He had as many names as he had stories.
Rockin’ Ronnie. Rockin’ Ronaldo. Rockin’. Rockin’ Ronnie Stevens. (Get the picture?)
Everyone knew him. Just think of Pacino’s Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero: “In all the five boroughs, I’m known. Forget about it. I’m known all over the fucking world.”
He was the nicest, sweetest, quirkiest guy you’d ever encounter in the hallway, the staff cafeteria, or for that matter, anywhere he went. He was that guy at the party you never forgot. The friend who would literally give you the shirt off his back – even if you didn’t need it.
He was an accomplished hospitality soldier like myself but music was his true passion. On the stage was where he truly became Rockin’ Ronnie – and he was a sight to behold.
I’ve lost track of the number of times he sat beside me at the Bell Desk and said, “Whatcha doin’, Hook? Blogging?” His support and enthusiasm were gifts I never grew tired of receiving.
He once told a guest of some advanced years that “The Hook will be delivering your luggage shortly.” And so, when I arrived at the room and knocked I heard a tiny, squeaky voice ring out…
“Oh, Harold.. that must be The Hook with the bags!”
Lunch was his priority. Always. “Well, what’s it going to be for lunch today, fellas?” he’d ask – at 8:30 am. Our annual excursions to Toronto were always foodcentric; fish ‘n chips were his fare of choice.
Writing about my friend in the past tense is an exercise in the surreal. And yet, from the moment he disappeared last Monday at 5:20 pm, a feeling of hopelessness has been inescapable. Indeed, I spent all day Sunday praying for a resolution to this ordeal, and the second I punched out at nine in the evening my wife was on her way to pick me up and break the worst news I’ve ever heard.
Everyone around me at the hotel is desperate for answers that I cannot provide. My friend’s family wishes to keep the details of his passing private, a decision I both understand and question, but out of my intense respect for both them and my comrade-in-arms, I shall respect their wishes.
There are so many things I want to say about my brother Ron, but the wound is too raw, the emotions are too convoluted and my grief is coming in waves. I held it together after receiving the news from his son last night but seeing Ronnie’s picture outside the staff cafeteria this morning broke my resolve.
I cried tears of regret, of deeper sadness than I’ve ever known, of pain that will never fully heal. But my grief has subsided for now and so I can only hope that the words will come to me in the future. As for the present, those of us who knew Rockin’ Ronnie best are carrying on as best we can, alternating between moments of fond recollection and heartbreaking sadness. At the end of his existence my friend was convinced he was alone in this world.
Nothing could be further from the truth.