Dan Smith remembers the boy next door marching up to the fence and asking, "You want to play Army with us?"
That was the first time Smith met Ron Randazzo. Ron was about 8, skinny with big, brown, eager eyes. Smith was 6 or 7.
The two boys became best friends, camping, fishing, hunting and planning their futures together. Smith, now 22, remembers one trip in which they caught more than 200 flounder.
At Ron's funeral tomorrow, a display of roses shaped like a fish will carry a card from Smith.
"I'll watch the fishing hole here," the card says. "You watch the fishing hole there. One day we'll meet up and do it all over again."
Ron Randazzo -- Army Sgt. Ronald Milton Randazzo, 24, commander of a Vulcan anti-aircraft tank in the Persian Gulf war -- was killed Feb. 20 along with his two crewmen when Iraqi fire struck their vehicle on a reconnaissance mission near the border of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He was the war's first combat fatality from Maryland.
His funeral is tomorrow at 9 a.m. in the Church of the Crucifixion in Glen Burnie. He will be buried at Oak Lawn Cemetery on Eastern Avenue just east of the city line.
Visiting hours will be from 3 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Singleton funeral establishment in Glen Burnie. A Christian wake at the funeral establishment will begin at 8:30 p.m. today.
"I don't want to say he loved being over there," said Smith, a senior at High Point College in North Carolina. "But I think he loved what the service stands for. Service. To protect. To help the people. . . .
"If there ever was an all-American, average kid, it was Ron. There was nothing fancy about him, but nothing dull either. With Ron, you got Ron. He wasn't out to impress anybody."
A FAMILY TOGETHER
But he did impress practically everybody. And he impressed with traditional values: Love of God, country and family.
His family taught him that. Friends in Glen Burnie and teachers at Glen Burnie High School, where at least one of the six Randazzo children was a student from 1976 to 1989, never talked about Ron without mentioning his family.
"When I think of Ronny, I kind of think of the whole family as a unit," said John Moore, president of the Glen Burnie Boys Baseball and Girls Softball League. The Randazzo kids played in the league and their father coached. "A family so together is something you don't see much anymore," he said.
Their father, Paul Jr., described the family as "old-line Polish, old-line Italian." The cousins, from Highlandtown to Glen Burnie, are like brothers and sisters.
Ron was the fourth of the six children, five of them boys. He was tall, dark and handsome.
Friends said the children were always close to their parents, especially their mother, Leona. She declined to be interviewed for this story, but her husband said the family welcomes a story about Ron, who was especially close to his mother.
Like his brothers, Ron told her how beautiful she was and hugged and kissed her any time, any place. He made sure none of his friends ever used foul language in front of her.
"If anybody mentioned my kids, I never had to worry about what they were going to say," Paul Randazzo said. "And that was because of their mother. I was working all the time."
DAD WORKED 3 JOBS
Paul Randazzo once worked three jobs: Production line at Westinghouse during the day, A&P cutting meat at night, a poultry stand at a farmer's market on weekends.
Later, he sold used cars seven days a week. He got Ron into the business, but quickly realized his mistake. Ron kept giving away sets of tires and promising customers the sky.
"I had to stop him from making any deals," his father said, laughing, and then crying. "He was a very tender-hearted kid. If you needed a dollar and he had a nickel, he'd go out and borrow 95 cents in his name and give you the dollar."
Paul Randazzo now is a manager at Stursa Equipment in Glen Burnie. His division sells and services heavy equipment for such things as crushing stone in quarries.
Four of his boys served in the National Guard, and his daughter, Alice, is married to John Brass, a Marine corporal on the USS Shreveport in the gulf.
Ron joined the National Guard in 1984, the summer before his senior year at Glen Burnie High. His three older brothers -- George, Ken and Michael -- had joined the Guard before him. After George and Ken joined, even their father signed up.
Ron quickly matured in the Guard. Until then he was always the jokester, never taking anything too seriously. He was also "a runt," his father said, always getting pushed around by his older brothers.
But after basic training, he started lifting weights. He filled out and became kind of macho. He often wore his camouflage pants and shirt. He even bought a camouflage tacklebox. His friends called him "Ronbo."
"All of a sudden he could take care of himself," his father said. "He knew what he could do, so he didn't have to prove it to anybody."
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