Ravic “Doc” Ringlaben. Pretty cool name, huh?
“Not when you’re six years old,” said the man most know as “Doc.”
Ringlaben is German, while Ravic comes from a character’s name (a very accomplished German surgeon and a stateless refugee living in Paris) in the book, Arch of Triumph, by Erich Maria Remarque, who also wrote the more familiar, All Quiet on the Western Front.
The German Ringlabens came to Pennsylvania to mine the coal fields where Doc grew up near Hershey.
He remained until he was 23 or 24.
And while most consider it a pretty cool name, Doc said in his job working as court clerk for Hattiesburg Municipal Court, where he sees a lot of names, “unusual names are not so unusual anymore.”
See, Doc is a Renaissance man.
He’s a special education educator, musician, husband, father, grandfather, helper, connector, superhost, philosopher, a spiritual being, volunteer, bourbon lover, a friend with a hearty laugh and a friendly smile.
Doc, his nickname, comes from the fact that he has his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate all in special education. Or in his words, he’s a recovering university professor, having taught and worked with children and adults with disabilities for almost 50 years.
The special education field came to Ringlaben totally by accident.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t really have the best career advice,” he said. “I had thought about radio, which I was still pursuing at the time, and even thought about being a minister, but I had too many foibles for that to work out.”
Raised Lutheran, Ringlaben was involved in church youth groups and happened to be on a youth leadership trip at a Lutheran University outside Susquehanna the summer between his junior and senior years in high school. One of the group’s field trips was to an institution for children with disabilities.
“I knew before I walked out of that institution that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “I’m probably one of the few whose career in the field wasn’t the result of a family member with a disability, which is usually the case.”
During an honors class his senior year (he admits to not being a great student who didn’t do a lot of stuff that you get grades for), he had to write a paper in order to graduate. He wrote on mental retardation.
Thus, his bachelor’s degree is in mental retardation and elementary education, his master’s is in emotional disturbance behavior disorders and his doctorate in administration and learning disabilities, which he said is sometimes referred to as mild disabilities. “Kids sometimes only find out they have a disability once they go to school,” he said.
Doc used his profession to see the country and to see the world, working in 12 states and a couple of countries during his career.
“It’s been interesting,” he said.
Ravic splits his time, 80/20, between the Hub City and Temple, Ga., located in western Georgia, where his wife, Jenny, is an instructor of the deaf and those who are hard of hearing.
Jenny, originally from Oak Grove, met Doc in Arkansas, and it was she who first introduced him to the Hub City, driving him around town when they’d come back to visit her parents.
Looking back, he said he knew there was something special about this area and was thrilled when he ultimately landed a job teaching at Southern Miss.
He bought a home in The Avenues, settled into his work at USM, and he remained in Hattiesburg for a number of years until he retired from teaching and moved to Georgia.
Having made the decision to keep the Hattiesburg house as an investment property, Doc turned his home into an Airbnb and made regular trips back to the Pine Belt from Georgia to check on his property. During these visits, he often ran into Mayor Toby Barker, who was a friend and had helped Doc get involved with some community events during his first stint in the Hub City.
“We go to the same church and I had helped him on some previous campaigns,” Doc explained.
Through his conversations with Barker, he learned about a part-time opening with the municipal court and Ringlaben said he thought it sounded “cool.”
As a deputy court clerk for the city’s two public defenders, he handles most of the paperwork, intake and pulls files to get them ready for the lawyers to review.
He’s been in the job since January and enjoys it so far. He’s also the “go-to” guy if somebody has a question nobody else can answer – a peril for those with an office near the door.
Doc said another big reason he returned to Hattiesburg was his church, Ekklesia, led by Mike Dixon.
“I love that church; it’s one of my favorite churches, may be my favorite church of all time,” he said, enjoying being back in that community of friends and followers.
HE’S GOT THE BEAT
When he’s not working, he’s also a musician, more specifically a percussionist, who plays with a number of people – Mike Miller, Casey Phillips, Wes Johnson and others at venues around the city such as Pier 98, Brass Hat and Chesterfield’s.
When he returns to Georgia on his monthly sojourn, he often schedules a couple of gigs there with friends.
“I was the kid always banging on things,” he said. “I still do if you follow me around in a grocery store. I grew up listening to a lot of jazz and got interested in drums in elementary school, and had a drum solo in the sixth grade.”
