A tribute to the Bard of Bainbridge
June 10, 2008 · Updated 2:40 PM
Ron Konzak is the Bard of Bainbridge, a poet and “island treasure.” Esoteric, eclectic, electric, creative, humanistic, universalistic, humorous — Ron is these and more.
He was raised in Detroit’s Polish American community, attending schools and the First Polish Spiritualist Church. He spoke Polish before English; studied architecture, design, electronics and radio. As a U.S. Army radio mechanic, he lived in a Korean village during the war there. A folk musician, he toured Europe with Seattle’s Koleda Dance troupe.
After moving to Bainbridge Island, he worked for architecture firms in Seattle — commuting by bicycle. His was the only bike on the ferry. On island, he worked with John Rudolph, light-hearted designer of our post office and library. Nobody took coffee breaks in John’s office. They took music breaks!
In jest, Rudolph returned a late 1950s state tourism survey retrieved from a Winslow City Hall waste basket. As strawberry festivals waned, John reported that the island’s main claim to fame was an annual Scotch Broom Festival. When the following May a Buick full of California broom growers showed up, a 40-year tradition of spontaneous broom parades began, typically, with John playing a tuba full of broom and Ron pumping Scottish bagpipes. Paraders in yellow blossoms followed. The first person on the route, whatever age or gender, became Festival Queen. Kiwanis and Rotary clubs held a tiddlywinks tournament in the middle of Winslow Way.
Long before BITV, Ron and I tried to bring KRAB-FM to Bainbridge to use the Navy’s surplus 830-foot transmitter tower at Battle Point, so, as Gandhi espoused, “... music of all cultures might flow into everyone’s home.”
During the 1970s Boeing recession, Ron and architects Paul Pierce and Bob Dalrymple became “Pierymplezak,” a classic rock band soon hired by Heidelberg Brewery to tour state festivals.
When the geoduck industry was pioneered, he – and some local raspberry wine from our pantry –ß helped create “The Gooeyduck Song,” recorded by the band in English and Japanese. Years later, with mobile KLAM-FM broadcasting “gooeyduck” culture down I-5 with an eight-foot-tall Gooeyduck, we stormed the State Capitol advocating “Gooeyduck for State Clam” ... or State Bird? Pierymplezak wrote and recorded many songs recently produced on CD by Dalrymple’s son.
Ron later formed an Irish folk trio, the first to perform at the Suquamish Tribal Center. Ron and wife Mickey, (married in Scotland) became the duo “Foggy Notions,” performing Scottish songs both traditional and contemporary, including a Scottish rap titled “Pig On A Spree!”
There’s no telling how many weddings, anniversaries and funerals he has blessed with “Amazing Grace” on bagpipe. He made the pipes and harps with which he anointed such events. In north Seabold, he created a harp 24-foot-high with strings played by wind. Folks sit inside of it and mediate to the sounds.
Our landscape is strewn with homes Ron built and designed. He specializes in traditional farmhouse designs, Japanese style buildings and “Prohousing” miniature homes for every budget. His traditional Japanese House – “more traditional than most anything found today in Japan” – became Furinoka Futan & Breakfast, and led to Ron and Mickey becoming “Kitsap Innkeepers on the Year.”
To support “merrytime hysterical” history, he helped create the shanty “Virginia V Song.” When winter snows cancelled a New Year Mochi Tsuki, an entertaining island “Mochi Song” evolved. He wrote three books: “Lifegraph” to help folks on their path of self-discovery; “The Book of Ramen” to teach folks how to use their noodle; and, “Across Puget Sound,” a tour guide for our side.
More inspirational has been Ron’s association with Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple. He designed it! He designed a peace pagoda for the order proposed for a site near the Bangor Naval Submarine Base at a time when the Trident Missile program created one of the world’s largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in our Kitsap backyard.
He returned to Asia and traveled throughout Japan researching pagodas there. He has long dreamed of a peace pagoda atop Mount Walker or on a Puget Sound headland such as Bill Point.
A designer who builds walls, poet Konzak also lays them flat and opens our worlds through his diverse artistry to beauties often overlooked. Our poet may not have shown up at readings, yet he not only writes the words, he puts them to melody, and is just as likely to accompany them on a sitar, Uillean bagpipe, harp, didjeridu, drum or nose flute all of his own making and within a building of his own design!
This weekend, Ron’s friends are holding a combined rummage sale to help him through a difficult cancer challenge. John Rudolph’s daughter and son, themselves in remission, donated John’s tuba, trombone and accordion to the cause. Ron is thankful “for everything,” and reminds us to “Keep smilin’!”