‘Feel good is free.’ Ron Rosnawski remembered

Last modified: August 19, 2021 at 6:59am

“I feel so blessed to have had a dad like him,” said Jeff Rosnawski of his father, Ron, a Yellowknifer who has passed away at the age of 67.

A celebration of life will be held for on Thursday, August 19 at the Rotary Centennial Park in Yellowknife at 1pm. Afterward, a burial will take place at the Lakeview Cemetery, followed by a gathering back at the park.

“All who knew dad are welcome to attend,” Jeff wrote to Cabin Radio, saying his father was well known around the city as the operator of the arcade in the late 1990s.

Originally from Timmins, Ontario, Roman “Ron” Rosnawski arrived in Yellowknife at the age of 22 in 1976 to work in the mining industry, spending time at both the Giant and Con mines alongside others across Canada and the North.

“Ron immediately enjoyed living and working in Yellowknife. This is where and when he met the love of his life, a local Yellowknives Dene woman from Ndilǫ, Christine Goulet,” Jeff wrote, saying his parents then had three children: Jennifer, Jeffrey, and Corey.

The family had opportunities to move elsewhere in Canada, including back to Ron’s hometown in Ontario, but choose to stay in Yellowknife.

A younger Roman 'Ron' Rosnawski in a submitted photo.
A younger Ron Rosnawski in a submitted photo.

“He was really culture-oriented,” said Jeff. “He wanted us to be with our family and he always preached going to visit our grandparents and learning the traditional ways.”

After more than a decade working in mines, Ron decided to leave the industry. Around the same time, he quit smoking, drinking, and using drugs.

“He was sober for about 35 years,” Jeff said. “He was really proud of his sobriety, and he always tried to talk to people that needed help with their substance abuse.

“His one saying was ‘feel good is free – you shouldn’t have to pay to feel good.’”

After leaving the mining industry, Ron worked a few jobs before taking a position running the arcade and pool hall.

It was never meant to be a long-term gig, but Ron enjoyed meeting and talking to youth from across the NWT – the Akaitcho Hall residential school was still open – and stayed for 13 years. He became known as Arcade Ron.

“I think my dad played a father figure for a lot of teens growing up in the 90s in Yellowknife, especially the ones that didn’t have a stable home,” said Jeff.

While Jeff said he sometimes resented sharing his dad with the city’s other teens, as he grew up he was proud of his father’s role.

An NWT Archives photo of the Yellowknife arcade which Ron Rosnawski ran for over a decade.
An NWT Archives photo of the Yellowknife arcade, which Ron Rosnawski ran for more than a decade.

“He treated everyone equally and fairly, and he wanted to open up people’s eyes to view the world in a more real manner,” Jeff said.

To this day, he added, acquaintances around Yellowknife would ask how his dad was doing.

“During his time working at the arcade, he treated all youth equally and displayed the same respect to everyone. Age, race, financial status, or appearance did not matter to Ron,” Jeff had written. “‘Quarter!’ was what he demanded from anyone who bounced a pool ball off the table.”

Jeff told Cabin Radio: “He’s one of these guys who would give the shirt off his back for anyone that needed it. He did whatever he could to give us whatever we needed.”

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