Ron Sailhamer had the uncanny ability of making friends with anyone he met. His larger-than-life personality filled the room, and the Shippensburg community is feeling a huge void in his absence.
Sailhamer, founder of Sailhamer Real Estate, always lived his life to the fullest, even when he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 2016. He fought the disease with all of his might for nearly two years, but it had spread to his liver. Sadly, he lost his battle on Sept. 28, at age 69.
The 1968 graduate of Shippensburg High School served with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, and was honorably discharged on Dec. 23, 1970. He married his high school sweetheart, Janet, on June 19, 1971, and worked side-by-side with her for decades in his real estate office.
In his early years, Sailhamer worked at H&H Chevrolet for Frank Hollar Jr., for 17 years. While working for Hollar, he developed a passion and drive for real estate, and became licensed in 1986. He worked for the former Hale Real Estate, and opened his own business in the early 1990s.
“What I saw in my husband was a very loving, compassionate man that loved his family and loved life (and lived it to the fullest),” Janet Sailhamer said. “He was definitely a people person, he could strike up a conversation with anyone. The nurses at the cancer center said they loved it when he was there for his treatments because he always had a smile on his face and lifted spirits of other patients (most he had smiling and laughing 'til we left the room). Ron was my high school sweetheart (and still is). We got engaged very young, then he went off to the Army (very sad day). The nice thing was he came home on Dec. 24! WOW, what a wonderful Christmas present that was! His way of showing love to our family was by working long hard hours to provide for us. He said he never worked a day in his life since he opened his real estate company because he enjoyed it so much. We worked beside one another from day one. Not saying it was always easy, but we were very happy to be each other's main supporter. He has left behind a family whom he loved, Rhonda (daughter), grandchildren (Kemper/Joey/Emma) and John (son-in-law). He enjoyed the interaction with people, in fact it has been said that now he is probably in heaven trying to sell the clouds! The best way to describe Ron – he is the BEST.”
Fellow Shippensburg businessman Duaine Collier said he has known Sailhamer since the early 1970s.
“They didn't come any better than Ron Sailhamer,” he said. “As far as I'm concerned, Ron was an outstanding member of this community. I knew him when he worked at H&H and did business with him at the service department there. He always took care of things very responsibly. When he decided to get into real estate, he built a business that I know he was proud of, and I think his family was proud of the accomplishments. All of the dealings I had with Ron from a business perspective were straightforward and honorable deals. On a personal level, he was a good friend, and I'm going to miss him.”
Collier said Sailhamer was known for collecting a lot of things, particularly Indian artifacts. He also said Sailhamer really loved his family, especially his grandchildren. “He and Janet worked side-by-side for many years. Ron told me he couldn't have married a better partner,” he said.
“He just had a good nature about him,” Collier added. “You could sit with Ron and talk about just anything. He was very personable. That's what I'm going to miss the most, just being able to sit and talk with him.”
Steve Oldt, Shippensburg Township supervisor and former Orrstown Bank executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the community couldn't have asked for a better Realtor in Sailhamer.
“I knew Ron for 20 years,” he said. “I knew his parents, who did janitorial work at Orrstown Bank, before I met Ron. I can remember Ron coming into my office in the late 1980s, early 1990s, and he said, 'I'm really thinking about getting my license to sell real estate. But, I'm scared! I don't know if I'm going to be successful.' He sat there and wrung his hands, and worried and worried and worried. I told him, you're going to be fine! I knew he would be successful!”
Oldt said Sailhamer was very good for the community, and was very involved in various aspects, including the chamber of commerce.
“He's been great for everything he did in business and support for the community. He surely will be missed a lot. I think his son-in-law will do well, and that's the good side of this.”
Oldt worked with Sailhamer on a regular basis on a number of projects when he worked at Orrstown Bank.
“You couldn't find a more ethical person in the real estate business. He knew real estate up one side, and down the other. He wasn't there to cheat anybody; he did what was right for the buyer and seller.”
His brave fight
Rhonda (Sailhamer) Dyson said life was about lessons for her father.
“He looked for the lesson in everything he did, and he relished the opportunity to share them,” she said. “And while he certainly could make any setting feel like a business meeting, it was always clear that he did it out of an intense curiosity, a joy for human interaction and a belief in constantly trying to make the world a better place through mutual understanding. Dad's life was tragically cut short. I find solace, however, in the fact that dad didn't waste any of it. HE devoured life. He always had a project or an idea. If there was something that interested him (Indian artifacts, firearms, antiques) he would study it and master it, seeking out the experts in the field to hone his understanding. I used to marvel at both his capacity for learning information, and the confidence and ease with which he would strike up friendships with highly talented people he didn't know at all. Even more extraordinary was his ability to tell these experts that they were wrong about something on which they were the expert!”
“I remember meeting with my dad the day he found out he had stage 4 cancer,” Rhonda continued. “It took me many hours to get the courage to go see him. I didn't want to be a mess when I saw him; I wanted to be strong. I walked into the room and my dad was sitting there, I immediately started to cry (the last thing I wanted to do). He looked at me and said, 'Do NOT cry for me. I have had a great life, it has been fun, I've worked hard and I'm going to work hard to fight this.' I immediately wiped away the tears and we continued our conversation about anything and everything except cancer. When dad had met with the doctor that morning, they had given him 4-6 months to live. He made it almost two years. He fought and he fought hard. Just like everything he did in life: he lived hard, he laughed hard, he loved hard and he worked hard.”
Rhonda said getting sick didn't change any of this.
