May 13, 2014

Family remembers Wichitan who died while on Hawaiian honeymoon

Ron Sauber loved golfing, gardening, camping and building playground equipment for his children.

Ron Sauber loved golfing, gardening, camping and building playground equipment for his children.

In fact, the 55-year-old Wichitan and longtime employee at Spirit AeroSystems loved just about all things outdoors, his family said.

So it was fitting that Sauber would include snorkeling as part of the honeymoon trip to Hawaii that he and his wife, Lisa, began last week.

That’s what he was doing Sunday when he died while swimming off Kaanapali Beach on the island of Maui.

Sauber was found shortly before 12:30 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time floating face down in the water off Black Rock, according to information provided by Maui police.

Sauber died at the scene after emergency crews attempted life-saving measures, police said. The cause of death won’t be determined until after an autopsy is completed.

Lisa Sauber, who arrived back in Wichita on Tuesday, was on the beach at the time.

“We’re still waiting on the autopsy to find out what happened,” said Gary Sauber, a brother. “We don’t know if he had a medical condition or got caught in a current.”

He said others at the beach saw him floating and swam out to him.

“He had a live pulse,” Gary Sauber said, “but it was gone by the time they got him to shore. Lisa said they gave him CPR for half an hour.”

Ron Sauber was a good swimmer, his family said.

He and Lisa were married Feb. 21 at Wichita’s Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. They left for their Hawaiian honeymoon on May 7 and were due back Saturday.

Tuesday, the family was gathering to make funeral arrangements while his body remained in Hawaii for the autopsy.

Ron was the oldest of four brothers who grew up in Hutchinson. All became Eagle Scouts.

“He was always a big brother to the younger brothers,” said Bettie Sauber, his mother. “He was always helpful and kept them in line.”

This isn’t the first time the family has faced sudden tragedy.

Ron’s first wife, Mary Anne, was killed in a car accident on July 5, 2001, in Burlington, Colo. He and their children, Kyle and Anne, were also in the car.

“I was 10 at the time,” Kyle Sauber said.

Now he’s lost the man he called “a really fun dad.”

“He taught you everything,” Kyle said. “He would tell you how to live life, but he also was the kind of father who would get down on the ground and play with me.”

They both enjoyed playing with Legos, then later connected over football when Kyle played in grade school and at Kapaun Mount Carmel High School. They made annual trips to Kansas City to see the Chiefs play.

“He would build us these massive forts in the backyard,” Kyle said.

Ron continued to create very large playground items for his daughters, Grace, 11, and Gabriella, 9 – children from a second wife whom he later divorced.

“He had Taj Mahal playground equipment,” said Brian Sauber, another brother.

Ron played golf at Hutchinson High School and Hutchinson Community College. He was so intense about the game while growing up that he would have his father drop him off at the course on summer mornings with a peanut butter sandwich and stay there until his dad picked him up in the evening.

“He was always very helpful to anybody,” Gary Sauber said. “He was always willing to share his talents.”

Or his grape jelly, which he made from the grapes he grew in his yard.

Ron was also known for his dry sense of humor. He and Lisa were shopping for plants this spring when she found one she really liked.

“But she wasn’t sure how expensive it was,” Kyle said. “So Dad said, ‘Don’t worry, I already put it in the car. It was half off. … I’ll pay half, and you pay half.’

“That was him.”

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