Ronda joined Hoffmann Foundation for Autism on 2nd November 2009 as our Director of Services. She then took the post of Chief Executive with effect from 11th October 2010. Ronda had a Nursing background and specialised in the care of those diagnosed with Autism and Learning Disabilities.
Ronda was well travelled and loved to relay her stories of her many wonderful adventures and she told us many tales about her time spent in many exotic parts of the world. She was the wife of a Navy man and she visited or lived in such places as Hong Kong, the Maldives, Malaysia, Malta, France, Gibraltar, America, Antigua, Singapore, the Middle East, Italy, Spain and Australia.
People who knew Ronda the best knew that she had a “wicked” sense of humour and could sometimes be quite mischievous. She would always stay calm in an emergency and had a knack for turning a negative situation into a positive and I do recall one such incident. When Head Office was based in Kings Cross in a basement office, one day, we had a huge deluge of rain from an unpredicted rainstorm and the water started to rise in the gangway just next to Ronda’s office. Somehow the drainage system got blocked and the wastepipes burst open, so you can imagine the unfolding catastrophe. Ronda simply emailed everyone and told us all to put our waders and life jackets on, get the boats out and make a dash for it. She refused to get “too serious” about the situation at hand, even though the water was rapidly rising before our eyes. She had us all in stiches that day and needless to say the “situation was sorted” and life in the basement went back to normal very quickly.
Ronda was well known for giving advice. She seemed to be an expert on every topic you could think of and many in this room will remember Ronda’s fabulous counsel. She knew all about various medical conditions, children with behavioural difficulties, relationships, what to cook, places to visit, the best wine, the Royal Family, where to shop online, self-service tills, politics, dealing with difficult people………………..the list was endless. People would form a queue outside her office. Ronda really had a knack for encouraging us all to “not take life so seriously”.
Not only was Ronda a wise owl but we also called her Mary Poppins because there was nothing that Ronda didn’t carry in her handbag…….needle & thread, headache tablets, painkillers, tissues, tools, safety pins, cough sweets (notably Fisherman’s Friend)……..the list was endless. If you had any ailment Ronda would rush over to you with a cure………….I suppose that was the Nurse in Ronda…………..the caring soul that she was.
Ronda was an extremely generous person. In the midst of tough times, which we have regularly experienced at Hoffmann, Ronda would always care about the people that worked for the Charity and she would ask about our families. She genuinely cared. Just before Ronda retired from HFA she knitted beautiful cardigans for many a new born of HFA staff and every Christmas Ronda would come into the office with bags of goodies for staff, lovingly wrapped gifts and she would attend all HFA Services to deliver chocolates for staff and service users. She was always way ahead of anybody in Head Office when it came to being organised for Xmas. Truth be told; she made us all feel a little inadequate and unprepared. Ronda was always prepared!!!
Ronda was famous for “bringing the team together” and she would insist that we hold a “bring and eat” event at least twice a year where staff would all bring into work something they handmade to share with everyone. Those occasions got rather competitive and we always had such a fabulous spread of the most gorgeously prepared food. Some people cheated and went to M&S to pick up some items shortly before the occasion and some people got over-competitive……but I won’t dwell on that. Ronda enjoyed anything to do with food……cooking………& baking……….and she was quite specific; we always had to buy a fruit cake for birthday celebrations especially for Ronda as she didn’t like chocolate cake, carrot cake, banana cake and many other cakes for that matter but she loved fruit cake or Victoria sandwich. She often baked at home (when she had loads on her mind and could not sleep) and brought in goodies for us to share……….I remember her tasty coconut ice and fruit cake. She was always thinking of others even through hard times at HFA.
Ronda cared deeply about the people we support at Hoffmann and I recall that she spent time with the service users; baking with them and talking to them and sharing jokes. Ronda was very much into Fundraising for Hoffmann and she 100% supported every single Fundraising Event that we held and she spearheaded the “Hoffmann Recipe Book” and the “London to Brighton” Bike Ride in 2015. Just prior to the Bike Ride Ronda was knocked off her Bike by a speeding car and injured quite badly but her fighting spirit helped her to recover in time to complete the gruelling marathon. She was so brave; so very brave. The last time I spoke to Ronda was just before Xmas 2017 and despite the challenges of what she was facing with her health she was “lovingly wrapping her Christmas presents”. That was Ronda all over…..always thinking of others.
Ronda was also very unique; she had her own style, her own ideals…….her own way of doing things and she is the only person I know that purchased bright yellow tights, wore them to work and got away with it!!! I can truly say that those yellow tights were a discussion piece for a very long time but I now realise that those bright yellow tights represented Ronda’s bright outlook and sunny disposition.
As we all sit and remember Ronda today, we must all reflect on her loving spirit, caring nature and the many good qualities that she had. We all have a story to recount about Ronda……….every one of us in this room today.
We have lost a special person in our lives but we must rejoice in the love she shared with us all.
Ronda may you RIP.