Singing ringmaster dies at 85

Aug. 7, 2006 at 6:27 AM
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CANTON, Ill., Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Harold Ronk, the ringmaster who sang at thousands of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus shows for 30 years, has died in Canton, Ill., at 85.

Ronk died Wednesday, said Jerry Digney, a longtime friend and spokesman for Ringling Brothers in the 1970s. Ronk was with the circus from 1951 to 1981, The New York Times said Saturday.

In full-cast circus pageants and parades, Ronk's opera-trained voice filled arenas around the country, accompanied by the circus band.

Harold Wilson Ronk was born Jan. 31, 1921, in Peoria, Ill., the son of Robert and Dorothy Wilson Ronk. Throughout his childhood Ronk took singing lessons and appeared in school productions.

He graduated from Bradley University in 1941 and served as a Navy communications officer in the South Pacific during World War II.

In 1951, he auditioned for John Murray Anderson, who he thought was casting for a Broadway show. Anderson was actually the Ringling Brothers circus director.

Ronk got the job, and over the next three decades, introduced a plethora of Ringling Brothers acts.

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