(part 1 here)
Here's what his Deauville's sister has to say about him on her web site:
"My brother Ronnie was a singer who was stricken with clinical polio in September of 1956. It came just a few months before the Salk vaccine came out and after a severe automobile accident. He spent over a year in an iron lung at LA County Hospital, and then at Rancho Los Amigos. He had a successful career at the time, and ended up in a wheel chair the rest of his life.
My brother died in 1990 of cancer, and showed inspiring courage all of his life. Always a smile and a loving greeting from him. We were extremely close during his lifetime. He was 14 years older than I and he spent a great deal of time picking me up at Hollywood High, and taking me home whenever he was in town."
I contacted Ms. Deauville at the email address on her site, and she wrote me back filling in a few more pieces of the puzzle:
"My brother stopped singing as he only had 30% of his breathing capacity. He was also up for a contract at Paramount at the time he got sick. He was a quad in a wheelchair, and was loved by all. He had charm, wit, and a great deal of wisdom. He was a perfectionist and you would just have been happy to know him "
Eventually, I spoke Sheryl Deauville on the phone. She couldn't have been more -- fill in your own positive adjective---helpful, understanding, informed, informative, etc. I was pleased to note, for example, that she was completely aware of exactly how great an artist was lost when Deauville's voice was more or less silenced for his final 33 years. I couldn't imagine such a life for someone who clearly loved so much to sing, but was no longer able to do so.
[With the exception of the final paragraph, the following passages also appeared in my May 29, 2005 blog entry on Deauville]
I was happy to learn from Sheryl that Deauville was able to live a relatively good life, finally settling down in Florida with his wife and four children.
Of all that Sheryl told me, the single most interesting was the fact that her brother's voice was not really taken away from him. Though paralyzed from the neck down, for a while he continued to perform. A Steve Allen TV appearance, gigs in "A" list clubs, etc. But in those pre-ventilator, pre-handicap, pre-you name it days, it all was just too much for him--I should have realized that--and so he packed it in somewhere around the late 1950s.
The irony of this all is that Sheryl and I turned out to be a classic case of one degree of separation. She and I live in the same city, share many of the same friends, and have actually been in the same room, it seems, on more than one occasion.
Sheryl also told me about a reunion of Ronnie and a musician who had been in the Tex Beneke band with him. Ronnie sang "out by the swimming pool," his old bandmate accompanied him on trumpet, they recorded it, and the results were, she says, "quite beautiful." This, after Ronnie had not opened his mouth to sing for professionally for more than thirty years. She said that she would play the tape for me someday.