Ron was a key player in the founding of Times Squares. He was recruited in 1984 by Jack Hoppen to call for the fledgling group of dancers who initially gathered in 1983 at a Sundance hoedown. Ron called square dances for all ages, from elementary school children to seniors at SAGE. In 1986 and 1987, he called square dance events for the OUT and OUT adventure group in Toronto, which eventually resulted in the formation of Triangle Squares. In 1990, he left New York for the Left Coast, and was involved with the San Francisco clubs.
In Their Own Words
Thanks to Jack Hoppen, Howard Stowe and Edward Sherman for helping me put up the booth on Gay Pride Day, and to all those who helped pass out flyers and danced. I think it was the most successful Gay Pride Event in Times Squares history.
Thanks also to the Class of 1989 for your thoughtfulness at the graduation ceremonies. It made Mother feel real good!
Square Dancing Glass
I have enjoyed square dancing for 50 years. I was eight years old when I began dancing with my church youth group. Because I enjoyed the music and movements, I continued with it in college as a dance education major. When I graduated from college I served in the United States Coast Guard in Ketchikan, Alaska where I became involved with a group called "The Panhandlers" and square danced with them for a year and half in the local community hall and sometimes even out in the snow. While there I was able to teach some square dancing to the local high school students for their production of "Oklahoma". After leaving the service I studied dance at New York University and became an elementary dance teacher. I taught kindergarten through 2nd graders the enjoyment of square dancing.
My first experience with Lesbian and Gay Square dancing was in 1983 with a senior lesbian and gay group in New York City called SAGE. A friend had suggested that it would be a fun social activity for them. So I held a dance for them. You wouldn't have believed the difficulties I had on how to decide what to call for same sex couples, trying to be PC. Because in square dancing there is always the terms man and a lady when you call. I tried many things colors, numbers, and then just decided that I would use the gender terms because it was a folk dance and the dancers would just have to get use to being called by gendered names. Even though some men at the time did not like to be called lady and some women as well.
After I had done a couple of dances with SAGE a gay/lesbian outdoor group named SUNDANCE asked me to do a hoe-down for them at the first International Outdoor Gay and Lesbian Jamboree in September of 1983. A hoedown is where you teach some basic square dance movements and after teaching them the group has a chance to square dance. This was the start of my long-term involvement with the gay and lesbian square dance movement. I called on a regular basis for SUNDANCE until the interest was so great that a group wanted to start their own square dance club. Ken Pollack asked me to be the teacher. And in 1984 the Times Squares was formed. And now twenty years later I’m still teaching and calling lesbian and gay square dancing around the United States and Canada not just for organized square dance clubs but also have introduced the joy of square dancing, to nudist groups, social groups in churches and community centers, men’s organizations such as the California Men’s Gathering, and San Francisco's Discovery.
The pleasure I get from seeing the smiles on the faces of the dancers after they have learned just a few movements and start to dance is over whelming to me. The excitement grows and they want to learn more.
And so it goes. When they want to hear about where in their community they can continue, I tell them. I can't put in numbers how many men and women I have the pleasure of teaching square dancing over the last 20 years but I do feel in my heart I have left some kind of legacy. Friendships that have continued way beyond even the learning of square dancing. And I hope to continue it for a long time.
It's with a heavy Heart, that I'm letting you know that Ron Masker, the reason I got into Gay Square Dancing, passed away on Monday April 19th at the University of Montreal Hospital Center, after combating a long illness. He was a member of Times Squares, moved to San Francisco for a few years was very active with Square Dancing there and attended several Conventions. I know he touched many of us though the years, until he moved to Montreal. Love and Yellow Rocks to Ron, now peacefully in Heaven 💙
— Fred Harke Jr
Rest in Peace Ron. Thanks for being a great teacher, you will be missed.
— Fabian Alvarado
Very sad. A warm, genuinely lovely man.
— Bob Young
I just found out that Ron Masker, one of my oldest and closest friends through square dance died in Montreal two days ago after dealing with a long illness. I am bereft--he was such a good friend through the years; we shared so much through good times and bad, as callers and as friends. Sending love to his husband Daniel.
Oh, no. I had spoken to him on the phone a few months ago. He told me about his illness, but I didn't know it was that dire. I had wondered why I had stopped getting his e-greeting cards on holidays. I'm bereft.
— Bill Eyler
That is so sad - he was a very sweet man. I haven't seen him in many years now, but enjoyed visiting with him and his husband in Canada. I met him first when he was in San Francisco. Always enjoyed dancing with and to him.
— Danny Lee
Thanks for sharing this news. I’ve always been very fond of Ron. I miss him dearly. 😢
— Chip Prince
Thank you for sharing this very, sad news.
— Michael Rutkowski
So very sorry to hear. I met Ron at a square dance in San Francisco in 1993. I became good friends with him and his partner Ray. Ron would stay at my house in Concord, CA when he would call for my club, Diablo Dancers. Rest In Peace Ron.
— John E Savage
Sorry to hear, he was a nice guy.
— Todd Tryon
So sorry to hear. He was my teacher in Times Squares many years ago n he was very kind! May he be in a place where there is no pain suffering or mourning 🕊
— Bobby Wojcak
Ron Masker was significant in my becoming a caller. I might even say most significant.
— Rich Reel
Such a loss to our community. He was a very kind man. RIP Ron
— Anne Uebelacker
A sweet and gentle soul. I remember him fondly. Thanks Bill for letting us know. Hugs to all.
Rest in Peace, Ron.
— Peggy Shumway
I liked how he would always say "Trust me!" whenever he started calling an unusual sequence.
— Bob Russell
Wow! Ron is the guy who introduced me to square dancing back in 1989. Sorry to hear that. Very sweet guy.
— Andy Baker
So sad to learn of this news Bill. Ron Masker and some of the New York Times Squares members came to Toronto a few times in the mid-80's and Ron called an introductory evening square dance for the Out & Out outdoor club. So many of the Out & Out members enjoyed it so much they lamented that we didn't have square dancing more often. To this, Ron replied - "Well, why don't you start your own square dance club?". And so we did and that is how Triangle Squares came to be. Ron was so instrumental in getting the seed planted and I will always be grateful for that. RIP Ron. 😢😢😢
— Brian Wilding
So sorry to hear about Ron. As a member of Western Star Dancers in San Francisco, I remember him teaching our classes in the late 90's. A lot of dancers learned from Ron who was a taskmaster.
— Felix Fornino
Very nice guy; sorry... I miss him already.
— Benny Sevilla
Wow, so sad to hear. What a nice guy and he was really helpful to Western Star dancers for quite some time as Club Caller. I am deeply saddened.
— Tom Tripp
I had a lot of fun calling with him a few times over the years. We did a great rendition of "Wait Til Your Son Turns Nellie" in the SF Pride Parade one year.
— Andy Shore
He was a joy to be around, and always made me welcome at his place in San Francisco. Hugs!
— Charlie Clegg
Ron was a lovely fellow. We met and he wanted to dance - C/W dance - two step. Well, that was one too many steps for me that night. So Ron says to me, "well can you one step?" , and I could and we did! I was very happy to know Ron and I offer my sincere sympathies regarding his passing to his friends and family. I'll have to tell Ed / Virginia.
— Dennis Gomez
At Promenade Along The Rockies,1985
At Star Thru The Golden Gate, 1986
At Stars, Thars & Cable Cars, 1996
Photo courtesy of Fred Harke
- Times Squared newsletter, v.4 no.12 (Aug 1989)
- Square Dancing Stained Glass website : accessed 22 Apr 2021