City and museum pay tribute to late Auburn volunteer

Ronnie Beyersdorf died May 9 at age 79.

He was the guy with the ever present smile, the trademark bandana on his head, and the seemingly inexhaustible drive to volunteer wherever and whenever he was needed to make Auburn better.

Ronnie Beyersdorf, as Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus told a council chamber on a packed Monday evening with family members and many admirers, was “one of those amazing individuals who seemed to be everywhere in the community.”

And he really was.

Beyersdorf, who died on May 9, 2023, at age 79, was for 52 years a member of the Auburn Chapter of the Sons of Italy, serving many of those years as state orator. He served for 14 years on the board of the White River Valley Museum, eight years as a founding member of Auburn’s Salary Commission and was a founding member of the Auburn Bocce Ball Club.

Admirers and family celebrated his passion for history, for bluegrass music, for Americana of all stripes, his familiarity with hobo culture, his knife collection, and how he loved himself a bottle of fine zinfandel from time to time.

According to Rachael McAlister, executive director of the White River Valley Museum, Beyersdorf threw himself into all aspects of the White River Valley Museum and the Mary Olson Farm on Green River Road.

“He put so much work into that farm opening,” McAlister said. “He put so much work into raising money for our field trip programs. He was always there when we needed him with a creative idea, and with an incredible laugh that filled up a whole room, a laugh that I can still hear to this day,” McAlister said during a video clip shown at the gathering at council chambers.

“We loved Ronnie Beyersdorf, and he was a contributor. He really cared about this community. He loved his family so much. He believed in people, he believed in place, he was a big supporter of the Auburn community and its recreation programming,” Backus said. “He loved maps, appreciating how much a person could learn about history from them.”

In Beyersdorf’s honor, the WRVM has amassed a collection of his high resolution images to the delight of cartographers and researchers and everyone else, henceforth to be known as the Ronnie Beyersdorf Map Collection at WRVM.

“He was a remarkable individual who touched hearts and enriched the community in countless ways,” Backus said. “His dedication to Auburn was unparalleled as he tirelessly worked on projects from revitalizing our local parks to organizing fundraising drives. He was a true role model, the embodiment of dedication. May we continue to draw strength from his example and carry forward his legacy of compassion, dedication and community service.”