Scanlon grew up in Southern California and became a para at age 9, the result of a car accident. “He told me he first wanted to learn martial arts when he saw it on TV as a teenager,” recalls multi-sport Paralympian Candace Cable, who has known him since her days of playing wheelchair basketball in the late ’70s. (Scanlon was a player for eight-time national champs, the Casa Colina Condors.) “He said he went to several martial arts places and asked about taking lessons and they kind of blew him off,” she recalls.
At age 17, Scanlon found Bill Lasiter’s martial arts studio, a six-mile wheelchair push from his house. Lasiter welcomed him in to take lessons — the start of a passion that Scanlon would pursue his whole life. “He was totally dedicated,” says Cable. “He would push his chair to the studio, arrive early and stay late.”
The hard work paid off — he made a living doing what he loved, teaching and sharing the sport. “Ron was one of those barrier breakers,” says longtime friend Mary Wilson Boegel. “In the ’80s he gave martial arts demonstrations all over the world and opened the door and made martial arts accessible. And, although he had a tough-looking persona, he was a gentle, kind hearted person.” Cable agrees and adds, “It is hard to explain: He was a quiet person, but he stood out because he had a strong and centered energy about him.”
Scanlon is survived by a brother, John Scanlon, and sister Jill Scanlon-Clendenin. There will be a memorial tomorrow, June 21, at 3 p.m. at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, Calif.