This article first appeared in the April 2003 AKC Gazette and is reprinted with permission.
by Mary Lou Roberts
Newfoundlands are known as "Gentle Giants"-and few Newfoundland fanciers live up to the reputation of our breed better than Ron Pemberton and Mary Dewey, who both passed away last year. Both set an example of what this sport is and should be about. They will be greatly missed.
In April 2002, the Newfoundland Club of America (NCA) awarded Ron Pemberton the prestigious Isabel Kurth Award for continuous service and dedication to the club and the breed. Ron was a perfect choice.
Involved with Newfoundlands since 1966, Ron was a breeder who owned or bred several national specialty winners. Ron served as an NCA board member and chaired and served on many committees, including judges' education, illustrated guide, and national-specialty.
Most recently, Ron was responsible for the restoration of Edwin Landseer's painting A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society and handled the negotiations that brought it to the Philadelphia Art Museum, where it hangs today.
Ron's accomplishments included being a professional handler, AKC judge, author of a critically acclaimed book on judging the Newfoundland, and founder of the Michigan Dog Show Judges Association. The state legislature of Michigan even adopted a resolution in 2002 to recognize his many accomplishments.
In a 2002 interview, Ron expressed many of his opinions about our breed and the way in which it is and should be judged. Above all, he was concerned with expression. "Many judges single out good and bad qualities and overlook the 'forest,' which is expression. Too many Newfoundlands do not display this intelligence and soft expression. These qualities, along with temperament, are the soul of our breed."
So were they also the soul of Ron Pemberton.
Mary Dewey learned to walk with her hand on the back of a Newfoundland. Born into a Newfoundland family, she began her show career at age 8. She later took over Dryad Kennels from her mother in 1973.
Although she never had more than five dogs at one time, and rarely bred more than one or two litters a year, Mary's success in breeding and showing Newfoundlands was considerable. Dryad produced more than 40 champions, including three ROMs and two Versatile Newfoundlands. Her most notable dog was Ch. Dryads Flagship, ROM, a Best in Show dog. Mary also served on the NCA board of directors, was chair and a member of numerous committees, and co-chaired two national specialties.
But for all her success, Mary will perhaps be remembered most for her gentle and kind spirit that made her a natural to receive the NCA's coveted Good Sportsmanship Award in 2002. She was the consummate good sportsman in her many years of helping and mentoring Newfoundland owners. She was never too busy to help pet owners, and never too proud to give a sincere congratulations at the show ring.
What were Mary's priorities for the breed? A happy, healthy dog. "These dogs are pets first, and being a show dog is such a minor part of their lives. What makes a good pet is a healthy, happy dog."