‘Broken’ student-vet makes makes most of life

By ALLIE HOLLER

If you walk into Tucson’s Isle of Games on a Sunday, you’ll find Pima Community College student Ron Cover.

Cover (pronounced like over) will be in the back of the store with spiders, demons, the occasional elf and a large collection of paints and brushes.

He spends his Sundays painting miniatures for games.

“I have several thousand miniatures,” Cover said. “I like to have them painted when I play.”

His passion for tabletop and role-playing games has spanned decades.

He first discovered the world of tabletop and RPG games in the 1970s and has spent most of his life creating worlds of fantasy as he socializes with friends.

Cover, 56, is a retired Army sergeant who spent four years in Germany from 1982-86. His primary job was to calculate the trajectory of artillery cannons, and he later moved to a position that required top-secret clearance.

“Anything but presidential clearance,” he said.

During his military career, Cover spent most of his time in northern Germany but had the chance to do some traveling in the region. As part of his deployment, he spent a month in a castle that was built in the 1400s.

“Above one of the doors, it had 1492 carved in it,” he said.

Cover was injured during a war game exercise in northern Germany while riding in a vehicle called a “Gamma Goat.” The driver hit a ravine and launched Cover into the air and onto a radio panel. He injured his lower spine.

He didn’t know the severity of the injury at the time and neither did the Army. Cover completed his service but did not make a lifelong career of it due to his injury.

He returned to Tucson, where he had lived since age 10 after his parents relocated from Toledo, Ohio.

Cover attended the University of Arizona and worked in multiple fields while progressively becoming more disabled as a result of his injury.

“I worked with handicapped transport, which I thought was funny,” he said.

He then worked in the insurance industry until his full retirement in 2002.

Over time, Cover’s injury has gotten progressively more serious. He has undergone several surgeries and experimental treatments to help remove and mitigate scar tissue around his spine.

When he’s out of the house, he is mostly confined to a wheelchair.

With help from nonprofit organizations like Disabled American Veterans and from state senators, Cover qualified for full disability from both the military and the Social Security Administration.

Cover’s more recent therapies include a Dorsal Column Stimulation implant, a device designed to treat specific chronic pain afflictions.

Cover was a prime candidate for the treatment, which involves implantation of electrodes to the area near the lower spine and an electric pulse generator to stimulate the area.

“It feels like I am in a vibrating chair from the waist down,” he said. “It works well, but it is more of a distraction from the pain.”

Since becoming fully retired, Cover has been raising his children and attending PCC through the military GI Bill. He has almost completed a liberal arts degree with a focus in world history.

His benefits also helped put his wife and two children through a large portion of school.

Cover has never quit playing games. It is also a family affair, with family members attending conventions and holding regular game nights.

On Sundays, Cover sets up his paints and miniatures and helps other people learn and explore what it takes to paint something not much larger than your thumb. A myriad of paint colors and small brushes make it possible.

Cover assists young and old with painting and other aspects of gaming.

“I’ve been collecting for 20 years,” friend Dave Weir said. “I’ve painted maybe 100. At some point, you have to learn something new.”

At the last Rin-Con multi-day gaming convention, Cover and members of his informal painting club organized a paint-and-take to provide participants with instructions, paints and miniatures.

Various gaming companies donated most of the materials. Cover’s group also arranged for donations that were used as raffle prizes, and intend to do it again in years to come as well as for other conventions in the area.

Why does he spend so much time helping others discover and enjoy games and miniatures?

“I’d rather be doing something than sitting at home,” he said.

“Life is fun, I like to make the most of it,” he added. “I’m broken but life is good.”

Pima student-veteran Ron Cover spends his Sundays painting miniatures for games. (Nicholas Trujillo/Aztec Press)

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