If you ever doubted whether God could take your weakness, handicap or disability and use it for His good, look no further than Ron “Patch” Hamilton, who died last week at the age of
Before Veggie Tales, there was Patch – a series of comical character-building musical recordings for kids. Ron played the pirate, and millions of his recordings sold over the last few decades. His music was silly – but his message and mission were serious. Ron Hamilton had a heart for teaching children about Jesus.
The ironic thing about Ron’s missionary success was that it all happened because of cancer and the loss of his left eye.
The Indiana native grew up in a happy home and had a mother who was committed to passing on her love of music to her three children. All three kids learned to play the piano, and Ron’s mom taught them how to sing three-part harmony while riding in the car.
Mrs. Hamilton’s efforts proved successful. After high school, Ron decided to enroll in Bob Jones University to study music. It would be on the South Carolina campus where the new student met Shelly Garlock. Shelly’s father, Frank, was a well-known Christian composer who also led the school’s vesper choir.
Around that same time, Frank Garlock was just launching Majesty Music, which he called “Musical Ministries.” Frank traveled the country talking about the importance of Christian music, and also composed and produced music for church choirs.
But things didn’t really take off for the music ministry until tragedy struck Ron in 1978.
Married just three years at that point to Shelly, Ron began struggling to see out of his left eye. Tests revealed a growth, but surgery was required to figure out what was going on. Cancer was diagnosed and the concern was that it had spread to his brain.
It turned out the cancer hadn’t spread – but he lost his eye in the process. Doctors gave him a patch – and Patch the Pirate was born.
“Many people would see the loss of my eye and the need for wearing a patch as a great trial,” Hamilton said. “But I see it as one of the greatest blessings of my life. It reminds me that God teaches us the greatest lessons in the deepest valleys.”
Those deep valleys involved learning to navigate life with one eye. But Ron helped process it all by pouring himself into his music. He decided to have some fun with his new look and created and took on the identity of the “Patch the Pirate” character to sing and perform the songs that he wrote.
Shelly soon joined the effort, and over the years, so did the couple’s five children.
Christian radio loved the songs, and the music was turned into animated videos, too. Patch the Pirate Clubs were formed in over 900 churches.
Ron’s friend Chris Anderson summed up his ministry well when he wrote, “Ron wasn’t just a good guy. He was relentlessly gospel centered. Yes, he taught children Christian virtues and good manners. But he was careful to always point them to Jesus—not just obedience or politeness—as their only hope. I still tear up to hear his Patch characters pray to turn from sin and trust in Jesus, and I wonder how many people will be in heaven as a result of those recordings.”
The Majesty Music ministry continues in operation, and the Pirate brand continues to minister to children. Ron’s legacy isn’t just children’s music either. He composed 21 Christmas cantatas along with numerous hymns and worship songs. But it’s his 41 Patch the Pirate albums people remember most of all.
Ron may have lost an eye – but in the process he gained a greater vision for how he and his music could be used by the Lord to reach people for Christ.
Ron Hamilton’s life is a good reminder to never underestimate what God can do with you. If you feel unworthy or incapable for any reason, the Lord might very well be preparing to use that very frustration to accomplish something even greater than you could ever image.