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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    Ron Rando, longtime owner of Ron’s Guns in East Lyme, dies

    Former owner Ron Rando poses for a portrait at Ron’s Guns in East Lyme on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. Rando died on Sunday at the age of 87. (Sarah Gordon/The Day file photo)
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    East Lyme ― Ron Rando, a rough-around-the-edges conservative, Second Amendment advocate and longtime owner of Ron’s Guns on Boston Post Road, died on Sunday at the age of 87.

    Rando’s son, Ed Rando, said in an interview Tuesday that his father outlived expectations of health care providers, but had lung issues and other health problems that culminated in his latest hospitalization this past Wednesday. Ron Rando also had a disdain for hospitals.

    “He made me promise that if he was going to die, he wasn’t going to die in the hospital,” Ed Rando said.

    Ron Rando was exiting an ambulance at his East Lyme home ― across the parking lot from his shop ― when he took his last breath.

    Ed Rando, owner of Northeast Financial Group LLC, and business partner Matthew Fleisher, took over ownership of Ron’s Guns last year. One of the son’s goals in buying the shop, knowing his father was in his final years of life, was to maintain a place that Rando could continue to visit. Ed Rando said his father was still making regular visits to the shop in the months leading up to his death, “doing what he had been doing for the past 50 years.”

    “That was his life. It was tough for him when we took over, but I think in the end he came around and finally accepted it,” Ed Rando said.

    Ron Rando opened the doors to his gun shop in the early 1970s while still working his full-time job at Suburban Propane in East Lyme. He would finish work at his day job and open the shop at night, his son said.

    At the time, the shop was located inside an addition at his own home on Boston Post Road.

    There were even times that Ron Rando would drive home to open the shop during the day, when he was supposed to be working at Suburban Propane. When his employer found out he was fired, Ed Rando said. That’s when Rando decided to open the shop full time and eventually move to a larger space at 194 Boston Post Road.

    One of a kind

    Rando could be abrasive at times, his son admits, and his political views have stirred up controversy in town through the years.

    In 2020, he erected a sign outside his home announcing “Scumbag Democrats Have Stolen the Election! Lying-Cheating-Ballot Padding!,” a reference to the presidential election in which Donald Trump was defeated. A few years earlier, Ron Rando put up a sign that said “a vote for a Democrat is a vote for socialism, fascism, and communism.”

    “That’s my opinion. That’s what I feel,” Ron Rando said in a 2020 interview about the sign.

    Ed Rando said he respected his father for never sugar-coating his views and exercising his freedom of speech rights, but it also caused some problems. Ed Rando said his office is located above the gun shop. He said his clients were calling him about the “scumbag” sign. He had discussions with his father about taking it down.

    “He said it would be ‘a cold day in hell when I take that sign down.’ He had five of them made in case someone did take it down,” Ed Rando said. “He told you the way he thought it was. It rubbed some people the wrong way. That’s the way he was.”

    Ron Rando also cared about his town and served two terms on the Board of Selectmen in the 1990s and lost a Republican primary for first selectman in 1995.

    While he was rough on the exterior, Ed Rando said his father was a true friend to many and had a good heart. He will leave a long legacy in town that Ed Rando said he hopes will continue with the employees at the gun shop ― people with “almost as much” knowledge about guns and gun laws as his father.

    Ron’s Guns employee Josh Ebersole has known Ron Rando all of his life and said he bought some of his first guns from him. The two became close friends. He called Ron Rando “one of a kind,” a gun expert with a particular expertise in Winchester rifles and the kind of guy who didn’t shy away from telling someone how he felt.

    “He was a good guy, a very smart guy and a good family guy, always thinking about his family,” Ebersole said. “He taught me everything I know. He was still visiting the shop until about three weeks ago. People would come in to see him. He was a legend in the gun industry in Connecticut. Any question you had, he probably could answer it.”

    Some of Ron’s Guns’ newer employees ―Nicole Deer and Lena Ebersole, Josh Ebersole’s daughter ― said Ron Rando would be deeply missed.

    “Ron always greeted me by asking about my family,” Deer said. “You knew how he thought about you. He made his impression for sure. He loved being over here and talking to people. You could tell it was his passion.”

    The one thing Ron Rando did not put up with was “cussing” around women, something Deer said showed the “gentleman“ side of Ron Rando.

    Lena Ebersole, who has worked at the shop for just over a year, said she looked to Ron Rando as a grandfather figure.

    “He would come in everyday and say, ‘Good morning, beautiful. How are you today?’ Lena Ebersole said. “If he liked you, you knew it.”

    Ron Rando leaves behind three children and two stepchildren, 16 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. His wife, Ursula Rando, died last October at the age of 88.

    Calling hours are from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Fulton-Theroux Funeral Service at 13 Lake Ave. in Niantic. A graveside service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at the East Lyme Cemetery on Boston Post Road followed by a celebration of life at the Niantic Sportsmen’s Club.

    g.smith@theday.com

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