East Chicago street minister, children's mentor dies at 74

2012-08-27T20:15:00Z 2012-08-27T20:32:09Z East Chicago street minister, children's mentor dies at 74Lindsay Machak lindsay.machak@nwi.com, (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com

EAST CHICAGO | Ronald “Ron” Hayes was an advocate for children and the community in which he lived.

He mentored young children through his street ministry and hoped to guide them in the right direction.

Hayes, 74, of East Chicago, died Monday morning in his home from natural causes, according to the Lake County coroner's office.

He worked to provide for his family and the children of his neighborhood until his death, his family said.

He is survived by his wife, six children and 10 grandchildren, daughter Vanessa Hayes Thomas said.

Hayes recently had been working security for BP while running his street ministry after retiring from operating his local real estate business.

Last week, he turned in an application to run for an opening on the School City of East Chicago's board.

He was most widely known for a cross he carried in troubled areas of the community. The cross had been across the country and back, Hayes Thomas said.

“Any time there was a breakout of shootings or gang violence or in any place that needed prayer, that cross would go,” she said.

Hayes also was known for giving away thousands of bikes to children and playing basketball on the local court with youths.

Mentoring families was an important part of his street ministry, Hayes Thomas said.

“If you know unconditional love, you know my father,” she said. “He was everything that a person, a man of God, should be.”

She laughed as she recalled how her father would go to McDonald's or Wendy's and buy several items off the value menus, then go hand them out to hungry people.

“I would ask him what he was doing and he would say he was 'watching the community,'” she said. “He was always feeding people to nourish not only their bodies, but their minds and their souls.”

Hayes never complained despite any hardships that came his way, daughter Bridget Bullock said.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer but didn't let it hold him back, Hayes Thomas said.

“He was humble and kind,” Bullock said. “They only make one of him. There will never be another man like him.”

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