There are teachers and there are teachers. Ronald N. Stabile was a teacher. Mr. Stabile, as his students will always remember him, died Wednesday from cancer.
“Ron was the most inspirational teacher that I have ever known,” wrote Brandon Levesque, who succeeded him at Cole. “As Cole Middle School's band and orchestra director for over 20 years, Ron touched so many lives, not just in East Greenwich, but also at the University of Rhode Island with his former percussion students and those that were lucky enough to have student taught with him.”
Cole Principal Alexis Meyer was a teacher at Cole during the Stabile era, which ended in 2006 when he retired.
“Ron's influence has and will continue to influence generations of East Greenwich families. He set the example for many of us at Cole on how to teach, inspire, and enjoy the kids. We all learned along with the kids from him. He certainly touched my life as well as so many others."
Former EG science teacher and department chair Peter McLaren wrote, “If you were a student, parent of a student, or faculty member at Cole Junior High/Middle School during Ron's tenure you knew Ron as an educator who cared for ALL kids. He loved his profession but he loved his students more so as they WERE his profession.… He left us all better people because of him.”
Esther Kalajian got to know Stabile through her son Charles, now a professional musician himself.
“He just made it so everyone felt, ‘I can do this and I love it,’” she said. “Everyone felt that they were just the best. It wasn’t just the kids who were already wired for music.”
Former students near and far began weighing in as they heard the news.
“I took private drum lessons at his house in Cranston for [a] couple years until I reached Cole and picked up in band where we left off,” wrote Jay Moon via email. “I still use and I've started to teach my kids the techniques he taught me in those basement lessons almost 25 years ago. Great guy, he'll be missed.”
“He was a great teacher,” wrote Tabetha Elaine Fitzpatrick on Facebook.
“Mr. Stabile made me love band,” wrote Catherine McNamara. “He had an almost mystical ability to get a huge group of preteens with some very large and loud instruments to be respectful and pay attention, simply by making us feel like we were part of something bigger than ourselves, part of something truly special.... Mr. Stabile showed me how I could be truly important by being a part of something larger, the incomparable magic of creating music. Mr. Stabile introduced me to the simple brilliance of being one sound of many, being a part of the band, and for that I will be always grateful.”
For some students, Stabile pointed the way toward a career in music. Among his former students are two who teach music in East Greenwich schools now — Brendan Carniaux at East Greenwich High School and Megan Winters Catelli at Cole Middle School.
"Ron was one of the early musical influences of my life, who helped me to pursue a career in music and music education," said Carniaux. "He was a true inspiration to thousands of music students who went through Cole Jr. High."
Another Cole alum, Charles Kalajian, found in Stabile both a mentor and a friend.
“I want to be like Ron Stabile,” said Kalajian. “He knew how to connect with people and he knew how to drive people. He treated people with respect and made people feel like musicians.”
Kalajian's feelings were shared. "Ron was an exceptionally talented percussionist and well known throughout the state of Rhode Island as an outstanding educator. But most importantly, he was an incredibly compassionate human being and someone that we all wanted to emulate," said Brandon Levesque. After his retirement from Cole, Stabile continued to teach percussion at URI, something he started doing in 1987, as well as advising student teachers.
He will be remembered for things other than music, including a love of the New York Yankees that drove many of his students crazy, and his jokes.
"I’m going to miss his jokes," said Charles Kalajian. "He was the only person that could make them. They were so bad but he made them so good."
"I will miss not being able to hear his laugh, his corny jokes or simply being able to go to him for advice as I have done so often in the past," wrote Levesque.
Ultimately, there was just something about the man. In the words of EG drug counselor Bob Houghtaling, “He made music cool."
Ronald N. Stabile, 58, is survived by his wife Caroline M. “Carrie” Curtis. Born in Providence, he was the son of Irma A. (Tella) Olszewski and stepson of Carl R. Olszewski of Vero Beach, Florida. Ronald was a professor of music education at U.R.I., a longtime music teacher at Cole Middle School and professional musician. He was a devoted New York Yankee fan. Besides his wife and parents, Ron is survived by his sister Elaine P. Fantozzi and brother David M. Olszewski, both of Florida, and sisters in law Ellen Griffing, Kathy Campbell and Teresa Lazar.
Relatives and friend are invited to attend a Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday at 10 a.m. in St. Mark’s Church, 15 Garden Court, Cranston and may call at the Nardolillo Funeral Home & Crematory, 1278 Park Ave., Cranston on Friday from 4 to 8 p.m.