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Ron Singer, Sonoma Valley High School teacher, street performer, dies at 69

Ron Singer, a free spirit who lived at a New Mexico commune in the early '70s and went on to become a San Francisco street performer, finally found his true calling relatively late in life, working with high school students.

Singer taught drama and English at Sonoma Valley High School from 1990 until his retirement in 2006. He was found dead April 22 at his Napa home. He was 69.

'The coroner ruled it an accidental death from falling and hitting his head,' said Singer's son, Isaiah Singer of New York City.

Born May 14, 1945, in Berkeley, Ronald Stanley Singer grew up in Berkeley and Honolulu. He discovered his lifelong love of live theater at Berkeley High School.

'He was a far-out dude in the '60s, a spiritual guru teaching yoga,' said Singer's son, Abe Singer of Montesano, Wash.

Singer met and married his wife, Tenney Singer, in 1972 at the Lama Foundation retreat center outside Taos, N.M. They later divorced after 34 years of marriage.

As a young married couple, the Singers settled in San Francisco in 1976, where Ron worked as a street entertainer, juggling and walking a slack rope.

'He'd work all day at the cable car turnaround, and come home with a bag full of change,' said Tenney Singer, who also lives in Montesano.

Singer also performed at fairs and festivals, and went on to participate in the founding of Wavy Gravy's Camp Winnarainbow circus and performing arts camp in Laytonville, she said.

Along the way, Singer encountered many of the famous people of the era — poet Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia, among others.

'He told great stories about the people he met,' son Abe Singer said. 'He was able to strike up a conversation with total strangers like they were friends.'

Singer eventually resumed his formal education, getting his bachelor's degree at Sonoma State University in 1986 and his teaching credential from Dominican College in 1987. After finishing his master's degree in education at Dominican in 1990, he started teaching at Sonoma Valley High School that fall.

'Ron was amazing,' said his longtime co-worker David Donnelly, who teaches economics at Sonoma Valley High. 'He put on theatrical productions that were one click away from professional.'

Above all the rest of his interests, Singer was most passionate about teaching.

'He brought a lot of drama and creativity to the classroom,' son Isaiah Singer said.

In addition to his sons, Singer is survived by his daughter, Alison Lasley of Sonoma; his aunt, Charlotte Irvine of Stinson Beach; his stepson, Rob Leas of Phoenix, Ariz.; and six grandsons. A celebration of Ron Singer's life is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sonoma Valley High School theater.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

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