If there is one thing the community knows about Ron Zappendorf is that he always seems to be in the right place at the right time to help others.
“God and my family inspired me to help others at any given moment,” said Zappendorf. “It should be human nature to help. I hope people would do the same and think of God and their family and do the right thing.”
Since moving to Dawson County in 2013 with his wife Seanie and his sons Jack, 18, and Max, 16, Zappendorf has been a helping hand in several emergency situations.
“If you know Ron, when you’re in trouble or possibly ever being stuck on an island, you would probably wish he’s around for his survival and life-saving skills,” said Seanie Zappendorf.
The first time Zappendorf jumped in to help happened on a flight where a passenger had a seizure. With no medical personnel on the flight, he volunteered to calm her and treated her for shock. He stayed with her until an EMT came aboard the plane.
At the end of 2013, Zappendorf was a witness to a medical emergency and became a first responder when he drove up to a unresponsive asthmatic and diabetic woman. After two rounds of CPR, he was able to revive her.
In many of the emergencies Zappendorf has assisted, no one had called 911.
“People need to value human lives,” he said. “When you see someone in need, help. If you can’t physically help, call 911.”
Sometimes, helping others is a family affair.
While Zappendorf was taking Jack to a Monday night Boy Scout meeting, they came across a broken down vehicle stopped at the corner of Hwy. 53 and Lumpkin Campground Road. He pulled over to assist the woman and her young child. Jack, who was 13 at the time, took his jacket off to keep the child warm and called 911 while Zappendorf stayed with the woman and assisted with her car trouble.
During a family outing at a store, the husband and wife were checking out when their sons noticed the woman at the register looked like something was wrong. She fainted and her coworkers didn’t know what to do. The boys called 911 while Seanie ran to the bathroom to get wet paper towels for the woman’s head. According to Seanie and his sons, Zappendorf literally leaped into action – jumping over the counter to get to help the woman.
“That was probably making history at any store where someone jumped over the counter that was not going for the cash register,” said Seanie.
In another instance, Jack and Ron were on their way home with some friends when they saw a multi-vehicle accident and no emergency responders on site. Ron asked to stop the car so they could check if the victims were okay. They calmed down the driver of one of the cars who had a broken leg and they helped put out the car that was on fire.
A friend of the family, Lesley Brooks, remembered sharing an experience with Zappendorf that isn’t easily forgotten. While they were at Atlanta Motorsports Park, an ambulance arrived carrying a young boy and his father. They were awaiting a life flight to transport the little boy. Zappendorf acted immediately to help in any way he could, helping to calm the hysterical father by talking with him in an uplifting and positive manner.
“After all emergency vehicles had left and the man had a ride to follow his son, I had asked Ron if he had known this family for a long time assuming by his calm nature and the things he had said that he did. Instead to find out Ron was as clueless to whom they were as I was,” said Brooks. “It was nice to see humanity without hesitation.”
In late 2017, Zappendorf assisted with two car accidents and treated the drivers for shock and stayed with them until the emergency responders were on the scene.
Zappendorf has been active in running races for ten years, earning the title Ironman 10 times, with two more races scheduled this year. He is a proud veteran and serves as the Vice President of the Club at AMP. He also brought the first racing safety company to Dawsonville to help protect race car drivers and enthusiasts. Zappendorf has also been involved as a coach that led his cross country team to the Junior Olympics, an assistant scoutmaster and trained for first aid and CPR.
“Helping people especially in life and death situations make you humble,” said Zappendorf. “A friend had sent me a quote one time complimenting that I had helped save lives. ‘You've never truly lived until you've done something for someone who can't ever repay you.’ If this is true, then I’m the one that’s been blessed to have truly lived.”