Ronnie was born on July 21, 1980 at 6:45am in Centinella Hospital in Inglewood, California. We were so proud to become parents and I was thrilled to have a son that someday I could play catch with. He has an immediate impact on our life and we knew that he was a special child. Being the first one born in his generation, gave him the status that he would always treasure.
Ronnie was a great baby who did things quickly. He was walking (or should I say running) before he was a year old and never stopped. He learned how to climb the stairs at out home in California, but could not climb down. So instead, he turned around and slid down. He looked like he was a battered child because his legs were always black and blue from the decent. He always made us laugh and his personality was already there.
Rosemary and I decided that we wanted to raise our family in New England (she was born in RI, me in Mass.), so we moved from Cali (as Ronnie would later call it) to Rhode Island and this is where we call home.
We settled in Providence and Ronnie’s first school was Blessed Sacrament. He attended there from pre-school until he graduated from the 8th grade. Ironically, his class was together the entire time. So you can only imagine how much they tortured each other over the years. Ronnie was involved in many things, but he loved sports and he loved cooking with me. He was just an average athlete and only hit 1 home run in his Little League career. That home run came in his last at bat in the last inning of his last game. He was so proud (and so were we) that I think he floated around the bases. It really was a special moment for all of us.
During our time in Providence, Ronnie made his first friend. His name was Vincent Michael. He was several years older than Ronnie, but they hung around as neighborhood kids do. Little did they know that they would become friends for life. We nicknamed Vincent the “karate kid” because he was taking martial arts. Vincent had a profound effect/impact on Ronnie’s life and guided him to become a great kid who respected those around him.
On October 28, 1983, our second son, Jonathan was born. Ronnie was the ultimate “big Brother” and that would last his entire life. Ronnie loved his baby brother and watched over him like a hawk. To Ronnie, Jonathan was JonJon. Only Ronnie called him that and I think Jonathan loved that little special title his brother had given him. They were together all of the time, (sometimes, even by choice), school, sports, altar boys, hanging around the neighborhood, getting into mischief and especially, spending time with us. Watching Ronnie and Jonathan grow up was the single greatest pleasure for Rosemary and I. They were always with us and never ever away from Rosemary’s watchful eye. They truly were a joy to have and to be around. We have always been proud of them.
Ronnie’s passion for cooking eventually led to us move from Providence to Cranston so Ronnie could attend the culinary program at Cranston High School West. It was here that Ronnie grew the most. His friends, Matt, Kevin, Chris, Arthur, Roy, Brian, Dustin just to name a few, were his friends until the day he died. They were all so close and to this day, we still see them all. Almost all of them are involved in or are on The Board of Directors of Ronnie’s Foundation and that speaks volumes about the man Ronnie had become.
He was again involved with sports and many extracurricular activities. There are so many things to tell about his high school days that I would need a lifetime to tell you about them. So instead I will say that he loved this time in his life and lived each day to the fullest. Ronnie graduated from CHSW and went on to get his degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University in 2000. He would later become the Head Chef at Café’ I’tri in Cranston.
On September 11, 2001, Ronnie called me to tell me that there was a tragic accident in New York. A plane had crashed into one of the buildings at the World Trade Center. A few minutes later, he called again. I will never forget his words, “Dad, we are being attacked”! It was because of the attack of 9/11 that Ronnie decided he needed to do more for his country. He told Rosemary he wanted to join the Coast Guard and eventually he did. He was first a Reservist, but an opportunity arose that would allow him to be a Reservist on active duty. Ironically the unit he would be assigned to was MSST (Maritime Safety and Security Team) 91111 which was formed specifically because of 9/11. His assignment would take him to Anchorage. Alaska.
Ronnie insisted that he drive his car to Anchorage, Rosemary and I thought differently. He won. We Lost. We asked him to drive only during the day and to rest at night. It was a 4,500 mile, 9 day journey and as always, we wanted him to be safe. I told him that we would pay his cell phone bill for the month so he could talk to whoever he wanted to during his trip. At one point during the trip he lost all contact. No radio, no cell phone, tired of all the CD’s, in the middle of nowhere. All of a sudden a Ladybug landed on his windshield (this ladybug would become a symbol for all of us after Ronnie’s tragic death). He talked to the Ladybug for half an hour before she flew away. When the Ladybug was gone, Ronnie’s service was back on. He called us crying and told us the story about the Ladybug. Since his death, this Ladybug has appeared to us, his friends, family members and fellow Coasties on many, many occasions; actually so many that I would take forever to tell you about them. Ronnie’s new Coast Guard life had begun.
It was there in Alaska that Ronnie would begin the final chapter in his short life. He hooked up with a whole new set of people; Cooper, or as Ronnie would say “Coopa”, Abel, Parker, Cookie, Lauren, Lorie, Yagr and so many more. He loved this life and was proud to be serving his country. It was while stationed in Alaska, that Ronnie would meet the love of his life, Ambur.
Ambur and Ronnie met and fell in love. They were married on May 2, 2006 by their good friend Christian Parker. In celebration of their marriage, Rosemary and I made arrangements for Ronnie and Ambur to join us for a vacation in California in July so that we could all get better aquatinted. It was great to be with them and to have that precious time together. Although it was a little difficult, especially with Jonathan, we all learned to share Ronnie with each other. We really did have a great time together and Ambur was able to meet all of our California family. Ambur loved Auntie Lucy and Auntie fell in love with her. She immediately became a welcomed member of the family. Ambur and Ronnie would visit us one more time for Thanksgiving in November of 2006. If only we knew that this would be the last time we would see him alive….
In January of 2007, Ronnie and Ambur announced that they would be having a baby. How happy we were for them and how happy Ronnie was to know he was going to be a Dad. He was obsessed with finding out everything he could about the pregnancy and what he needed to do. He quickly learned how Ambur’s needs and urges would change. How she would be hungry at two in the morning and that he would have to provide for her. I told him, we have all gone through it and that this is only the beginning. Again, if only I had known…
As you all now know, Ronnie was tragically killed on March 25, 2007. He did not know that he was having a daughter. Ambur did not find this information out until after his death. There is not any doubt in my mind as to what a great father Ronnie would have been to Gracie. It breaks our hearts each and every day to know that he is gone. Our job is to make sure he is never forgotten and that Gracie knows all about her Dad and that his legacy continues through the PS3 Ronald A. Gill, Jr Memorial Scholarship Foundation.
We are thankful each and every day that that Ambur and Gracie are here with us. Our lives would be unbearable without them here. Nothing will ever replace our loss. We are thankful that we were privileged to have had the honor to be Ronnie’s parents and to have been blessed with having him for the 26 years, 9 months and 4 days that he was here. The greatest pleasure that Rosemary and I have is that we were lucky to watch Ronnie and Jonathan grow up to become the men they became. We are now blessed to watch their daughters, Gracie and A’driana grow up. We love our Granddaughters very much and are thrilled with the job that Jonathan/Brittany are doing with A’driana and especially the job that Ambur is doing with Gracie. It is very hard for Ambur to be a single parent and to have to do things by herself. We are all here to help her in any way and we know that she knows we are here for her.
We loved Ronnie as much as any parent could love their child. We look back and know that we have no regrets with him. He knows that we loved him and we know that he loved us. When he was away, we talked everyday, usually more than once. We miss him each and every day. I miss hearing him call me “Papa Dukes”. We wish we could have said good-bye. We wish Jonathan had a brother, A’driana had her Uncle Ronnie, Ambur had her husband, Gracie had her Dad, all of his friends and family had Ronnie, but most of all, we wish he was here.