Ronnie Craig Obituary, Death – We mourn Uncle Ronnie’s terrible hemorrhagic stroke on Saturday. As shown in the photos, he lived life to the fullest. We should be grateful to have known him and had him touch so many lives. Many of us have shed immeasurable tears over the past few days, but your wonderful memories will never fade from our hearts! We’ll miss you terribly. Love you forever! Please pray for my aunt, their two daughters, and significant others, their two grandchildren, and the rest of our families and friends as we cope with this unthinkable loss.
Ronnie Craig died abruptly at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics on Jan. 17, 2023, a month before his 69th birthday. His final gift was an organ donation to at least three people. Ronnie was born and raised in Linn and Jones County, Iowa.
He was a third of four. Ronnie was given the nickname “Poncho” in Monticello, Iowa when he was 10. He graduated from Monticello High School in 1972, but the class of 1973 often honors him. After high school, Ronnie hated structured schools. He attended the University of Northern Iowa twice before moving to Minneapolis to study music at the Brown Institute of Technology. After picking a cool DJ moniker, Syrian Stone, he hitchhiked home before ever appearing on the radio, missing his mother’s cuisine. He worked at Zimmerman BMW, Miller-Harries Datsun (Jim Miller Nissan), Cedar Rapids Dodge, Bruce McGrath Pontiac, Cedar Rapids Toyota, Griffith Ford (Carroll, Iowa), and Duffy’s Classic Cars for nearly 28 years, selling cars his whole life. The dealership and beyond will miss his tremendous antique automobile expertise, giant smile, wit, and personality. Ironically, Ronnie was a lousy mechanic.
He wasn’t a mechanic, yet his knowledge was unrivaled. He loved learning about, driving, and helping people realize their collector vehicle fantasies. He experienced many road breakdowns, including a 1960 Corvette that caught fire, other cars that broke pieces in inconvenient places, and a convertible hood that almost hit him. He sold thousands of cars and met thousands of consumers at dealerships and automobile events. He enjoyed testing an antique car at home as a job benefit. He was also a husband, father, and grandfather. Ronnie kept young by driving a 1966 Mustang convertible with his wife, Joni, around Mount Vernon. Ronnie and Joan Helmrich were married for 42 years. A banquet at the bride’s parent’s farm followed their Ryan, Iowa wedding on July 5, 1980. If invited, you knew the way to the celebration. The party was spectacular. Guests noted that the bride and groom never stopped smiling. This cheerful bride and groom went through a lot. In 1989, they settled in Mount Vernon, Iowa, their favorite tiny town.
Ronnie and Joni lived there and made many acquaintances. In 1998, they built a dream home on two acres in Mt. Vernon that hosted many parties and family functions for 25 years. Ronnie and Joni had an open-door policy, so guests often slept on couches, chairs, and spare mattresses. Downs: Ronnie and Joni’s first child, Jarod Paul, was born and died on Nov. 15, 1985, five years after they married. Ronnie and Joni, who wanted a big family, were devastated by the death of a child. Joni’s breast cancer during Rachel and Adam’s elementary school age was another setback. Ronnie mourned, “I wouldn’t be able to accomplish this without her.” Luckily, she survived the diagnosis. Adam, Ronnie’s son, was quadriplegic after a 2016 accident. Like many other caregivers, Ronnie cheerfully embraced his duty as Adam’s primary and backup caretaker. Ronnie loved life. After Jarod’s death, Rachel and Adam were born. Ronnie loved his kids. He was the typical parent who lit up while talking about the kids. He bragged about them. He loved them and their lovers.
Adam Laborde (Rachel’s husband) and Jayne (Adam’s wife) believe he treated them like family, giving them deserved yet gentle criticism. Ronnie was a fantastic conversationalist since he liked life and had many passions. He loved music, poetry, his children and grandchildren, friendships, Iowa basketball, laughing, theater, beer, cars, road trips, history, dancing, singing, and anything his children or grandchildren liked. He adored people. His surroundings felt that. Over the past few days, many of his nieces, nephews, and Rachel and Adam’s friends have described their grief as “like a second father to me.” Ronnie often said marrying Joni was his best decision. Joni was his compass and stronghold, knowing from the start he would make her laugh. Ronnie was the ideal grandparent. Grands stopped time. Adeline, 5, and John, 3, understood that Grandpa would drop everything to play with them, sled down the hill, read a book, dance, or play a game. They never overwhelmed him. Ronnie depended on them. Ronnie and Joni’s Mount Vernon friend said, “It’s impossible to go anywhere with those two where they don’t know someone.” True. Friendship filled Ronnie’s life. Ronnie and his accomplices have thousands of photos. Ask them to tell you “Ronnie stories.”
You’ll laugh your head off. Ronnie joins his son, Jarod Paul Craig; parents, Hershel and Bobbie Craig; brother, Samuel Lynnwood Craig and his wife, Beverly; parents-in-law, Casey and Dottie Helmrich; and great-nieces, Jacie and Alison, on the other side. He is survived by his wife, Joni Craig of Mount Vernon; daughter, Rachel Laborde, and son-in-law, Adam, their children, Adeline and John of Mount Vernon; son, Adam and daughter-in-law, Jayne of Chicago, Ill.; sister, Juanita Fee of Atlanta, Ga.; brother, Roger and Nancy Craig of Council Bluff; in-laws, David Helmrich (Linda) of Villa Park, Ill., Daniel Helmrich of Sierra Vista, Ariz., Stephen Helmrich (Deb) of Columbus, Ohio, Randy (Loui) of Ronnie is survived by his 33 nieces and nephews, including Samuel’s two daughters, Amy and Chandra; Juanita’s two sons, Ken and Charles “Chuck”;
Roger’s four children, Natalie, Nicole, Janelle, and Conner; Dave’s four children, Jenny, Sarah, Marc, and Joe; Dan’s three children, Leigh, Cory, and Jason; Stephen’s three children, Steve, Jessica, and Amanda; Randy’s two children, Brenda and September; Thresa’s two children, Andrew and Beth; and Tony’s two children. Friday, Jan. 20, will include visitation from 3 to 7 p.m. and a funeral mass at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at 11 a.m., both at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Father Dennis Juhl will preside. Duffy’s car crew will organize a convoy of antique cars in remembrance of Ronnie in January, notwithstanding the weather. The caravan will leave Duffy’s at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, and drive to the funeral together.