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He’s been a jockey. A tenor. A physician. And most certainly a witty raconteur. “I’m 6’4” and 265 pounds, but I’m adjustable – I could be your Jack Russell terrier.”
To encounter Ronan Tynan is to meet no small measure of a man – with or without his two prosthetic legs. My wife and I stumbled upon him having dinner in a San Francisco hotel restaurant. He was quick to agree to a photo, clad in what looked to be an outlandish rugby jersey. The next morning we heard him deliver a nearly hourlong presentation – replete with his resounding rendition of “God Bless America” – to a couple of hundred California hospital officials.
When I knew he would be the keynote speaker, I threw on my reporter hat and asked attendees if they knew who he was. Nary a one did. Nor did those I asked in the restaurant. Think, 9/11. Think, 7th-inning stretch performance at Yankee Stadium.
He has, as we of Irish ancestry say, the “gift of the gab” – detailing his mis-steps while performing in an opera (including losing a leg in the orchestra pit), how his pointed ears made him ideal for “Shrek” on Broadway, how he involved “top management” -- his mother, dying of Alzheimer’s -- in a meaningful way to helping administer his medical practice.
Wrapped in an Irish brogue, he also has the gift of insight.
“You learn life by looking back but you live life by looking forward,” said the man born with severely deformed legs who eventually opted to have them amputated. Speaking of his late father, who told him, “Ronie, you’re great,” he said, “People who mentor become a battalion of inspiration … they shape your life.”
Tynan became a para-Olympic champion in the discus and shotput. To shake his hand is to totally lose any sense of your own.
“I believe the greatest risk in life is not taking risks … Don’t be slow in giving or receiving encouragement … A smile is the cheapest pill on the market, and there is no side effect.”
He’s learned how to waltz. And, if you Google, you will see he’s stepped on his tongue at least once, and absorbed a very public rebuking.
“We can’t be the people we need to be by staying the way we are,” he said. I’d be hard pressed to find a better personal anthem, or an individual so fully equipped to sing it.