OK, Mr. Ronan, NOW It’s Your Turn

By the time you reach your mid-60s, it really is amazing when you sit down and just think about all the people you’ve met and experienced life with, that made a brief appearance in one of the many chapters of your life. Chapters with characters that now are no longer a part of your book. But when reminded of them, it jars loose a few memories you’re proud that you could actually recall.
Get me started on my high school years and you’ll knock loose a flood of memories. (great–more flooding) Favorite teachers, classic life moments, falling crazy in love with the girl next door, being Senior Class President, highlights of my brief basketball career, etc.  I know some people are extremely done with those years, while others hang on to them as if they never ended. One of my post-retirement goals is to finally finish a movie script about those days at Torrance High School, if nothing else, to help preserve those stories for later years when memory fails.

In late December, I was minding my own holiday season, trying to get the career to calm down so I could enjoy my favorite time of the year when I got word on Facebook that Mr. Ronan had died.

If I said, “Mr. Ronan” to any of my fellow Torrance High School Tartars from the Class of ’73, they’d know immediately I was talking about one of the two counselors that helped guide our class through our high school years. Not a small task, when you’re put in charge of directing teenagers in a hurry to grow up, with raging hormones, falling in love with a new person every couple of months, all the while, dancing with the devil known as “popularity.”

Of course, by now, the memories of those days have softer edges, but Mr. Ronan definitely still stands out. It made me smile to think that Jerry lived into his 90s and that dealing with me hadn’t shorten his time on this earth. And when I heard that he had written his own obituary just waiting for that inevitable day, I just had to share it.

Gerald Thomas “Jerry” Ronan

I’m dead – took the last bus out December 9, 2021.

As the sixth of Maggie McGraw and railroad bridge builder Thomas S. Ronan’s nine, the journey began 1926 – on the day winter leaves Camelot. Great good fortune was mine from that at-home birth, merely yards from the banks of the Missouri River in Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Life-long friends, school work, paper routes and four years at Loupe’s Drug Store filled happy boyhood years.

High School graduation in 1944 and induction into World War II Navy duty for two years were simultaneous events; Navy service was growing up time. After an interlude of a year at First National Bank in Pierre, I was off to four years with the Jesuits at Creighton University in Omaha; they calibrated my compass and awarded me a diploma.

That Bank in Pierre had been home summers and college holidays – a post college year in the bank provided a one-way ticket to Europe on the Queen Mary for a two-year-plus adventure. It was a dream come true – Salzburg, Austria was my Shangri la.

Back to the South Dakota prairies: Ranch kids, responsible, almost adults, boarded in town, kept the Lemmon High School lights and the faculty on for ten-hour days. It was a memorable school year and the beginnings of a career with emerging adults.

Following a summer of English classes at Georgetown University, a continental crossing landed me on El Prado Avenue and Torrance High School in 1955. It was to be Home. Thirty-seven years in the “mother school of Torrance” with winning kids and colleagues passed in the seeming flip of a page. It doesn’t get better.

Leave taking was not easy. As classes and volunteer activities kicked in, life took on a new meaning. My affection for Torrance with its small town caring citizens was reaffirmed on a daily basis. I was never far from those Torrance High Tartars.

Never regretted a move – each chapter was a happy experience. Good-byes and leave takings were difficult. Transitions were tough, but life has been good. Trust and gratitude are key. Family and friends are the treasures. Along the way USC awarded me a Master’s degree; my remains go to their Keck Medical School. For my transgressions – for my omissions – I beg absolution.

One by one, Tom and Maggie and now the eighth of their nine has taken leave. Only “kid sister” Helen Pike of Janesville, Wisconsin survives. Her two sons, three of seven other nieces and nephews and their offspring remain. All nine and their issue have made me proud.

Join me in spirit for a Mass at Nativity Church as I make this final transition Sunday, December 19th at 8:00am.
What I recall about the man is that he took his job so seriously. He truly wanted to help students successfully head off in the direction they hoped to go, offering suggestions on classes to take and how best to get there. I’m sure he had a hand in helping me choose typing as an elective, at a time when that was “a girl’s class”, to help create future secretaries. Yeah, this was a long time ago.  But that skill was an important part of what got me where I am today, wherever that is.
He took his job and responsibility seriously, but with a subtle humor that I very much appreciated. I’d have to say that it influenced my preferred style of comedy, because while the laugh-out-loud yuks are fun, there’s nothing better than a subtle masterpiece that sticks in people’s minds.  Clever comedy is an rare art and a great example is still found today in my high school yearbook. 
I remembered Mr. Ronan had written something funny when I asked him to autograph my yearbook and when I dug it out of the bookcase and looked it up, I was right.  Imagine your high school counselor, the person charged with helping you direct your way through those crucial years, writing you a note like this:
I could imagine some parents flipping out. “All the world’s a stage? Get off?” What do you mean by that?
I take it that he recognized a screwball when he saw one, but that he knew I was going to be just fine.
Wow, he spent 37 years at THS. That’s amazing. I wonder how many other people can look back on their careers and think, “You know, you’re right. He did have a huge part in how I got to where I am?”
I hope a lot. 
Mr. Ronan, sincere thanks for all you did for me and hundreds of other Torrance Tartars. It was appreciated a whole lot more than you’ll ever know.
Tim Hunter

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