Remembering Ron Mariotti

He was a staple of the Enumclaw community, back in the day.

  • Wednesday, January 22, 2020 10:28am
  • Opinion

Mariotti is one of the older family names from Enumclaw history. They might have been among the early homesteaders on this fertile plateau.

Ron Mariotti was probably the most well known member of this extended lineage. He passed away a few years ago — or maybe several years ago. (Time tends to get away from me.) Anyway, as the poet reminds us: “Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

Ron spent his childhood and young adult years on the family diary farm, but realized, while still in high school, that milking cows morning and evening, seven days a week for 30 years wasn’t the life he wanted. So, when Frank Wetzel, owner and founder of the Enumclaw Sales Pavilion, put his business up for sale, Ron scraped a few nickels together and brought the operation on April Fools Day, 1975. (He would later tell me that “before the ink dried on the check”, Frank’s son tried to buy it back but, despite the significant profit he could have made, Ron refused to sell.) He clearly understood that the “sales barn” was the ideal business for him because it kept him involved with local farm families, which is where he wanted to be.

Ron was an important vertebra in the backbone of conservative politics and philosophy in the greater Enumclaw region. And yet, despite my liberal sentiments, we were pretty good friends. I’ve written about him in two or three previous columns and still feel he deserves another posthumous salute.

At least once every five or six months, I’d stop by the pavilion and we’d shoot-the-breeze about one thing or another, often his complaints about new government regulations. Then too, there were occasional drinks in the Lee Lounge.

The last time we shared a couple laughs was in his office a few months before his death. He leaned back in his swivel chair, kicked his boots upon the desk, and invited me to do the same with my shoes. I did.

That afternoon, as usual, he was complaining about a “sh**-storm” of new state statutes. For example, over the years Ron had always sold chickens, ducks, various other birds, a bunny or two, and even furniture and machinery. “But now, all of a sudden, I can’t sell any dogs or cats unless I buy a pet license!” There was also a new regulation that required any business that attracted more than 50 or 60 (?) people on a regularly scheduled basis had to buy a special license. He threw back his head and erupted in a wonderfully jolly guffaw. “I’ll be go-to-hell!” he exclaimed. “This place has been in business for 60 years and now, by God, I have to buy a damn ‘crowd license’.”

We spent some time recalling the “crazy days” of our youth. He showed me a collage of perhaps 30 or 40 old photographs of deceased friends and bygone days. Clarence Mallery, Jack Capponi, Frank and Forrest Wetzel, Matt Malneritch; names and faces that flickered through my mind like wafting smoke from a kerosene lamp.

Back in the 1950s, Enumclaw had an annual, two-week, drunken brawl known affectionately as “Naches Trail Days”. On one such occasion, Ron rode his horse into the Ski Inn Tavern and there, still mounted on his horse, he enjoyed a beer or two. The cop finally chased him the horse back out on the street. “People are still talkin’ about that today!” He laughed again. “That was probably the high point of my life!”

Could be, Ron. At least that’s the way I’d like to remember you.

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