Ronald Arthur Gestwicki, 71, of Five Kezar Ponds, Maine and Sanibel, died at Stephens Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, May 18 after a nearly three-year fight with mesothelioma, and one week after his return to his beloved ponds.
He was born on Jan. 19, 1939, in Dunkirk, N.Y. to Earnest and Beatrice Gestwicki and attended schools in Dunkirk. He graduated from the University of Buffalo in 1960 with a BA in chemistry, awarded the T. R. McConnell award as the outstanding graduate. He spent the year following graduation in New York City as a special student at Columbia University, a laboratory technician at Mount Sinai Hospital, and the summer in London, England in the Winant Volunteer Student Program. He then attended General Theological Seminary in New York City, graduating in 1964 with a Master of Divinity.
In 1966, he enrolled at Drew Graduate School to study for a Ph.D. in religion and modern literature. After transferring to Syracuse University in 1968, he received his Ph.D. in 1971. As a college professor, he taught at Hobart and William Smith from 1970-1972. Most of his academic career was spent teaching in the Religious Studies department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, from 1972 until retirement in 2001. While teaching full-time, he also worked part-time as an Intensive Journal Consultant, then as Director of Advanced Studies in Holistic Depth Psychology for Ira Progoff’s Dialogue House Program in New York City.
After retirement, he attended Antioch New England Graduate School, graduating in 2003 with a Master of Science in Environmental Studies. His last work was a field biologist for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, 2001-2007. He was the author of two books: Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy and Other Stories: A Child’s Introduction to Religion (1978), and A Life Study of Franz Kafka: Using the Intensive Journal Method by Ira Progoff (1992).
He was married to Carol Louise Findlater of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1964. They met in Kenya on Operation Crossroads Africa during the summer of 1962, and spent the first two years of marriage working for the Episcopal Church in German South West Africa, now Namibia. He was an involved and loving father for sons Timothy Scott, born in 1965, and Jay Douglas, born in 1971.
Beyond his professional and family life, Ron loved the outdoors, and was a passionate environmentalist and conservationist, serving on the board of the Greater Lovell Land Trust, and as President of the Five Kezar Ponds Watershed Association until his illness. He was a competitive runner, a social activist, and a lover of good times. He will be remembered by family and friends as a man with strong convictions and opinions.
He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Carol, his sons Tim and Jay, both of Charlotte, and granddaughters Lila and Rose.
In lieu of flowers, remembrance donations may be made to the Greater Lovell Land Trust, P. O. Box 181, Center Lovell, ME 04016, with the designation “Ron Gestwicki Memorial.” Online condolences may be shared with his family at www.westonchandler.com
Ronald A. Gestwicki