Molly Ringwald pens touching obituary for her jazz musician father, Bob Ringwald

The Sacramento Bee has just published a moving obituary for jazz musician Robert Scott Ringwald — “known to most as Bob, and to a lucky few as Dad and PopPop” — written by his daughter, actress and author Molly Ringwald. Bob, who instilled in Molly a lifelong love of jazz, died Tuesday, Aug. 3, at age 80.

“Anyone who knew Bob also knew his mischievous streak, and his ever-present, slightly ribald sense of humor. If you didn’t sufficiently beg to get off of his email joke list, you would have received one just a couple of days before he died,” the younger Ringwald wrote in her sweet, lengthy tribute. Molly detailed her father’s life, starting from when he was declared legally blind as an infant and became totally blind as an adolescent, marveling at how this never held him back in his career.

“Though he never wanted to be defined by his blindness, he couldn’t help being an ambassador for changing the perception of what is possible to do while living with a disability. His dignity, humor, strength of character and courage will always be remembered and cherished by everyone whose lives were touched by his,” Molly wrote. “A lyric to the song ‘Old Bones,’ which he performed often in his later years, summed up his philosophy around a full life well-lived: ‘I love life, I’d like to live it again/Just to have the chance to turn back the hands/And let my life begin/Oh yeah, I’d like to do it again.”

Bob Ringwald, a former preteen student at the California School for the Blind in Berkeley, began taking piano, guitar, and banjo lessons at age 5; soon developed a passion for traditional New Orleans jazz; and started gigging professionally at age 17, growing a beard so that he could appear old enough to gain access to adult-only beatnik nightclubs like Berkeley’s the Iron Sandal. By the ‘70s, he was playing shows seven nights a week around Northern California. 

Bob also helped organize the first Sacramento Jazz Festival in 1974 as one of the fest’s original board members; in 2012, Bob was honored by the festival as “The Emperor of Jazz.” He later hosted a radio show on KCSN-FM called “Bob Ringwald’s Bourbon Street Parade” after moving to Los Angeles. While in L.A., he once served as a guest announcer at a Dodgers game, reading the lineup in Braille while standing on the field.

Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment in 2013 when she released her debut jazz album Except Sometimes (which included a loungey remake of Simple Minds’ The Breakfast Club hit “Don’t You Forget About Me”), Molly spoke about her father’s musical influence — reminiscing about sitting in with his Fulton Street Jazz Band when she was only 3 years old and releasing a Dixieland jazz collection with her father’s group called I Wanna Be Loved by You at age 6. “There were probably about a thousand copies printed, and you could get them on eBay if you wanted to pay a lot of money,” she laughed, seemingly unaware that parts of the album have since surfaced online. 

“I’m sure that there are some people who are doubters [about my music career], but most people that really know me know I have a jazz background. I feel like I have jazz in my DNA,” Ringwald told Yahoo Entertainment. Molly’s character on Season 1 of the ‘80s sitcom The Facts of Life often broke into song, which was another example of her dad’s early inspiration.

Bob Ringwald is survived by his wife of 60 years, Adele; his sister, Renée Angus; daughters Molly Ringwald and Beth Ringwald Carnes; son Kelly Ringwald; and four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, one great-grandson, and one step-great-grandson. In lieu of flowers, the Ringwald family asks that donations be made to either the Foundation Fighting Blindness or CURE Childhood Cancer. Read Molly’s full Sacramento Bee tribute to her father here.

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