Industry legend Ron Toomer dies at 81

By | September 26, 2011

The amusement industry lost one of its brightest stars today with the passing Ronald V. Toomer who died peacefully in his sleep at 12:15 p.m. following a four-month battle with cancer. He was 81.

Born in Pasadena, Calif. on May 31, 1930, Ron spent his early life in the Golden State before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952. After 13 months in Germany, he returned home to continue his education. As a graduate of the University of Nevada-Reno (1961, B.S.), he worked for the Hercules Powder Company as a mechanical engineer on the nozzle section of the second stage Minuteman solid rocket motor. For Thermatest Laboratories Inc., he served as a mechanical engineer responsible for research and testing of high temperature materials for use in the aerospace industry including the design, development and manufacturing of the heat shield sensors for the NASA Apollo space program.

Privately, Ron enjoyed working with wood. He hand carved waterfowl and enjoyed assembling wooden car kits. He was an avid reader, enjoyed crossword puzzles, picture puzzles, cooking and gardening. In his younger years, he most enjoyed the days when he could hike and camp in the High Sierras and visit the nation’s National Parks.

Publicly, though, Ron is perhaps most well known for his work in the amusement industry with Arrow Development (aka Arrow Dynamics) and the creation of a vast number of attractions, particularly the modern steel roller coaster. While his first assignment with Arrow was water issues at Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, the Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags Over Texas was his first roller coaster project. Working alongside Carl Bacon, he helped produce a coaster that paved the way with an amazing collection of coaster and ride projects. All total, Toomer would be credited with 93 steel roller coasters. He assisted with countless other non-coaster rides, including the initial layout for the hillside setting of the Six Flags Magic Mountain log flume.

Prior to his death, he admitted that when it comes to professional achievements, he was most proud of his contribution to the development of the first practical upside-down coaster elements (The Corkscrew) and his induction into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Hall of Fame in the year 2000.

Ron is survived by his wife, Betty of 54 years, four children and their spouses: Gregory and Christie Toomer of Darien, Ga.; Carol and Jeffrey Thornton of Bedford, Texas; Gary and Alana Mitchell of Keller, Texas; Christopher and Kristi Toomer of Parker, Colo. and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Martin United Methodist Church in Bedford, Texas. Flowers or cards may be sent to the church at: 2621 Bedford Road, Bedford, Texas 76021.