I had known him for many years as he lived in the neighborhood of my first newspaper route. He also lived down the street from the Graffs, who were friends of our family. Bob Graff and Ron Keller were in the same class. Their families lived on Mathews Avenue between Epler Avenue and Thompson Road.
Ron explained to me that evening in the coliseum that he was playing in Minnelli’s orchestra. The show was wonderful and something I’ll never forget. It seemed more special knowing a friend was performing.
It’s now been about 40 years and on occasion I still am reminded of seeing Ron at the coliseum. I finally decided to track him down.
I have a former high school classmate – Judy Tout-Snyder – who can find anyone. We often joke that she probably worked for some secret government agency. Judy is the “agent” in charge of our class reunion committee.
I sat and thought to myself, “What would Judy do?” I then leaped into action. I called the Los Angeles Musicians Union and told them about Ron and asked if they had any information. A nice fellow explained that while Minnelli lived in Southern California, her musical work was based out of New York City.
I then called the New York Musicians Union and once again told my story. The fellow there checked some records and discovered that Ron had resigned from the union in 1987. I asked if there was any forwarding information, and he provided the name of a city in Tennessee. I did some searching on the computer and came up with a couple of telephone numbers.
After a few attempts a fellow answered one of the calls. I gave him my name and asked if he had any connections with Indianapolis. He asked what did I mean, and I said, “Did you ever live on Mathews Avenue and go to Southport High School?”
He did. I had found Ron Keller. Besides working with Minnelli, he also did other gigs, including television, movies and Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve specials.
I told him about the Longacre Pool & Park program that was put on by the Southport/Perry Township Historical Society a few years ago. Ron told me that he worked at Longacre for about five years. He and Bob cut locker keys for the men’s locker room. I had forgotten that they got me that same job. We had some great laughs.
Ron and his wife of 56 years met at Longacre.
I remember going out Halloween night with Ron and Bob and some of their other friends. They were all four years my senior, and shortly into that evening I told myself that I was not ready for some of the pranks that I was experiencing.
Ron and his wife are coming up in July for a class reunion and to visit his brother, who lives south of Indianapolis. I told him that I have a DVD of the Longacre program with his name on it. I’m looking forward to getting together with him.
Shonk is a 1960 graduate of Southport High School, a ’63 grad of Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis) and a retired bus driver from Beech Grove Schools.