In 1964, when Dr. Ron Dumas was the only veterinarian in Citrus County, he made a sign for his office in Inverness.

He’d taken some wood planks that he got from an old house that had been torn down and hand-carved “Dumas Veterinary Hospital” into the wood, painted it and hung it up.

For the next 30 or so years until the sign was replaced, the original sign was a testament to the type of man Ron Dumas was: humble, homespun, a country veterinary doctor in the best sense.

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Citrus County native Ronald Dumas died Sept. 11 at age 85.

Born and raised in Crystal River, Dumas grew up on a dairy farm off Turkey Oak Drive.

From the time he was about 7, he and his siblings would be up before dawn doing farm chores before school, said daughter Gloria Bishop. “On top of that, he had either a milk route or a paper route. All his life he was always busy.”

When he was a teenager, Dumas met a man who managed a country club in Highlands, North Carolina, who would come to Crystal River and Chassahowitzka to fish during the winters, and would hire people to come and work at the club in the summers.

“That’s how we met,” said Marie Dumas. “Ron worked there for five years, and we met the second year he was there when I started working there; I lived about 15 miles from there.”

She said she was attracted to his kindness and his strong beliefs, but mostly his kindness.

On their third date, a Sunday afternoon, they had gone to a lake to take a walk, the rhododendrons all in bloom.

“We sat on a bench and he proposed,” Mrs. Dumas said. “I was so surprised! The next summer we got married.”

However, in between, Dumas went off to veterinary college in Auburn, Alabama.

He had always loved animals, “all creatures great and small,” as it said on his business cards.

And he adored his wife.

Ron Dumas was an example for what love looks like, Bishop said.

“My dad was romantic and sentimental,” she said. “They were married 64 years, three months and nine days when he passed, and he was always so proud of their long marriage. He even celebrated their ‘half-anniversaries,’ every six months.”

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A few years after the couple married, they moved to Bartow, Florida, for Dumas to do his internship. By this time, they had two daughters, Debbie and Gloria. Ronnie would come later in 1965.

While in Bartow, Dumas heard from the U.S. Army that he was about to be drafted and chose instead to join the Air Force; he served two years in Turkey, taking his wife and daughters with him.

After that, Dumas and his family moved to Citrus County in 1964 and he opened his veterinary practice.

The following year, the county extension agent asked if he would help out with farm animals in the community.

So, he did the "circuit ride," traveling from farm to farm checking on cattle and swine.

From the start, and for the next 36 years, Dumas served the pets and livestock of the community, often for free, donating 100% of his services to the animals raised by students in Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H, himself a former FFA member and active in the county fair association as a kid.

“He was a great role model for loving what you do, and giving back to your community,” Bishop said.

Granddaughter Shelby King recalled spending time with her grandfather at his office, helping deliver puppies, watching him do surgery, cleaning out cages.

“I remember being there my whole life until he sold the practice,” she said. “From age 7, they (her grandparents) started taking me every summer to his annual veterinary conference, so I got to travel with them.”

Oldest daughter Debbie Dumas Smith said she remembers going with her dad to the farms, vaccinating the cows and horses.

“It was fun milking the cows at the dairy,” she said.

As if Dumas didn’t have enough to do, he bought his own dairy farm, 50 acres off Independence Highway in Inverness.

“He grew up on a dairy farm and always wanted to have one of his own,” Mrs. Dumas said.

And then in 1968, he added two-term county commissioner to his already full plate.

“I wasn’t happy about that decision, because it would take up too much of his time, but he thought he could help the county that way,” she said.

On Mother’s Day 1976, Dumas gave his wife the best gift ever: He surprised her with a letter he wrote addressed to her that was printed in the Chronicle, telling her he wouldn’t run for a third term.

“That was the happiest Mother’s Day I’d had in a long time,” she said.

They sold the dairy and then in 2000 sold the veterinary practice, although Dumas continued to work as a vet for Dr. Moore, the vet who bought it, and then with Humanitarians of Florida as their first veterinarian, helping to get their clinic started.

He would have kept going, but Parkinson’s disease slowed him until it eventually stopped him.

“He never gave up the idea that he could still go out and treat animals,” Mrs. Dumas said.

As for his original sign, it’s now under glass as a coffee table, a project of welding students at Withlacoochee Technical College where Gloria Bishop is the director.

“My dad was so thrilled with that,” Bishop said.

“He was gentle and humble, but he was tough at times,” Bishop said. “He was very ethical, strong about doing the right things. ... If he made a commitment, he gave 150%.

"No one could ever fill his shoes," she said. "He was larger than life.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com. Read more of Nancy's stories at tinyurl.com/yxt69grh