A pleasantly cool vacation ended in flames for one College Station family, causing them to lose everything in sight—except their Aggie Spirit.
On a Sunday afternoon in June, Ron Carter ’74, assistant head for of the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M, received a call from the College Station Fire Department while he and his family were on
vacation in Alaska.
Carter figured it was a routine call, given his line of work in the chemistry department, but immediately realized that something wrong. “The fire department called and asked if my wife and kids were with me,” Carter said. After telling officials that he and
his family were on vacation, he was told that a power line had fallen on to the roof of their house during a thunderstorm—setting the house on fire. Soon, the family starting receiving calls, text messages and pictures of the burning home as they sat in disbelief
more than 5,000 miles away. The fire burned for nearly two hours.
“It was a saddening moment for our family and neighbors because there was nothing they could do,” Carter said.
The family returned home as soon as possible, traveling 27 hours by motor coach, plane and car. Once home, they saw that the fire had consumed the family’s house, leaving everything covered in about a foot of ash. “When you see everything you’ve ever owned
gone, it’s simply heartbreaking,” Carter said.
Carter and his wife, Rhonda, were not able to recover any of their possessions. Their children, Zebediah ’10 and Victoria ’12, were lucky to recover a few items, including Zebediah’s high school ring and his Aggie Ring.
Even though it seemed as if all was lost, families and friends were there to help. On Saturday, June 8, more than 75 friends, neighbors and coworkers gathered in front of the family’s home to lift their spirits and assist in any way possible. Marty Holmes ’87,
a vice president of The Association of Former Students, was one of the many who arrived to assist the family in their time of need. “Ron has given so much to the university and this community,” Holmes said. “It was simply heartwarming to see his neighbors
and fellow Aggies return the favor in such a tremendous way.”
Carter said people brought “boxes upon boxes” of food, clothes, and supplies. “There were people helping us who we never knew,” he said.
But their efforts didn’t stop there. After hours of sifting through the home for salvageable items, a team of Carter’s coworkers came across something valuable that was sure to lift everyone’s spirits. Ron was having lunch across the street on a neighbor’s
lawn when he heard a loud “Whoop!”
“I saw a coworker running towards me with tears in her eyes as she opened her hand, revealing both my wedding ring and Aggie Ring,” Carter said.
The rings were found in the master bedroom area, which was the hottest room in the house, according to fire department. Ron was surprised to see the recovered rings still in their original shape, despite the fire. The ash had apparently formed a protective
layer around the items. “They were sitting right on top of each other, just as I’d left them,” Carter said.
On Aug. 5, Carter brought his charred Aggie Ring to The Association of Former Students, who turned it over to the exclusive Aggie Ring manufacturer, Balfour, to be refurbished. Two weeks later, family and friends returned to the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni
Center to see Carter get his restored Aggie Ring back.
“After losing everything, the only things I wished I could recover were my wedding ring and Aggie Ring, and my coworkers were able to make that happen,” Carter said.
The Carter family has continued to receive support from neighbors and friends as they await the construction of their new home on the same property.
“Selfless service is what being an Aggie all is about,” Carter said. “And despite everything being gone, we’ve got our memories and support from our community—a few things that really mean the most to us.”
Photo captions: The Aggie Ring of Ron Carter ’74 after it was received from his burned home (top) and after it was cleaned and restored by Balfour (bottom).
Ron and Mary Kosh at the Williams Alumni Center in August, when his restored Aggie Ring was returned to him.