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Ronald Martone

Ronald J. Martone, 78, of Grass Lake, Michigan, passed away July 9th after failing to cure ALS for himself and all other sufferers. That said, if anyone could have cured ALS through sheer force of will and thorough research, it would have been Ron. As his ability to move physically diminished, his laser focus on solving all problems (his, his family’s, the world’s, and that person he just met’s) never wavered.  In his last days, he was running his kingdom with one index finger, an iPhone and an Amazon Prime account that proved its value almost daily.

Ron Martone came by his deepest traits honestly. Born in 1941 in Buffalo, New York to Joseph and Mary Martone, he grew up in a first generation Italian-American family that valued hard work, the power of education, and the importance of taking care of your people. His father was the man to whom everyone on the block came for anything to be fixed, and for each of these tasks to be done well, to completion, and with deep kindness. Ron spent every one of his days doing his best to live up to his father’s example.

In 1962, Ron earned a BS in physics from Siena College; then in 1964, an MS in Biophysics and Radiation Safety from University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. While in graduate school, he had an Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship and a Brookhaven Lab Health Physics Internship. There was also some research being done for the government. To avoid having to change names and move to an undisclosed location, family members may not be able to elaborate further on this particular chapter of Ron’s life. What can be discussed, however, is that while at the University of Rochester, Ron met a pretty Environmental Hygiene and Toxicology Masters student who shared both his deep Catholic faith and his love of a Howard Johnson’s fish fry, and they married before they’d even graduated. Within months of graduating, Margaret and he had their first daughter, and less than two years later, their first son.

In 1966, Ron moved to Cheshire, Connecticut with his young family to take a position as a nuclear medical engineer at Picker X-ray, an innovator in the nuclear and ultrasonic imaging fields. This started a chapter of his life that included the births of three more children; a long volunteer relationship with Boy Scouts (and a lot of Pine Wood Derby cars), and one of Ron’s richest sources of spiritual and social community in Connecticut, his deep and dedicated involvement with St. Thomas Becket Church, a parish he saw grow from its inception. Beyond his faithful weekly attendance of mass (complete with enthusiastic, booming singing), Ron taught CCD, worked on coordinating annual spiritual retreats, and was a founding member of the Social Action Committee.

On his way to becoming the last company man in America, Ron saw and survived Picker X-ray becoming Picker Corporation; then Picker International; then Marconi Medical Systems; and ultimately, at the time of his retirement, Phillips Medical Systems. These changes took him and his family to Concord, Ohio in 1986; starting a new chapter that included seeing his younger children complete high school and college, and later brought one of his daughters back to the area with her young family to live with him and Margaret for a while. Sharing his life this way with Theresa, Mike and Ryan was one of the biggest joys of his life; especially being able to involve Ryan in one of his great loves, building and flying radio control planes. His relationship with each of his grandchildren was special, and gave him a further outlet for his need to do exhaustive research, as he planned and organized elaborate summer vacations for them full of Ohio-based adventures, or pin-pointed the absolute perfect gift for a child, showing them how much he cared about who they really were. Another important part of Ron’s life during these years was his connection with St. Gabriel’s parish in Concord as he became deeply involved in Catholic Men’s Fellowship, work of service through St. Vincent dePaul, teaching religion to children with challenges, and not least in any way, helping to found a radio control plane flying group at St. Gabe’s, “Gabriel’s Wings.”

Five years ago, Ron and Margaret left Ohio for Grass Lake, Michigan. They no longer needed to maintain a large family house, and the unexplained weakness Ron was experiencing pointed towards building a simpler life; preferably one on a single floor. Their son Michael and his family opened their home. Shortly after their move, Ron was diagnosed with ALS. Although the health of his final years was not what anyone would have wished for him, Ron continued to stay engaged in the life of his family, and got daily joy out of the time he got to spend with his youngest grandchild, Ben.

So, what did the world get when Ron Martone was born?

He was a solver and fixer, and raised children who never experienced a world in which anything broken stayed that way for long. Every crash was followed quickly (although probably after a sigh and/or a bandaid) with, “Put it on your father’s work bench."

He was a man who believed in systems, and that clarity begets safety. St. Peter's gate no doubt currently features a Dymo tape label indicating which way the knob turns and to be careful when opening it. (Note: these are not suggestions.)

He was often very funny, and loved a corny or mildly tasteless joke, but he never turned that sense of humor on anyone to tease them or hurt them.

He was a man of deep faith, and the confidence that allowed him to share it with thousands of people through his life in a way that often changed them.

He enjoyed a nice plate of squid. He also enjoyed marshmallow Peeps, preferably aged to a nice crisp. He was a very gratifying person to cook for.

He wrote prayers for people who needed them, and sent them, frequently illustrated with carefully chosen online art.

He would give anything to anyone, yet also appreciated the value of treating himself (see: The World’s Largest TV).  Both lessons valuable ones we would do well to take to heart.

Ron is survived by his wife of 55 years, Margaret (Prior); their children Mary, Joseph (Marie), Theresa (Mike) Harrington, Michael (Laura Grey), and Pete (Debbie Louie); his siblings Carol Mecca, Richard Martone, and Joseph (Sue) Martone; and his eight beloved grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents Joseph and Mary.

Family will receive friends to celebrate Ron’s life at St. Mary Catholic Church, 14200 East Old U.S. Hwy. 12, Chelsea, MI from 10:00 to 11:00 AM on Saturday, July 27, 2019; a memorial mass will follow, starting at 11:00 AM. Arrangements are being made through Staffan-Mitchell Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Siena College, Catholic Relief Services, or the ALS Society of Michigan.


0 #4 Kathleen Fish 2019-07-20 03:09
What a beautiful substanitive obituary in which I learned many things about Ron’s life I hadn’t known.
.. I do remember his humor, his deep faith and his kindness and how much our family loved The Martones. Sending my heartfelt condolences to Midge, Mary, Theresa, Joe, Michael and Peter and your families. Love, Kathleen Brosnahan Fish.
0 #3 Steve Couch 2019-07-20 01:50
My condolences to the family. Amazing how much you learn about someone later. He was always a very nice man when I met him
+1 #2 Maggie Lenertz 2019-07-19 21:57
I met And knew Ron primarily as the parent of my dearest friend, in about 1979. I’ve kept up neither him though Mary for most of my adult life. When my back failed at 32, Mary suggested calling him as he’d had similar problems. He was thoughtful and comforting.

In the past few years, I feel like Facebook gave me another chance to know this man in a meaningful way. He spoke of live. And God’s Love, in ways that felt more all encompassing than I remember as the slightly intimidating parent of my high school years.

I’ve been blessed to know his children, who are stellar human beings, they share the intelligence, and occasional silliness of their dad. And in the last few years, he’s posts engaged me, and made me think. I’m glad he is free of ALS, even as the world loses a great source of love and light.
0 #1 Pat McKinley 2019-07-10 22:00
My deepest sympathies to all the Martone family upon Ron's passing. Your St. Thomas Becket, Cheshire, CT friends remember Ron well and fondly. Peace.

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