Please join us in celebrating the life of Ron Menke, who passed away on January 13 at the age of 70 after a prolonged battle with cancer. Ron joined the Blue Devil’s drum staff in 1972 and would stay on thru the 1979 season. Over those 8 years the corps grew from a 70-member local-based youth group to a 3-time Drum Corps International World Champion with back-to-back high percussion trophies. It would be impossible to overstate how impactful and influential Ron was to the corps during that remarkable era. “It was Ron’s competitive spirit that was instilled into the corps to this day” says life-long friend, fellow drum instructor and DCI Hall of Fame member Rick Odello. “He was not only the most competitive person I have ever known, but he had an unmatched work ethic also”.
“What I remember most about Ron was his passion for the success of the Blue Devil’s drum line” says long-time Blue Devil percussion director and DCI Hall of fame member Scott Johnson, who was a member of the snare line during Ron’s time with the Blue Devils. “He was always full of energy while working with us – always! He constantly encouraged us to be the best we could possibly be”.
Ron’s tireless energy left a lasting impact not only on the Blue Devils, but on modern marching percussion. Known as a “tenor drum guru”, he championed the transition from single tenors to the multi-tom set ups used to this day, was instrumental in bringing the iconic North tenors to the legendary 1976 Blue Devils, pioneered the use of sound scoops and projectors and worked tirelessly to develop carriers and harnesses that assured the best comfort for the players while allowing for more mobility and excitement on the performance field. “Ron always had our comfort in mind and was constantly developing and innovating new ways to carry the drums. He made our first fiberglass carriers in his garage!” remembers Scott Johnson.
Ron’s path to the Blue Devils was as unique as he was. A charter member of the Santa Clara Vanguard in 1967, Ron marched in SCV through the summer of 1972, helping the corps earn VFW and American Legion national championships during that time. Believing his age eligibility had ended in August of 1972, he moved on to join the burgeoning Blue Devil staff. After learning that he in fact had another year left to march, he realized his return to the line would mean that someone already in would lose their spot. Ron just couldn’t bring himself to do that and thus choose to dedicate himself to teaching. Countless Blue Devils and generations of marching percussion fans are thankful that he did. “I know that I wouldn’t be the man and teacher that I am today without Ron’s wisdom and guidance” states Scott Johnson.
Ron loved playing baseball, following football, and debating on just about any topic possible. He was a graduate of San Jose State University and participated in the Spartan Marching Band while earning a degree in nuclear chemistry. He worked in the electric distribution industry, staying with the same company for nearly 40 years. Ron was married to his beloved wife Sue (Dealy) Menke for 43 years and was a proud father to Kevin and Kimberly and a doting grandfather to Lucas.
The entire Blue Devil organization sends our deepest sympathies to the Menke family. As Rick Odello simply and elegantly states, “We owe him much respect and gratitude”. That we do indeed. Thank you, Ron. Rest in peace.