furniture business, they kickstarted their next venture selling Compaq personal computers, physician office software, education software and Xerox copiers. From there the two opened the Paris Grandy’s, one of the first Grandy’s franchises in the nation. Ronnie persuaded the corporate decision-makers to let him open the restaurant they originally intended for metropolitan areas in his hometown of Paris because “that’s where their real consumer base was.” Together they successfully grew their location to be number one in sales out of the entire nationwide franchise – even surpassing the performance of the corporate-owned locations.
Following the success of their restaurant, Ronnie and Deborah purchased the “old Liberty Bank building” in Downtown Paris, originally with intentions to open another restaurant. Ultimately, they chose to jump into another new industry, keeping the location true to its bank roots. With the backing of a small group of investors, Ronnie purchased the First National Bank of Bogata and transferred its assets to a new subsidiary known as Peoples National Bank – he was only 34 years old. In 1988, they successfully obtained the only bank charter issued by the OCC. He wasn’t sure if he would get any customers beyond his own mother, but he had a dream to open a bank that wasn’t just built to serve those who had large sums of money to deposit, but to serve the working class and anyone in need the best he could as a “true community bank.”
Alongside his friends and bank colleagues he was able to not only fulfill that initial dream, but to grow the bank into a thriving financial establishment that is rooted in helping friends, family and neighbors achieve their dreams. Today, Peoples Bank is still serving the Paris community with the same motto, people helping people.
While simultaneously leading bank operations, Ronnie realized the opportunity for another venture and dove right in. In 1986, the Abbotts purchased a patent for a touchless car wash. After going on the road to look for the right partner, they paired up with Sherman Industries to manufacture their vision. After much perseverance, Mr. Goodlube opened and attached to it was the first touchless carwash in Paris. Soon after, the business merged with Hanna Industries, changing the operating name to Hanna-Sherman based out of Portland, Oregon. Together with their partners they continued to grow the organization to become the largest car wash manufacturing company in the world. Perhaps the coolest outcome of this venture was the sponsorship the company secured for the Paul Newman/Carl Haas Indy car race team with Mario and Michael Andretti.
Ronnie had many accomplishments in life – too many to recall here – but he would tell anyone that the greatest among them were his wife, his boys and his grandbabies. His favorite things in life had nothing to do with his success and everything to do with his family. Whether they were enjoying a sunset at their ranch, traveling to a new destination in their RV, sharing a cigar, or cheering on the TTU Red Raiders, he was happy as long as he could do it all with the ones he loved.
He was preceded in death by his parents and is survived by his wife, Deborah; sons Ranger (Ashley) and Chance (Savannah); grandchildren Dylan, Shep, Birdie and Goldie; sister Cyndy Abbott; mother-in-law Wanda Jones; brother-in-law Tim (Jo Marie) Jones; sister-in-law Stacie (Mickey) Ross; and numerous other family members and friends.
Family members celebrated Ronnie’s life with a private service. In lieu of flowers the family asks those who wish to honor Ronnie to consider donating to causes close to his heart: Straight from the Heart, CitySquare Paris, Baby Gunn’s Animal Rescue, Samaritan’s Purse, Bible Project and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Ronnie influenced many friends, family members, mentees, businessmen and women throughout his life that ended too soon. He was a true visionary and the definition of the American dream. He was quick to act when he knew someone in need, and he was always generous with the fruits of his achievements. He reveled in telling a good story, and he was always there to lend an ear. He was a devout Christian and loved the Lord completely. He was a fiercely loyal friend, his wife’s eternal soulmate and his sons’ ultimate hero. He was one of a kind.
We love you with all our hearts, forever. RIP, G.O.A.T. – Your Family
To leave a message or tribute for the family please visit www.brigthollandfuneralhome.com