“In the last two years, he approached life the same way he always had – living every day to its fullest. Dad was brave and strong with his fight against cancer. He went to numerous chemo treatments in Chambersburg and traveled to Pittsburgh three times to meet with a liver specialist. He did all he could to spend as much time here with mom as possible. I didn't notice a real decline until about August of this year. I had noticed him being tired and running out of energy, but he never complained. The last few days he spent in his bedroom trying so hard to stay here. I remember going into the room two days before he passed. He was so tired, he would doze in and out of sleep. When he woke, my husband, John, sons, Kemper and Joey, and daughter, Emma, and my mom were in the room next to him, he said, 'Why all the long faces?' I will always remember him being brave until the very end.”
Rhonda said Sailhamer cherished his grandchildren.
“Dad loved that Kemper would come out and help around the house as much as he possibly could. He would do yard work, housework, anything that would help mom and dad. Dad loved that Joey was so kind and so thoughtful of those around him, always seeking ways to lighten the mood and make others laugh. And dad loved that Emma was such a free spirit...able to make people smile and instantly feel like they belong.”
In 2017, Sailhamer recounted his first property sale in an interview with The News-Chronicle.
A state trooper wanted him to help sell his house. Sailhamer said once the property was listed, it only took seven days for the house to sell … and at its listing price.
He couldn't recall the exact number of sales he has closed on over the years, but noted his agency “has handled everything from the Walmart and Lowe's land acquisitions down to $2,000 mobile homes, and everything in between.”
Sailhamer serves Cumberland, Franklin, Adams, Lancaster, Juniata, and Fulton counties, and has helped sell thousands of properties over the years. They mainly handle residential real estate, but also work in commercial real estate and property management.
Sailhamer supported The News-Chronicle for many years, and his support is continuing through his son-in-law, John “JD” Dyson.
When he became ill, Sailhamer transferred the broker record to JD, who has worked for him for 20 years.
Even while fighting his battle, he put his family, employees and clients first.
“I wanted to make sure everybody that worked there was taken care of, and the integrity and reputation of the business was taken care of,” Sailhamer said last year. “It's always about the clients, and your employees. They're the most important people.”
One of his employees, Deb Arnold, said she knew Sailhamer for more than 25 years.
“First, let me say that Ron was a great boss who taught me everything I know about real estate. He was a just and fair man who said exactly what he meant. One of his first quotes that comes to mind is, 'I say what I mean, and I mean what I say.' Of course, my other favorite was, 'Say it in flowers, say it in mink, but never, ever say it in ink.' Those have been set in my mind from day one with Ron, among many others. Ron and his wife have helped my family and I more than any boss could have. He was a mentor, a friend, an extended part of the family. I often told him he adopted me and just didn’t know it! He was the greatest storyteller when recanting his many past experiences in real estate. All of which, of course, had a lesson for me to learn and assist me in being the best Realtor I could be. He taught me to give each client 150 percent. He also taught me that along with hard work, I also need to enjoy life and my family. The thing I miss the most was his energy and enthusiasm for life and real estate! He was like a ball of positive energy when he came to work. Even after he got sick he was always upbeat and positive! Right up to the end, he still tried to make us laugh when my husband and I visited. That will always stick with me. Most importantly, whenever I hit an obstacle during a real estate deal, I think, 'Hmmm, what would Ron do?'”
John Zimmerman, general manager of The News-Chronicle, knew Sailhamer for more than 25 years.
“Ron was not only a great customer, but an even better friend. He was my news source for Shippensburg when I needed information. Even better, he was one of the wisest people I ever knew about anything and everything. Sometimes, I wouldn't think he knew what he was talking about, but in a short period, it most always proved true. Ron always had time for me no matter how busy he was. I appreciated his friendship and will miss him greatly.”
A powerful force
Sailhamer served as a mentor to JD over the last 20 years.
“Ron was a powerful force. You knew when things were going well, and when they weren’t. When someone needed help, or he was confronted with a problem, he would face it head on. Admittedly, we were both very good at looking at situations from our own perspective. He tried to guide me with his years of experience, while I tried to provide my understanding of changing market needs. There was some headbutting, but most of the time we worked well together with a yin-yang type of teamwork. Ron taught me the importance of doing a job well and following through to the end. He showed me that no matter how difficult a situation was, I had to press on and figure out the solution.”
JD said almost everything Sailhamer bought was an investment.
“He was an avid attendee of auctions, and his life was forever changed when he discovered online auctions. I would often travel with him to help pick up his winnings. We would travel to York, Lancaster, or Downingtown to collect 18th century blanket chests, Windsor chairs or highboys. One time, he was especially excited about a painting he had won on an online auction. He was heading out of town, but was expecting a shipping invoice to be faxed to our office. He instructed me to sign for it and fax it back. But when the invoice came, it was for hundreds of dollars and I felt uneasy signing for it. I decided to call Ron to confirm the amount for shipping was okay with him. With a shrill, 'What!?' he asked me how it could be so much money to mail a little painting. I then had to break it to him that he did not actually purchase a little painting, but actually a 3-foot-by-5-foot painting that required a custom-made wooden crate!”
JD noted Sailhamer's passion for work and life was fueled by his love for his family.
“Ron’s love for work was driven by a relentless pursuit to provide for his family. He showed the love he had for his family by providing security and opportunity. He was always eager to offer advice and guidance when major decisions were discussed.”
How does JD plan to continue Sailhamer's legacy?
“Ron built an amazing company from the ground up. I am excited to be able to continue his dream and build upon the foundation he laid. Market share and name recognition are two of the most difficult business assets to acquire, but Ron certainly provided that for us. I feel comfortable and prepared for my new role. I want to expand Ron’s pursuit of providing for the family and explore how I can also provide for my agents and the community. Look for Sailhamer Real Estate Inc. to continue to be a leader in the market. We will be adapting to changing market trends and integrating new technologies. We have already upgraded our office networking and computer systems, and are in the process of building a completely new website. The goal is to provide the best tools for my agents, so they can provide the best service to our clients.”