Ron Buninga
son of
Galaxy Captain
Bill Buninga

Died January 2021


Personal tribute by Mary Payne

In September 2021, Chris and I belatedly received the very sad news that our friend Ron Buninga had passed away at his home in the Netherlands in January 2021. Our mutual friend Paul Freeman was able to contact a lady called Irene, who had known Ron for some time and she told Paul that Ron had died only a week before he was due to move to a new home.

Our friendship with Ron began with an unexpected email received from him on January 29th 2002, a Sunday evening. Ron, the son of the MV Galaxy's beloved captain Bill, had discovered the Radio London website while surfing the net and he contacted us with the incredible news that he had the ship's bell in his possession. The bell dated from the time of the ship's first incarnation as a WW2 minesweeper named USS Density AM 218. As the son of a ship's captain who had also been a WW2 veteran, Ron understood exactly what the bell would mean to the shipmates who had served aboard 'The Mighty Little D' during the siege of Pearl Harbour and he was determined to return this precious artefact to them. Ron travelled to Branson, Missouri in September 2003 to present the bell to the shipmates at their 2003 reunion.

USS Density reunion founder, LaVerne Bailey, shares info about the ship's history with Ron

Although we exchanged many emails with Ron, Chris and I did not meet him till we arrived in Branson, but we felt as if we were old friends already. The shipmates welcomed him immediately to the Density family, as they had welcomed us two years earlier in Fort Worth. Only ourselves and the main reunion organisers knew that Ron had brought the bell and had been sworn to secrecy, as the presentation was to be a wonderful surprise. They welcomed Ron as the son of the ship's captain in her Galaxy reincarnation, but they were unaware of what he had in a specially constructed case in his hotel room.

Chris, Ron, Mary and Radio London Founder, Tom Danaher, with the ship's bell

Ron was a very generous, quiet and rather shy man. He was terribly nervous about the speech he was penning for when he presented the bell and Chris and I did our best to assist him with getting it right. In fact, when he made the presentation, Ron barely spoke above a whisper.

Later, Ron very kindly donated a collection of his father's memorabilia to us and we felt very honoured when he gave us the rubber stamp with the ship's name that his father, Bill, had used aboard the mv Galaxy.

Unfortunately, living in different countries, we did not see very much of Ron after our meeting in Branson. I was delighted that he was able to attend a surprise 60th birthday party that Chris arranged for me in London in November 2009, where he introduced us to his partner Ton Beekes.

Ron & Ton at Mary's 60th Birthday Party in 2009 (Photo: Martin van der Ven)

Ron chatting to Duncan Johnson at Mary's 60th Birthday Party in 2009 (Photo: Martin van der Ven)

Ron with Mitch at Mary's 60th Birthday Party
Ron & Ton admiring Mary's Birthday Cake
(Both photos: Martin van der Ven)

Very sadly, both Ron and Ton began suffering from health problems and Ton died of cancer in 2018. Our friend Paul Freeman runs a charity called The Geranium Trust, where he has a meadow dedicated to his late partner Geoff. Paul has planted a tree in memory of Ton here and he plans to plant another close by, in memory of Ron.


Links to:

Geoff's Meadow

The full story of Ron getting in touch with us and returning the USS Density bell to the WW2 shipmates

The 2007 presentation of the USS Density bell to The Museum of the Pacific War in in Fredericksburg