For many, Ron Hamilton—also known as Patch the Pirate—is a hallmark of their childhood. His cheery disposition and catchy tunes can be recognized anytime, anywhere. Today, Bob Jones University celebrated his remarkable impact on children and families around the world by presenting him with BJU’s first Lifetime Achievement award.
An Incredible Testimony
Hamilton’s story is not only a familiar one, but it’s an inspiring testimony of how God works in the lives of His people.
In his late twenties, Hamilton was working at Majesty Music—a music store located in Greenville—when he realized that he was having some trouble with his left eye. During a routine visit with the doctor, they discovered that there might be something serious going on.
“After several weeks of testing,” Hamilton recounts on his website, “I was rolled into the operating room for surgery on my eye.” A few hours later after he had come to, he received the unexpected news: his left eye was gone. During the operation, the doctors had discovered cancer and decided to remove the eye in hopes of preventing the cancer from spreading any further.
In an interview with Greenville News, Hamilton’s wife Shelly said, “We didn’t know if it had gone to his brain. And if it had gone to his brain, the doctors couldn’t have done anything for him.”
Becoming Patch the Pirate
Meanwhile, Majesty Music had a neglected audience: children. Most of their compositions were geared towards adults which left the younger demographic almost completely unreached. But after his surgery, Hamilton—who now donned an eyepatch while displaying the same God-given joy—received a new nickname from the kids around his church: Patch the Pirate. The nickname stuck and thus his new persona was created.
Hamilton reflects, “Yes, I lost my eye to cancer, but God transformed my loss into a great blessing. The Lord has given me and my family an exciting ministry to families around the world through Patch the Pirate Story and Song cassettes and CDs.”
And the success has been incredible. Now, with the help of Patch, children around the globe have profound biblical truths etched permanently inside their minds for a lifetime to come.
Continuing the Journey
In 2017, Hamilton published a health update on his Majesty Music platform: “Over the last few years, we have embarked on a new journey. I have been diagnosed with early onset dementia. Although it has become increasingly difficult for me to minister in preaching and singing, I still enjoy singing as Patch for children and desire to do so for as long as I’m able.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “The term early onset dementia refers to dementia that first occurs in a person under age 65. The dementia may be caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other diseases and conditions. People who have early onset dementia may be in any stage of dementia – early, middle, or late.”
Prayers poured in locally and from around the world once Hamilton’s condition became public. However, this isn’t the first time the Hamiltons have faced hardship. In situations like this, the family embodies an important verse in scripture: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). Hamilton’s life is yet another example of how the Lord can transform even the most troubling of circumstances into tremendous blessings.
A Call to Action
In fact, Hamilton’s diagnosis of early onset dementia is what spurred Bob Jones University to take action in honoring the BJU alumnus.
Events management director Pam Cushman said, “I have a four-year-old grandson, and he sings scriptural principles all the time because of Patch the Pirate. My children laugh at the Patch the Pirate songs they remember singing while they were growing up. Whether they listened to it in the car or whether they listened to him for nap time and bed time, if you start a song, they can finish it. There’s just so many scriptural truths about who God is and about our responsibilities as Christians threaded throughout this artist’s music, and you don’t realize how those things stick with you. Even as an adult when something is hard, the first thing that pops in your head is ‘Little by little, inch by inch.’ So here I am, older, and I remember these things. There’s kids all over the world that have been impacted by this music.
“So we got to thinking with the Alumni office: Because his dementia has affected his health so rapidly and he’s so advanced, this would be the last time that he would acknowledge that he’s being recognized for something. In light of his commitment to children and families, we are giving him a Lifetime Achievement Award as Patch the Pirate.”
Presenting the Award
Chapel will kick off on Thursday, Oct. 11, with Hamilton’s son, Jason, leading music—including some Patch the Pirate songs. Then, a few families will share their own testimonies of how Hamilton’s work has inspired and impacted them. Dr. Pettit will share a few words, as well.
A few weeks ago, there was a video booth outside the Den and students were asked to give thanks to Patch the Pirate for the role he has had in their childhoods. According to Cushman, “There were lots of people who participated, and we have videos coming in online from alumni that have heard and want to say something to Patch.” These are the heartfelt videos that will be presented in chapel after Dr. Pettit’s speech.
After all this, Dr. Pettit and Mr. John Matthews will present Hamilton with his Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the end of chapel, the students will give Hamilton a banner that students have been encouraged to sign. The ceremony will close with Hamilton’s song “I Saw Jesus in You.”
Cushman asserted, “I think that’s a fitting presentation to a man facing a difficult time in life for as many people as he’s impacted.”
Watch the chapel service honoring Ron “Patch the Pirate” Hamilton:
Or watch just the video of special thanks from his fans around the world.