R. Washington, 60, owner of Ron's Ribs

Posted: October 03, 2002

Ronald Kelly Washington, 60, of South Philadelphia, who founded a popular South Street restaurant, died Saturday of pneumonia at Temple University Hospital.

Mr. Washington, who underwent a heart transplant in 1999, developed a respiratory infection about three weeks ago, family members said.

A man with a head for business and a taste for succulent ribs, Mr. Washington opened Ron's Ribs on South Street in 1984.

The eatery is at 1627 South St., the same space that once housed the legendary soul-food restaurant Bea Bea's Lawnside. But over the years, Ron's Ribs forged its own tradition. That tradition included those meaty ribs slathered in a barbecue sauce that magically transformed off-the-street patrons into loyal disciples.

Mr. Washington kept secret the recipe for his sauce, which he bottled and sold.

"Everyone's a barbecue expert when they put Ron's Ribs sauce on," Mr. Washington said jokingly in a 2000 Daily News interview.

A native Philadelphian, Mr. Washington graduated from Edison High School in 1960, then earned a bachelor's degree in business from La Salle University in 1970. He was active at La Salle, helping to start the Black Student Union on campus.

After college, Mr. Washington worked for MAB Paint for several years, rising to district manager for the Philadelphia region. All the while, though, he was planning to open his own business.

Ron's Ribs on South Street was such a success, Mr. Washington opened a second restaurant, at 16th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue near Temple University, in 2000. The new Ron's Ribs was open only Thursday through Sunday because of Mr. Washington's ill health.

Family members said they did not know whether the restaurants would remain in operation.

Active in the community, Mr. Washington belonged to the South of South Street Neighborhood Association, the West of Broad Street Businessmen's Association, and the Center City Residents Association. He was a board member of Leadership Learning Partners Charter School. He belonged to Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the Masons, and the Greater Philadelphia Restaurant and Purveyors Association.

Mr. Washington is survived by his second wife, Linda, to whom he was married for 19 years; his mother, Myrtle Kelly Washington; his father, Albert Meade; a daughter, Dawn Rivera; sons Brandon and Colin; two sisters; two brothers; and two grandchildren. His first wife, Ollie Holloman, also survives. His stepfather, Rutherford Washington, died several years ago.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. today at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 20th and Christian Streets. Friends may call at 10 a.m. Burial will be at Eden Cemetery in Collingdale.

Contact Rusty Pray at 215-854-2322 or rpray@phillynews.com.

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