LOT 42, the location of multiple Steel Rails parties, was owned by Ron Doyle. NICK STANLEY PHOTO

Saying Goodbye To Ron Doyle, Friend of TCE

One of the most wonderful things about the Community Edition (TCE) is this group of people we affectionately call “Friends of TCE.” Friends of TCE aren’t volunteers or employees – they’ve never actually done work for the paper. They support it, read it, attend or sponsor Steel Rails, our (pre-COVID-19) annual fundraiser – they engage with the paper in some sort of meaningful way. They’re a wonderful group of people that are crucial to the success of the paper. 

On Monday, March 15, we were saddened to learn of the passing of Ron Doyle, a true friend of TCE. 

To provide context, I was a Steel Rails volunteer in 2016 and 2017. When I was hired as the editor-in-chief of the Community Edition in 2017, I then became one of the organizers of Steel Rails for 2018 and 2019. I served as editor-in-chief for a little over two years, leaving TCE at the end of 2019. 

I first met Ron in 2016 while setting up Steel Rails at LOT42. Ron owned both LOT42 and Hacienda Sarria. While he probably didn’t remember this first meeting, he would later become a household name among the Community Edition for the duration of my time there. Ron and his son, Pat, were true champions of Steel Rails. They absolutely loved the party. They always “got it” – which is sometimes challenging considering how vague and ambiguous this annual fundraiser is. The Doyle’s were avid supporters and even let us have our weird mystery art party at their venue, LOT42, two times – in both 2016 and 2019.

LOT42 always felt like home to me. Even at events that weren’t mine (I attended True North in 2018, a few concerts and open houses) I still felt like I knew the venue like the back of my hand. I spent a lot of time there. 

When the pandemic hit and news broke that LOT42 was being used to create A Better Tent City, I wasn’t working for the Community Edition, but I really wanted to write that story. I felt very connected to the space, so I pitched Melissa Embury, the current editor-in-chief, and she let me write it. In short, the folks at LOT42 were opening up the space to people in our community who were experiencing homelessness, but did not fit into the shelter system. 

As I began interviewing the parties involved, I kept hearing Ron’s name as the sort of spark that really got A Better Tent City going. I contacted Ron for an interview, and he got back to me almost immediately. I went into the interview with a list of questions, all of which didn’t really matter in the end. Ron and I spoke candidly on the phone for about an hour. He told me about his life and his childhood. He told me how pissed off he was about Waterloo Region’s struggles with homelessness. He was authentic and funny. He was a complete open book.

I’ve been interviewing people long enough to know what insincerity sounds like. That conversation with Ron was one of the most raw interviews I’ve ever had. His passion made my eyes mist. At one point, I was actively trying to hide the fact that I was crying on the other end of the phone. 

It was this conversation that sparked our unlikely friendship. For all of 2020, Ron would call or email me randomly. I think this was because he knew I cared about his business, and I showed genuine interest in A Better Tent City. He would contact me to vent, to ask for marketing advice, or to update me on A Better Tent City. 

I didn’t really know Ron that well, despite his perceived openness. But what I do know about him is this: he loved this community and poured a lot of funding into it. He wanted everyone to have a space in this community that they felt comfortable in. He was one of the few people I’ve met who sees a problem and then actually puts to action a solution. He may have ruffled a few feathers, or broke a few rules, but I think it’s important to question why those rules are in place to begin with, and who they are protecting. He wasn’t afraid of failing and would be the first person to acknowledge his own failures. 

My friendship with Ron really taught me how short life is and how important it is to act on what you think is right and to speak until someone listens. I think that’s why I always enjoyed my conversations with Ron – I listened to him and he listened to me, and sometimes, that’s all you need.