As he advanced in school, he got involved with the band, where his mom served as a band parent. He also grew up listing to her music during the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.
The family lived outside Philadelphia, Penn., where they got the Philly television stations when Bandstand was a local show before Dick Clark made it big.
“A lot of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll music – Frankie Avalon, Dion, the Four Seasons – were from that area,” he said.
Growing up, Ringlaben was in a popular band, The val-Jeens, that was together for almost 10 years; one of his part-time jobs as a student.
The name really didn’t mean much of anything, as many of the groups’ names do these days. Looking back, Ringlaben described the group as relatively successful.
They cut a record which did pretty well in the area and were even invited back to a reunion show 12 or so years ago where they had the opportunity to perform for several thousand people.
“People were there with copies of the record and our old 8x10 glossies, and at a time when I had hair,” he said. “We sounded terrific.”
Ringlaben is also partners with a recording studio back in Georgia, Hendley Road. They are currently working with a young performer, Charlie Hudgins, who Doc has played with a lot during the last two to three years.
“We think Charlie has a really good chance to make it, so we are working on his latest small album, which is in the final stages with a release party set for Aug. 17,” he said.
Another aspect of his life growing up and listening to music was the radio station.
“A lot of kids grew up in different places, but I hung out at radio stations,” he said. “I was always interested in that and did rock radio for 10 years, and really enjoyed it.”
With a strong, distinct voice, perfect for the airwaves, Ringlaben still enjoys announcing when he gets the chance.
He recently announced the awards ceremony for the Hattiesburg Half-Marathon, has done a voiceover for a United Way of Southeast Mississippi commercial and did some work for Barker’s successful mayoral campaign.
“I’m available to do that if it interests anybody,” he said. “I don’t charge. I do it as part of giving back.”
Hattiesburg has grown on this Northerner.
“I like the community a lot, but like most people I struggle with the 99-degree weather in the summer,” he said. “But I just love the restaurants, the music, my church and other churches I’ve been involved with; it’s just been a really cool experience for me.”
Another of his talents is putting people together, thus his “connector” title. “It’s always a thing that I’ve just done,” he explained, “introducing a friend who is interested in art with someone else who has a passion for that field, helping people meet other people.”
THE OTHER SIDE OF DOC
Ringlaben has an affinity for rescue dogs and Australian Shepherds, his latest being Grace, who currently lives in Georgia and eagerly welcomes him back.
He also admits to being a voracious reader of science fiction; he’s been reading since a kid.
“I was that kid under the blanket with the flashlight at night,” he said. “I grew up in a wonderful time with the original Star Trek, spinoffs and sci-fi movies.”
He also enjoys reading a series of books and is currently on book three of a 10-book series. He tries to read every night, unless he’s just exhausted. Retirement can do that to you.
He piddles around with gardening, but admits he’s more of a micro gardener, another of his foibles. He enjoys being outdoors, sitting with a cup of tea at his Avenues home where it’s often very quiet and he can hear the birds.
For about the last 30 years, Doc has been donating platelets through apheresis, another passion of this giver. He donates once a month.
Being an Airbnb superhost has enabled him to meet a lot of nice people and make some new friends – whether an international student needing a place to stay on a short-term basis; students applying to the osteopathic medicine program at William Carey; students completing an internship; couples waiting on an apartment to be ready; students who are taking summer classes and don’t want to commute; traveling salesmen or a guy from land-locked Kansas on his way to the beach who found the ‘Burg to be a good stopping place to rest.
He most recently opened his home to a musician who played the banjo, who had to evacuate from Hurricane Barry. That visit was part of Airbnb’s new “Open Home” program, where hosts agree to let somebody stay free if there is an emergency.
Ringlaben describes himself as an old progressive hippie with a young soul. He believes being active in the university setting and says being around students has kept him young.
It’s his aging body which sometimes tells him otherwise.
Having grown up in a small town and being a small-town kid, Ringlaben said he always thought a town of about 50,000 is about right.
“Like here, Hattiesburg has all the things that you need, actually more of them,” he said.
Ringlaben admits he’s never really felt like he fit in at other places he has lived.
“But that’s not how I feel about Hattiesburg,” he said. “I’ve never fit anywhere like I do here. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but it just feels like I fit here.”
And by all accounts, Hattiesburg feels the same way.