Photo by M. Stoller ©2010

On Sunday afternoon, May 30, 2010, a public memorial service was held for the late Ronnie James Dio at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood, California. Approximately 4,200 people were in attendance at the memorial. There were almost 1,200 family, friends and fans in the auditorium at The Hall Of Liberty and an overflow crowd of close to 3,000 people outside who watched the live feed on a huge screen with an awesome sound system.

Eddie Trunk, of “Eddie Trunk Live” on XM Satellite Radio and VH1′s “That Metal Show,” served as the master of ceremonies. Having known Ronnie for several years, Eddie had many personal memories and amusing stories to share about he and Dio during the afternoon agenda on Sunday.

The memorial was a retrospective of the career and the life and times of Ronnie James Dio. We saw a great deal of video footage showcasing Dio throughout his career from his very first band “Ronnie And The Red Caps” to the many famous bands for whom he served as the frontman for over the years; Elf, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Dio, and Heaven & Hell. There were many great photographs projected on the big screen as well as rare video concert footage from many tours with his many bands and band mates. We heard him belt out hit after hit on some of his signature songs and it was a reminder of why he was so revered as the ultimate heavy rock/metal singer and frontman who will forever be incomparable and never forgotten.

The four hour memorial ceremony included many friends and family who spoke, including Dio’s son Dan Pandavona and Dio’s personal assistant Willie Fyfe. Numerous musicians also spoke including Scott Warren of Heaven & Hell, and David “Rock” Feinstein – formerly of Elf. Simon Wright, former AC/DC drummer recalled some humorous stories of he and Ronnie over the years. Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, who was playing a festival in Europe, spoke about his good friend Ronnie via video. Nick Jackson (the pyrotechnics guy) recounted a very funny story about bombing holes in the stage at The Hammersmith Odeon in London while testing explosions before one of Dio’s Black Sabbath performances. Every person who spoke made some kind of reference about how Ronnie was one of nicest guys you would ever want to meet. Many of them told stories of how much Dio loved his fans and how he would often stand outside the tour bus for hours and hours (even after the crew had dismantled the concert stage) and how he would sign autographs until the last fan had gone home. The fans were very important to him and he made sure that everybody knew it. He treated everyone with love and respect and always was a very caring soul.

There were many acoustic performances throughout the memorial service. Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot) sang a very emotional version of John Lennon’s “In My Life.” Geoff Tate (Queensryche) performed a haunting rendition of “Hallelujah.” Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, etc) – who was Ronnie’s favorite vocalist – performed twice, singing a favorite song of Ronnie’s called “Coast To Coast” and Glenn also sang “Catch The Rainbow” with fellow musicians Scott Warren (Heaven & Hell) and Craig Goldy (Dio). Joey Belladonna (Anthrax) did an acoustic version of “Man On The Silver Mountain.” John Payne (Asia) performed the song “Heaven & Hell.”

Everyone who attended received a Dio “button” to wear and we also received a souvenir memorial booklet which features photos, quotes, well wishes and stories from close friends of Ronnie James Dio. The souvenir button and the black and white book cover features the same reverse silhouette image of a famous Dio photograph. Quotes in the book are from actor/musician Jack Black, close friend and musician Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Brian May (Queen), Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Craig Goldy (Dio, Guiffria, Rough Cutt), Doug Aldrich (Dio, Whitesnake), Vinny Appice (Heaven & Hell, Black Sabbath, Dio), Scott Warren (Dio, Heaven & Hell), Chuck Garric (ex-Dio, Alice Cooper), Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead), Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell), Ritchie Blackmore (Rainbow), Roger Glover (Deep Purlple), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, etc), David Coverdale (Whitesnake), and Judas Priest.

Everyone who spoke at the memorial made reference to Ronnie’s long time partner/manager and wife of approximately 40 years or so, Wendy Dio. Wendy and her management team were responsible for every aspect of Ronnie’s career. Wendy, of course, was by his side until the end – a relentless cheerleader for his fight with stomach cancer, the monster that he finally succumbed to. Wendy attended the memorial and at its conclusion managed to grace the podium with enough strength and tears to thank everyone for their love and support. She received a very appropriate and well deserved standing ovation.

Photo courtesy of ©2010

Also talked about at the memorial service was the charitable work that Ronnie was involved in. Ronnie James Dio was instrumental (excuse the pun) in several charities throughout his career. He supported and helped build the Los Angeles based “Children Of The Night,” helping to save run-away teens from forced prostitution and to get them off the streets. Wendy Dio is currently chairman of “Children Of The Night.” Ronnie was an organizer of “Hear N’ Aid,” the metal music answer to raise relief for famine in Africa, inspired by the charity awareness of “We Are The World,” “Band-Aid” and other musician-collaborative songs which came out in the 1980′s. “Hear N’ Aid” raised over $1 million within the first year. Now there is a new charity, “The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund.” The fund is committed to the early detection and prevention of cancer through facilitating access to medical screening and medical educational programs. It supports programs designed to integrate medical knowledge into local communities such as cancer screening programs, education on nutrition in cancer prevention, exercise and overall wellness. The goal of the fund is to reduce the risk of developing life threatening cancers by offering access to preventative medical services. To donate to “The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund” go to the official Ronnie James Dio website at . People who donated at the memorial service received a commemorative Dio T-Shirt in exchange for their $25 donation. Many people donated and wore the their T-Shirts during the memorial service.

Photo by Phyllis Pollack ©2010

At the end of the memorial service everyone in attendance, including the fans and the audience outside, were invited into The Hall Of Liberty to pay their respects and to view Dio’s flower-laden casket which was present during the entire memorial service. “It’s the way Ronnie would have wanted it,” said Eddie Trunk.

The private funeral was held the day before the public memorial, on Saturday, where family and close friends were able to say their goodbyes in a more personal way without an audience present. Ronnie James Dio will be buried privately this week.