Friday, November 30, 2007

Bing's Dad


It's the end of November now and I thought I'd pay tribute to the third of our trifecta of parents who passed away decades ago in these Fall months. Bing's dad, Bernard Paul Ronyak, died 32 years ago on November 25th. Bernie was born, the fifth of seven children of Paul and Gizella Ronyak on June 2nd, 1915, in Clayton, Wisconsin in the northwest corner of our state. His dad was born in eastern Hungary near the Russian Ukraine border and came to Minneapolis, Mn. His name was Rovnyak which was shortened to Ronyak. Bernie's mom was born in Krupina, Hungary, in 1878 and came to America with her parents and siblings when she was 14. They followed their ethnic group to Minneapolis. Paul and Gizella married in 1900, started raising the first four children in Minneapolis and then moved to Clayton right before Bernie was born. We have some history of their life in Clayton thanks to Bernie's younger brother, Ray. He and the youngest sibling, Trudy, are still alive. In Clayton, the family lived on a barely subsistance farm and ran a small grocery store. They had kerosene lamps and outdoor plumbing. In 1926, the family moved back to Minneapolis when Bernie was 11. He finished his schooling and was active on the golf and hockey teams. He and his three brothers were daring and competitive athletes and rugged hunters and fishermen. Bernie and a friend from Minneapolis came to Milwaukee for work and moved to a rooming house on the East side. It happened to be the same rooming house where Millli Schreiter from Appleton, Wi, was staying while she learned cosmetology. Cupid took over from there and along came marriage, Paul and Bing, and eight years later, Sue. I knew Bernie before I knew Bing and he was one of the kindest, gentlest, most personable people you could meet. I knew him because he volunteered at our parish, working on paper drives and monitoring the halls during evening activities. He'd always have a cheery greeting and a helping hand. Bernie was a very high energy fellow. Most of his married life he sold flour to bakeries and would rise at four or five and be on the road to sell to the bakers who have to start early to get the goods out for the day. Then after work he'd get in a round of golf at various golf courses, ran the bakers' golf league and a bowling team. All the normal family things fit in there too and fishing, and hunting for small game, pheasants and deer. He'd rise early and crash early but crammed as much life into his days as possible. He and Milli loved sheepshead and cribbage and had regular times for card playing too. Bernie didn't talk much but his well lived life spoke volumes. He was a model of hard work, fair play, joy in living and courteous respect for everyone. One cold evening, in 1973, my dad had car trouble and he called on Bernie to come and help him jump the battery. Bernie wasn't feeling well but he went and helped . Returning home, he felt awful, then the next thing we heard was that he was admitted to the hospital with peritonitis - a serious infection in the stomach. Then came the diagnosis of colon cancer, about a two year reprieve when it was thought that the cancer was gone and then death. It was a sad sad journey for all of us and I will never forget the last time we visited him. Our boys were 1, 3, and 5 and it was evening and they were in matching royal blue fleece footed pajamas- I saw him look at them with such longing and wonder. He was very close to death and I could feel him thinking, that he would miss the growing up of these fine little Ronyaks. Thanks Bernie for being such a great dad and dad-in-law, showing us how to live and love.


I've written now about our three wonderful parents and it has struck me that somehow, somewhere this was all designed. People came from England, Ireland, Hungary and America and coalesced into this particular and blessed family. When I was younger, I was a bit smitten with the whole romance of the Irish ancestry with the smiling eyes and love of laughter and song and dance and I always said that our boys were born "all Irish." But with aging, usually comes maturity, and a better description would be that they are a marvelous batch of Hungarian goulash. Who knows what genes and traits have come through and where their wandering souls will take them but they can be sure that wherever thay are, generations of good people have led the way. Two of our boys have set off on their adventures to the west and they certainly come by it naturally when you consider that four out of eight of their great grandparents crossed the ocean in their teens for horizons unknown. Thank you God for everybody.

1 comment:

Bernie said...

I started reading this at the gymnastics meet, on my phone. It was too emotional. I finished it tonight. Thanks for the histories.

When I say too emotional, I mean my reading it in a crowd of people.

By all means, keep writing to inspire emotion.