Ronald Ronco is one of the few true Colorado natives. As one of five children born and raised in Canon City, Colo., he described his childhood as “beyond poor.” However, from his parents he learned his work ethic and the value of education.
Ronco said his mother worked part-time as a hair stylist out of their home, which enabled her to stay at home with the children. His father worked in a cement plant as a laborer. “He would work all day,” Ronco said. “He had a shift that he would leave at 4 a.m.,” he said. “He’d come back and then he worked all afternoon and evening in the garden. That’s what he did his whole life.”
The garden sustained their family, Ronco said. “It meant a lot of things to us. It meant food during the summer while we grew it and food during winter because my mom would preserve the whole basement full of food,” he said. “And it meant a little extra income because we would sell the rest.”
Ronco began working early in his life. “At age 12, I got a paper route because I was tired of my mom making my clothes,” he said. “Apparently, the ugliest fabrics are the cheapest ones.” He held other jobs through his younger days, including working alongside his father one summer. Ronco learned how hard his father worked to provide for his family. “After the summer, my father asked me, ‘Well? Did you learn anything?’ And I said, ‘Yes. I’m going to school.’”
After Ronco graduated from Canon City High School in 1990 he went on a mission trip to Canada and then joined a friend attending Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. When he arrived, Ronco decided to enroll to study chemical engineering. Ronco said, although he wasn’t a good student early on, he realized the importance of a college education. “I hit school with a whole new level of effort,” he said. That determination added his name to the Dean’s List.
While in college, Ronco met his wife, Deanna. They were introduced through a friend, and Ronco said he thought she had a “weird” habit. Ronco found a stash of empty gum wrappers by her side and asked where the gum went. She told him she ate it all. “I thought she was weird because she ate a whole bag of 5-cent gum,” he said.
The gum incident didn’t stop them from marrying a year later on May 6, 1995, in Mesa, Ariz.
After two years at Ricks College, Ronco attended Brigham Young University, where he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering. He then went to work for Alliant Techsystems, an aerospace company.
In 1996, the Roncos welcomed their first son, Jared. In 1998, they moved to Lancaster, Calif., on a temporary assignment. Their second son, Johnny, was born that year as well.
After working for ATK for five years, Ronco made a life-changing decision. In discussing it with his wife, he said, “I want to sell everything, move to Kentucky and go to dental school,” Ronco said. “And she said, ‘OK.’ Everybody wondered why I would leave this great job. I wanted something that if I succeed or fail, it is all on me.”
In 2002, the Roncos had their first daughter, Miranda, and shortly after moved to Kentucky, where he worked as a bank teller before being accepted in June 2003 to The College of Dentistry at the University of Kentucky. Amid the joy of knowing he could achieve his goal, he and his wife had to cope with a stillbirth. Ronco’s classmates pooled their money to purchase a small headstone for the baby. “I’m still friends with all of them,” he said.
In 2007, another daughter arrived – Madilyn. Four months later, Ronco graduated from dental school and moved back home to Colorado. Ronco wanted to live in a small town and his wife had a big town in mind. “We settled on Colorado Springs because it was kind of both,” he said. Ronco worked at Cheyenne Mountain Dental Group for a few months, and then heard about Meridian Dental. He practiced at Meridian Dental for three months before purchasing the practice in April 2010.
In 2011, the Roncos added another daughter, Olivia, to complete their family.
Ronco had been keeping an eye out on a house in Black Forest for about three years before he could afford to buy it. “We bought it, and everything was ideal,” he said. Everything was going so well,” he said. However, he said, “You can’t get too comfortable.”
On the morning of June 11, 2013, Ronco went to work as usual, keeping watch on the fire that had started in Black Forest. “We were watching it on the news and it was all the way on the west side of the forest, and the wind was blowing northeast,” he said. Ronco said he thought about the people who would be affected by the fire but never once thought about his own house. When the wind shifted, his wife called to tell him they had to evacuate immediately. With 45 minutes to pack what they could, they grabbed photo albums, backpacks and sleeping bags. They lost their home to the fire.
Heartbroken, they still tried to have a positive attitude. Ronco said when he and his family were finally able to visit what was left of their home they would find items and play, “Guess what this was?”
After living in a rental house for six months, the Roncos decided not to rebuild their home. “We wanted to rebuild,” he said. “And then we just didn’t want to see that kind of stuff all the time.” Instead, they purchased a different home in Black Forest, despite a bit of trepidation about the area’s vulnerability to fires.
Ronco said they were grateful for the support he received from family and friends and clients – especially the people of Falcon, he said. “I love the way the community came together,” he said.
When he isn’t working, Ronco said he enjoys his family and church activities, along with fossil hunting, photography and watching the Denver Nuggets.
He said he plans to stay in the Falcon community. “I love running into patients in the grocery store,” he said. “I love where I work. I love where I live.”
(Click photo to enlarge)
Dr. Ron Ronco