Franklin Countys First News

Someone You Know: Ron

Ron Passerello stands in front of the mural he painted in Tranten's.

Ron Passerello stands in front of the mural he painted in Tranten's.

Someone You Know, written by Amber Kapiloff, is a new column spotlighting the good people of Franklin County.

It isn’t common for someone to know from a young age just how they want to spend their time and energy in the world. It’s a question that most people spend their entire lives trying to figure out and when they finally come to their conclusion it is usually far from what they may have said as a kindergartner.

When Ron Passerello was only 5 years old, going to school in western Massachusetts, he knew what he wanted to do with his time. Every day, as soon as he completed his work sheet in class, he would find his way to the crayons and colored pencils and blank paper to draw. Other kids may have wavered between the blocks or the board games but Passerello didn’t have any hesitations.

From then on color and creativity steered Passerello’s passions. At 7 years old he moved to Panama where he lived for the next 8 years of his life.

Ron Passerello is a growing creative force in Farmington.

Ron Passerello is a growing creative force in Farmington.

“Living in Panama had a huge impact on me, especially the way I look at things. There was advertising everywhere, mostly in reds, blues and whites which are Panama’s colors. Even the city buses were painted over with a graffiti style of advertising,” Passerello explained.

Most people in Farmington might recognize Passerello from working at Soup for You, and previously Java Joes. When I was in High School he would serve endless bagels to my ravenous friends and I and would put up with us trying to secretly tear pictures of hot actors out of the magazine selection. So it’s an understatement to say that Passerello has put up with some tedious jobs in order to support his passion. You can buy a sandwich from him at lunchtime and then walk down the back hallway of Tranten's to see his true calling.

“I don’t really care about money,” Passerello says. “I care about the energy. Working at Soup for You has helped me embrace the culture here. I talk to so many people.”

Passerello and I are sitting in the park next to the gazebo in downtown Farmington. Looking around it’s not an exaggeration to say that pretty much everyone here is white.

“I worried about the racism before moving here. There are certain elements of it that are still out there. Some people still look at you and think you’re not as good if you are not white. But it hasn’t been a problem. Farmington is like this little paradise bubble. It’s getting easier too, there’s more diversity now than when I first moved here. It’s not like seeing a UFO anymore to see another black guy. And the bottom line is I can’t s--- on other people’s realities.”

Passerello and I talk a lot about diversity, culture and racism. What it means to feel at home. After Panama, Passerello moved back to Western Massachusetts where he attended high school and eventually college. “I had this great teacher that encouraged all of her students to apply to Greenfield Community College. So I did and I got in.” After a year of college Passerello’s buddies started dropping like flies. Eventually he realized he didn’t know anyone around him and he too decided to leave. He moved in with his father just outside of Boston where he eventually applied and was accepted to the New England School of Art and Design.

“I went for a semester and loved it. It was small and I was learning so much. But the next semester I walked in and sat down in class and they told me to leave. They said I didn’t have enough money to be there,” Passerello remembers walking out of the building and sitting down on a park bench. He vented to the man sitting next to him for a few hours, who was homeless and living in the public library. “I don’t know why I still remember that guy. Maybe it put things in perspective for me. But I’m so glad that it happened. I was really angry and that helped to light a fire under my ass.”

The following few years Passerello did some of his best work before moving to San Francisco with friends.

“I thought Pamela Anderson would just be lying on the beach there. It wasn’t what I was expecting, not immediately anyway,” he said.

Passerello woke up after his first night in San Francisco and quickly realized he was living in one of the worst neighborhoods. It was an area that had a huge crack problem. “I was living in a crack neighborhood and working in Pacific Heights which was really wealthy. I got to see both sides of the spectrum every day.”

No matter where he was living, he would always make a point to visit his mom and step father in East Dixfield. “I never thought I would move here. But I love it. I feel more at ease here than in the city. The pace of life is better. And my artistic force is getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”

In Passerello’s world everything has been and always will be about art.

“The benefits of being creative are endless. When we sit in front of the TV we start to lose it. Our whole society is losing it. I wish that everyone in this world would be creative in one way or another and if I can help people find that then I’ve done my job.”

If you are interested in strengthening your creativity you can find Ron Passerello at Up Country Artists every Monday from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. where he teaches a drawing class. Additionally, if you have any blank walls or buses that need some color you should find him.

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19 Responses »

  1. What a nice column about a realy nice guy.

  2. I would like to see one about Princess, the shelter cat who came to stay whose forever home is Aubuchon Hardware!

  3. Bulldog, what a great series! I do know Ron but only by sight, which I think is your point. I am glad to know this much more about our active neighbor who is contributing to our community. I hope he won't feel burdened by the multitudes who now feel we know him well enough to say "Hi!"

    Looking forward to more stories by Amber Kapiloff. Thanks.

  4. WOW! That looks amazing. I've enjoyed your artwork that's been on display at Soup for You. Now I'll go to Tranten's to enjoy this.
    I hope we see your work at other places around town in the future.


  5. Great column about a great person and very talented artist.

  6. Well done! You captured this beautiful soul so well! You are so loved, Mr. Passerello!

  7. Ron has served me coffee and a bacon/egg/cheese breakfast sandwich many a time at Java Joe's. My daughter is a PURE artist too working in installation art. Loved the bio, Amber. Keep them coming! Bonnie

  8. I enjoy that mural--what a wonderful artist!

  9. I have seen Ron working in the restaurants and I have seen and admired the artwork in Tranten's, but I did not put the two of them together. Great work, Ron! Thanks for this story, Amber.

  10. Great job, Amber! I'd always wondered who painted the interesting mural. It's nice to live in a "paradise bubble."
    Sounds like a t-shirt waiting to happen :)

  11. I like this kind of feature. And I like these kinds of people. Nice artwork, Ron. Well written, Amber.

  12. Amber, you are doing such a great job highlighting very interesting people in our community. Dot is awesome, and so is Ron. I can't wait to see who you choose next.

  13. Amber, I agree with Nate . Nice job.

  14. Its awesome to put a name to Rons face....see him around town all the time!

  15. What stunning, beautiful artwork. Seems like there must be children's books, Ron, that beckon your illustrations.

  16. Great way to get to know Ron (and Dot) better. We'll all know 52 people better by the end of the year - wow. (If it's a weekly thing!) Nice work putting something positive out there into the world.....

  17. Good job Amber , there are so many interesting folks around with many great stories. Ron is a prime example of a humble but very talented member of our great community !

  18. Nice job , great painting, and aren't we lucky to have him in our town! I would love to read about Bob Underwood . I Love it when he dresses up in his highland kilt and entertains Farmington with his Bag Pipe Music. I Love it when the Fall buses come in to town and he was out there to greet them!