Longtime Homer resident and former Homer City Council member Don Ronda, 81, died Sept. 14, 2012, in Homer. A celebration of life was held Sept. 22, 2012, at the Homer High School commons.
Don was born Nov. 23, 1930, in Fort Wayne, Ind., to Edward and Imogene Gene Ronda. He was raised in Midland, Mich. He met his wife, Arlene Heintzelman, a fellow student, while attending Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio. His studies were put on hold when he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Germany during the Korean War.
Don and Arlene married in June 1956, and spent their honeymoon in Alaska. The Rondas returned to Alaska in 1957 after Don graduated from Antioch.
In Anchorage, Ronda worked as a civil engineer with the Alaska Railroad. After getting his teaching credentials at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1959, he taught with Arlene in Naknek and commercial fished in the summers in Bristol Bay. After acquiring a master of arts in administration from the University of California at Berkley, the Rondas settled in Homer in 1961 when Don became principal and a teacher at Homer Junior-Senior High School.
He served as a teaching principal and counselor, teaching shop and math. He was a principal until 1968. He taught sixth grade at Homer Elementary School from 1968 to 1970. He then taught marine technology at Homer High School from 1973 to 1987, when he retired from teaching high school. He also taught woodworking classes through Kachemak Bay Campus from 1975 to 2007.
His civic career started in July 1967, when he was appointed to the Homer Advisory Planning Commission, the inaugural meeting of the planning commission. He was selected as secretary later that year, and served until May 1970. Ronda also served on the first Port and Harbor Advisory Commission and was appointed February 1973, serving until February 1984.
Ronda was elected to the Homer City Council in October 1984. He served a second term and was on the council until 1990.
From 1969-75 he ran Beluga Charters with George Hamm and Harold Gnad. One of the first fishing charter businesses in Homer, Beluga Charters also did sightseeing and rented skiffs and crab rings in the days when crab could be caught off the Homer dock. Ronda also fished in Cook Inlet.
His love of boats led Ronda to build detailed scale models of almost every variety of working boat found in Alaska, including models of the F/V Time Bandit, the Tiglax (on display at Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center) and his old boat the Sound Harbor. Many of his models are at the Pratt Museum.
After his retirement he began building airplanes, including a flying replica of a French World War I Nieuport 11/17 biplane, now hanging at the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. A pilot, he also flew the Nieuport. He helped Bill de Creeft renovate a 1929 Travel Air.
Don traveled widely and he loved this place. He loved that he came to Alaska when it was still a territory with its challenges and opportunities. He loved where he settled and what Homer provided for work and play and raising a family. He loved the diversity of people he found here and that he was free to pursue his many interests, to explore and to contribute. Alaska, and particularly Homer, was the perfect fit and he knew it and was grateful. We will miss him, his family said.
Don is survived by his wife, Arlene; daughter and son-in-law Ann and David Kontak and granddaughter GraceAnn of Concord, N.H.; daughter and son-in-law Sharon and Tom Baring and grandchildren Nathaniel and Katherine of Fairbanks; son and daughter-in-law Michael Ronda and Amy Vore and granddaughters Danika and Aurielle of Seattle; brother and sister-in-law Jack and Kaye Ronda of Sequim, Wash.; sister-in-law Violet Greenwood of Lindale, Texas, and numerous nephews and nieces.