Ron Broward, a Davis businessman who co-founded the popular Sudwerk microbrewery and devoted himself to finding and identifying remains of missing U.S. service members in the Korean War, died May 8 of liver failure, his family said. He was 80.
Mr. Broward, who fought with the Marines in Korea, was an unassuming man of discipline, determination and service to others. A successful developer, he mowed his own expansive lawn in upscale El Macero. At his Davisville Professional Center, he was often spotted sweeping the parking lot, cleaning bathrooms and changing light bulbs.
"When I first met Ron, I thought he was a janitor," said his wife, Jennifer.
Mr. Broward got his start in Yolo County as a general contractor. Besides apartments and office buildings, he developed housing for low-income families and seniors in Davis and Woodland in the 1970s. He built homes in South Davis before I-80 overcrossings connected the neighborhood to the rest of the town.
In 1990, with Sacramento architect Dean Unger, he opened one of the first high-end brewpubs in the Sacramento area. The business partners traveled together to Germany to research and import the craft of making genuine German beer at a Davis microbrewery and restaurant called Sudwerk. The pair sold the business, which has won national and international awards for its beer, in 2004.
"We wanted to bring back to America a little bit of Europe, where people go into a pub and have conversations – no TVs or dice cups," Mr. Broward told The Bee in 1990.
Meanwhile, Mr. Broward began a personal crusade to speed up efforts to identify Americans listed as MIA in the Korean War. In countless calls and letters to members of Congress, he urged improvements in collecting family DNA samples for comparisons with remains. At his own expense, he flew many times to Washington to lobby government officials and to Hawaii to meet with workers at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.
He also traveled to Korea to visit a hill known as "Horseshoe Ridge," where he was wounded when Chinese troops aiding North Korea overran the site in April 1951. Four of his fellow Marines disappeared in the fighting.
Mr. Broward's efforts were credited with identifying the remains of 35 Americans, his wife said. A total of more than 7,900 service members are listed as MIA in the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953 and killed more than 33,000 Americans.
"These guys have been gone for 50 years," he said in 2004 about missing service members. "These are mostly youngsters, some as young as 18 or 19. They're over there in a ditch or buried somewhere and they deserve to be home."
Ronald Douglas Broward was born in 1933 in Los Angeles. He played football in high school in Downey and at Camp Pendleton after he enlisted in the Marines at 17.
He arrived in Korea in 1950 and reported for duty as a rifleman with A Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. He turned 18 less than three weeks before he was hit by a mortar shell in fighting on Horseshoe Ridge.
He was a Marine recruiter before returning to Southern California after the war. Married with two children, he washed cars, picked oranges and worked in construction before moving to Davis in the 1970s. He was divorced when he met Jennifer Broward, with whom he spent 35 years and was married in 2007.
Mr. Broward, who received the Purple Heart and other military awards, was an unpretentious man. He enjoyed mowing his lawn to relax and watching the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Chargers on TV.
"But his true love was the MIA project," his wife said. "He could go into his office and spend eight hours doing that. It was his passion."
Ron Broward Born: April 3, 1933 Died: May 8, 2013 Survived by: Wife, Jennifer of El Macero; children, Dennis of Woodland and Karen of Placerville; stepchildren, Julie Johnson, Jim Webb and Jody Sisemore, all of Woodland; brothers, Paul of Bishop and Al of Newport Beach; 10 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren Services: Held May 16. Remembrances: Donations may be made to Yolo Hospice.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.