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Meet Ron, the adorable 90-year-old grandpa who has become Reddit's guru

JESSICA CONTRERA

Last updated 16:08, January 24 2016

Ron Lehker, 90, has been overwhelmed by questions about everything under the sun, after starting an AMA (Ask Me ...

Ronlehkersrants/Blogspot

Ron Lehker, 90, has been overwhelmed by questions about everything under the sun, after starting an AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread.

When Roland John "Ron" Lehker was born, there was no Reddit, no social media, no cell phones, no computers. Nobody had televisions and people barely spoke to anyone who lived outside their neighborhood.

But now Ron was sitting in the attic of his Washington home, answering questions from strangers all over the world.

Ron – everyone online knows him as Ron – addresses each question slowly, speaking into a dictation machine that transcribes his answers. He's been doing this for days now, trying to catch up ever since his grandson set him up in a little corner of the Internet known as Reddit's "Ask Me Anything" or "AMA".

Ron Lehker busy replying to his Reddit fans.

The Washington Post

Ron Lehker busy replying to his Reddit fans.

Anyone can set up an AMA by explaining who they are or what they've accomplished. Then the forum is an open invitation to ask them questions. Most non-celebrities who do it get a few dozen responses.

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* The Reddit question no one should ignore

 


On January 10, Ron posted: "I Am 90 Years Old – An officer during WWII, a retired educator, and more engaged with society today than I've ever been before. AMA!" Ask me anything!

He answered a few questions, then took a nap. While he was sleeping, word got out to the techies and teenagers that a 90-year-old – 90! – was a Redditor. Now there are hundreds and hundreds of questions, way more than anyone would expect Ron to answer, and far more personal than anyone would expect someone of his age to feel comfortable with.

Yet every morning, he climbs the three flights of stairs to the room where he keeps his sweater vests, cassette tapes, blood pressure cuff, framed photo of his first love, and now, his beloved Internet connection.

I'm curious, the next one asks, how it feels to get old?

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For Ron Lehker, it feels like this:

He wakes up at 7, but sometimes 4. He goes to two churches, even though he doesn't believe in God. He brings his business cards on the Metro in case there's a chance to make conversation with someone, like if they're wearing cowboy boots – "Hey, are you from Texas? I was born in Texas!" He volunteers at Miriam's Kitchen and the White House Visitor Center. He dines out at Old Ebbitt Grill, listens to lectures at Politics and Prose, gets great seats at the Kennedy Center. He is polished and sprightly and only carries his cane, his friends joke, to shoo away all the women.

"I don't want to be decrepit," Ron says. "I haven't checked how long my grandparents lived, but god, they were old people, bent over and – I don't want to be that."

Ron is not only always finding things to do, he is the source of things to do, on his blog, dcfreeculture.com. It started from a list of events he'd like to attend; that turned into a list-serv, which became a blog, with the help of his 24-year-old grandson Jake DeBacher, who would then post the link on the DC Reddit page.

"He's not just an old person using a computer in an adequate fashion, he's creating something people use and appreciate," DeBacher says.

The rules of Reddit require proof that the person hosting the AMA is real, so Jake posted a link to Ron's blog, a photo and a brief bio of his life: he was a Marine at the tail end of WWII, a 1.93m basketball player, a teacher, a principal, a father of four, a grandfather of nine, a husband of 43 years, then a widower, then a partner to someone he met after retiring in Washington DC. He has been on the planet since 1925. Ask him anything!

The more Ron answered, the more he seemed to surprise the masses:

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