February 23, 1929 – December 27, 2020
Walter Ronald Zahniser was born in Berkeley on Feb. 23, 1929, to Albert D. Zahniser and Edith D. Zahniser. With his wife, Mary, at his side, Ron passed away peacefully in his home on Dec. 27, 2020, and laid to rest Jan. 8, 2021.
Ron spent the first years of his life raised alongside his two brothers, Fred and Jim, and sister, Joan, in El Cerrito. During this time, he was a very active youth having a paper route by age 8, and after school cleaning stalls at the horse racetrack. Eventually Ron acquired his first horse “Paiute” and would ride to deliver newspapers. Ron also enjoyed the hobby of keeping homing pigeons and once received a banded pigeon from the “Birdman of Alcatraz” with a message stating, “congratulations” for receiving his pigeon.
Being an outgoing student, in his early teens one day he decided to self-checkout of school (ditch day) and take a ride with some friends up to the foothills. The group of explorers managed to get as far as a dude ranch located near Mountain Ranch. Being from the East Bay, Ron was fascinated and intrigued by the operations of the dude ranch and desired to work on it. In 1943 Ron began working at the dude ranch and shortly thereafter the following year 1944, his dad purchased approximately 300 acres on Whiskey Slide Road and relocated the family from Alameda County to Calaveras County.
Ron enrolled as a student at Calaveras High School in 1945 and was a good athlete, student and class president his senior year. But most importantly he would meet a beautiful girl named Mary, which after High School would wed. Recently Ron and Mary celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary.
Although eventually he would later on (1980s) become the successful owner of Ron’s Towing & Auto Repair in San Andreas, upon graduating High School he went to work at the Calaveras Cement Plant, married in 1948, and by 1952 had three children Kathleen, David and Rhonda. Being an energetic father, Ron worked two additional jobs to support his family, but also provided the means to spend time together in recreation. To do this he purchased many horses, boats, motorcycles, cars and even an airplane. He used many different vehicles to tow his boat to the lakes Hogan, Tulloch and Melones, where the kids and later grandkids would learn how to water ski. Of the many different vehicles Ron owned, he had a particular fondness for two that he purchased new. His beloved 1958 Chevrolet Cameo and 1964 Chevrolet Impala SS have been preserved and retained to this day.
Another passion was flying his airplane (1947 Stinson). Ron developed a couple of signature moves that he would perform to alert his family that he had taken flight. While flying slowly over head he would tilt the wings from left to right rapidly signifying a wave from above. When outside of town over the ranch, he would cut the throttle and dive silently, then go full throttle as he pulled up right above the ground to pull out of the dive, always providing a degree of excitement for those that would dare to fly with him, and surprise to those unaware on the ground. Ron also had a few different tractors, for which he liked to use to maintain his property, onlookers never really knowing what landscaping vision he had next.
More than anything Ron loved his family and was a dedicated patriarch. He was preceded in death by his father, mother, two brothers and untimely passing of both of his daughters. He leaves behind his loving wife, Mary; son, David and wife Elaine; grandchildren, Kevin and wife Susan, Shaun and wife Tracy, Jason, Aaron and wife Mary, and Shireen; great-grandchildren, Airiana, Airick, Alexandria, Alexis, Andrew, Brandon, Cheyanne, Christian, Emily, Joseph, Justin, Madeline, Max, Miles, Michael and Nicholas; and great-great-grandchildren, Jeremy and Marsean Jr.
Ron’s family will always love, miss and cherish the memories of him, and when we look towards the sky know that he is eternally waving at us from above.