Michael R. Ronca, 65, retired director of the Northwestern High School band in Hyattsville and who was the first instrumental music teacher in Prince George's County, was killed Dec. 30 in a traffic accident near Swiftwater, Pa.
Pennsylvania State Police said his car was struck head-on by a tractor trailer truck that had crossed the line to avoid hitting another vehicle.
Mr. Ronca, who had played clarinet with the Army Band during World War II, joined the Prince George's County school system in 1949.
"When I came here, the kids had never heard of a clarinet or sax -- all they knew were mouth organs and guitars," he said later in an interview. "So I said to myself, 'I'm going to make a band or bust.'"
He went on to found the county's first school band at Maryland Park High School, which later became Suitland High School. He organized the Northwestern High School band when the school opened in 1951.
Under his direction, the band participated in numerous Macy Christmas Day parades, Cherry Blossom parades, presidential inaugural parades and Lions Club competitions and at the New York World's Fair in the 1960s.
In addition to directing the band, Mr. Ronca also taught instrumental music classes. He retired in 1977.
He was born in Roseto, Pa. He was a graduate of East Stroudsburg State Teachers College and later took graduate work at the University of Maryland. While serving with the Army band, he also sat in as a clarinetist with the symphony orchestras of Portland, Me., and Arkansas. He taught in Delaware and Manassas, Va., before coming to Prince George's County. He lived in Hyattsville.
Mr. Ronca was a former president of the band division of the Maryland State Music Educators Association. He was a member of the Maryland State Teachers Association, the National Education Association, the Music Educators National Conference, the Maryland Band Directors Association, the Prince George's Retired Teachers Association, the American Legion, the Moose Club in College Park and the Elks Club in Hagerstown. He was active in the Washington Ski Club.
Survivors include his wife, Vivian, of Hyattsville; a brother, Albert, of Roseto, and two sisters, Marietta Riley and Mamie Hanna, both of Hyattsville.