Photo by Madeline Chartrand – 2012 British Studies conference at the Huntingdon
Our Ronnie is a soft-spoken gentleman of strong character and conviction. He is smart, witty, fun loving, gifted, kind, talented and intelligent.
Whatever he does, Ronnie aspires to be the best. He is a skilled performer, a respected educator, a beloved sibling to Scott and Roslynne, and a devoted son to Rose Mary and Ron. His girlfriend, Ewa and her two little girls, will attest to his passion for life and sense of fun.
After a week of feeling ill and suffering through intense vomiting, headaches, vertigo and flu-like symptoms, Ronnie experienced a massive stroke on Friday, April 24th, at 10:40 am. As a result of the stroke, Ronnie suffered incredible pain, developed dangerously high fevers, suffered paralysis to the right side of his body and has lost the ability to speak. The family was later informed that Ronnie’s flu-like symptoms were actually part of an initial stroke and he subsequently suffered a double arterial dissection causing a second stroke located in his brain stem.
Surrounded by his family, on Saturday April 25th at 11pm at Brampton Civic Hospital, Ronnie stopped breathing and he was put on life support.
Frantic calls were made to find a Neurosurgeon willing to attempt a life saving procedure on Ronnie. We were told Ronnie was not considered a good surgical candidate, however, the wonderful Dr. McMillan kept on it. She pushed and pushed and told anyone who would listen that he deserved a chance. Dr. Izukawa of Trillium Hospital stepped up and was willing to operate on Ronnie.
Ronnie was prepped for surgery and was transported to Trillium with the aid of the BCH Doctor and Nurse Sue. They accompanied him until they reached Trillium at 1:45am Sunday.
Dr. Izukawa and his team took over and Ronnie went into surgery at 2am. After the surgery, Ronnie remained fragile and on life support. He continued to suffer pain, spasms and delirium. While on a 72-hour watch in the Intensive Care Unit, he received exemplary care from the dedicated nurses and doctors including but not limited to; nurses Ralph, Lucia, Maness, and Dr. Murthy and Dr. Izukawa.
The following week it appeared as though the healing had started and that Ronnie was on the road to recovery. Then on Thursday April 30th he developed a bleed in his brain stem and Dr. Izukawa had to perform a second life saving surgery.
For now, Ronnie’s life is on hold. He will not be able to play music with controller.controller, Lioness or Flowers of Hell. He will not be able to complete his work at York as TA and mentor to his students. Nor will he be able to complete his Doctorate on time, as he had hoped.
It is this passion and tenacity that we hope will fuel Ronnie’s very long journey ahead. It will not be easy but Ronnie’s determination will drive his return to his independent, vibrant life.
Ronnie expressed an interest in music at a very early age, both as an audiophile and musician. He bought his first bass guitar at a flea market in Florida when he was approximately 10 years old. Ronnie changed his focus to drums and percussion and played in the school band in grades six through eight. Throughout his high school years Ronnie started playing in hardcore bands. He embraced the Henry Rollins (Black Flag) mindset to get in a van and play, a mindset he would later resent as a struggling artist and student. “Get in a van and play” has led to musicians being underpaid and their willingness to play being taken advantage of, something Ronnie feels passionate about. Traveling all over Ontario in his Dad’s Aerostar Van, Ronnie played in small venues, church basements and anywhere that would have them.
He developed his skills and played in many projects, but in 2002, he and his long-time friend Jeff Scheven placed a craigslist ad looking for people interested in starting a band. He had a vision and a desired sound, dropped his six string and bought his first Rickenbacker bass and taught himself how to be an even better bassist. Pulling influences from punk, post punk, rock, disco, reggae and dub, he and his new friends Scott Kaija, Nirmala Basanyake and Colwyn Llewellyn-Thomas started writing music for the band that would become controller.controller.
controller.controller went on to be well known in the indie music scene playing a style of music that would be later known as Death Disco. Signed to Paper Bag Records they went on to play with bands such as The Cult, Death From Above 1979, Franz Ferdinand, and many others. After four years and extensive touring of the U.S., UK and Europe, the band split but they remained friends and in touch. Earlier this year they reunited to play a small surprise show in Toronto for their former manager Linda Noelle Bush’s (New Romantic) birthday event and later an intimate show for the Wavelength music festival at Sneaky Dee’s.
Taking a break from controller.controller Jeff Scheven and Ronnie would soon create a new group with Vanessa Fischer (No Dynamics) and named it Lioness. Focusing on drums, bass and synths and striving to create a “big” live sound Ronnie and Jeff hauled around more than their share of large amps and gear. Jeff played drums and synths, Ronnie played bass and in some songs played a synth with foot controls simultaneously, while Vanessa sang and played keyboard. They too became well known and played shows reuniting with The Cult and with other well known acts such as K-OS, Hercules and the Love Affair, !!! and their good friends You Say Party! We Say Die!
During all of this, Ronnie somehow found time between his studies, work and Lioness to start playing in a project headed by frontman Greg Jarvis. A Trans-atlantic Experimental Rock Orchestra named The Flowers of Hell. Praised by artists such as Lou Reed, Peter Kember (Spacemen 3) and Kevin Shield (My Bloody Valentine). Kevin Shields would request the band to open for them at their show at the Koolhaus in Toronto.
Ronnie also played in Authin Heathen with his brother Scott, Andrew Hercules (The End), and Mario Laquintana. He also played with Andrew in several projects including Vague.
Ronnie is a gifted musician and talented performer. When he is well enough, we hope that he will return to the stage and do what he was meant to, move the crowd and tantalize audiences with his energetic showmanship. Please donate to aid in his recovery, so the world will continue to enjoy his musical legacy.
Many of his fans may not have known that Ronnie is an accomplished academic. He completed his MA in Scottish Studies at The University of Guelph and is the midst of finishing his Phd (ABD) in History at York University.
It is no exaggeration to say that as a student, Ronnie is York through and through. Entering the university initially in 1999, he completed an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2004, specializing in Visual Arts. He then went on to complete an Honours Bachelor of Arts also at York, majoring in History, and graduating in 2007. After completing a Master’s in History at the University of Guelph in 2009, Ronnie returned to York to pursue his doctorate.
Having completed coursework and comprehensive exams, Ronnie crafted a dissertation topic on the phenomenon of child welfare and ideas about juvenile delinquency in eighteenth-century England. Focused especially on London during a period when the health of young people and the regulation of their behavior became a subject of increasing public concern, Ronnie’s research seeks to illuminate the lives of the children of the poor.
At the time of his setback, Ronnie was in the sixth year of the PhD program. He has built an impressive series of databases on poor families and children and drafted most of his dissertation chapters. He received a graduate paper prize from the Western Conference of British Studies in 2012 and published two book reviews in academic journals. Ronnie served as co-president of the Graduate History Students’ Association in 2011-2012, is an active member of CUPE 3903, and received an award from the St. George’s Society of Toronto for his research. Having made several visits to UK archives over the years, the PhD finish line was in sight.
Ronnie is also a popular Teaching Assistant (TA) and is also heavily involved in the History department serving as the GHSA president, participating on the picket lines, and by growing a killer Movember moustache.
He taught and worked the way he played music, by taking something hard, and making it look effortless