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Obituary: Ronald Alan ‘Ronzo’ Shapiro

Ron “Ronzo” Shapiro
Photo by Gaetano Catelli

Ronald Alan “Ronzo” Shapiro, 75, passed away from cancer on August 19, 2019, in Oxford, Mississippi, at the Elmcroft of Oxford.

He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on August 27, 1943, to Sylvia (Cohen) and Melvin Shapiro. Following his student days at Washington University and Army service during the Vietnam War, Shapiro found his calling operating a series of art house movie theatres in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

He moved to Oxford, Mississippi, in 1975 and established the Hoka Theatre and Moonlight Café. The venue became a celebrated cultural location for 20 years. Home to Oxford’s burgeoning literary and art scene, the Hoka also welcomed national names of the day including Forrest Gump author Winston Groom, Chicago 8 activist Abbie Hoffman and Roots author, Alex Haley. Local authors the late Willie Morris, Barry Hannah and Dean Faulkner Wells (niece of William Faulkner) were regulars.

In later years Shapiro operated the Main Squeeze juice bar and The Shelter Café in Oxford. His celebration of the arts remained constant throughout his life.

“Oxford lost a kind soul today with our beloved Ronzo. He encouraged artists and non-artists alike to just go for it and be yourself. He was the opposite of a buzz kill, he was the buzz,” said longtime friend Jim Dees.

“Honor him by taking a minute to ask someone how they’re doing and really listen and encourage them. Then tell them a joke and blow a siren whistle at them.”

Survivors include his sisters Shelly Shapiro (Glen Amster) of Seattle, and Maureen Rudman of St. Louis; his nephews, Douglas Rudman (Caryn), David Rudman (Julie) and Derek Rudman (Cindy), all of St. Louis; and Benjamin Amster and his niece, Sophie Amster of Seattle.

He was preceded in death by his parents and his step-father, Sam Cohen.

Arrangements for services this week in St. Louis are pending. A celebration of Shapiro’s life will be held in Oxford this fall.

Courtesy of Jim Dees and the Shapiro family

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