Editor’s Note: Though they had never heard of Mr. Ronay before this story ran, a group of readers were so touched by his plight that they arranged a burial for him.
A 67-year-old township man was found dead at his kitchen table Tuesday. He was sitting there a week before anyone noticed.
Authorities said Louis Ronay died of natural causes. They were alerted when a letter carrier noticed his unusually stuffed mailbox, police said.
Police are searching for friends or relatives, but they are not optimistic.
“We really don’t know a lot about Mr. Ronay. We have no one to go to. And since he was so private, it’s very challenging for us to try to find out what his wishes were,” said police detective Jim Ryan.
Ronay lived by himself in a one-bedroom garden apartment at Charleston Place, an affordable-housing development for seniors. Inside, he had a framed photo of former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, some exercise equipment, a television and a computer with a Home News Tribune article about an aggressive-driving crackdown taped to the screen.
“He was very much into computers and technology and actually helped me in the office with some computer issues,” said Karen Scalara, executive director of South Brunswick Community Development Corp., which owns and operate Charleston Place.
Scalara described Ronay as a short, quiet man with a nice smile. He had an Eastern European accent, she said, and he was known to like country line dancing.
Ronay was retired at the time of his death. Before that, he worked at the state Department of Community Affairs. He was also a Vietnam veteran. But his most distinguishing characteristic was his penchant for solitude, Scalara said.
“As far as we know, because it is something we ask repeatedly for this reason, Mr. Ronay said there was no one (he was close to). That page of his lease is blank,” Scalara said, referring to emergency-contact numbers.
Ronay was divorced, and his ex-wife is reportedly deceased.
Ronay was so fond of privacy that he moved to Charleston Place to escape the social environment at Oak Woods apartments, another state-subsidized complex run by the CDC, Scalara said.
“He didn’t like the idea of walking through the lobby because everybody kept track of comings and goings,” she said.
Ronay’s body is in county custody at the Medical Examiner’s Office. He could be there for quite some time. The state does not impose a deadline, said Paulette Crabiel Wahler, a funeral director familiar with relevant statutes.
It is not known if he had a will, officials said. The state Department of the Treasury will handle a financial investigation, according to Kevin Hoagland with the county Surrogate’s Office.
If no relatives step forward, the state will formally ask the county to appoint an attorney to handle Ronay’s estate and burial, Hoagland said.
However, anyone who would like to bury Ronay is allowed to, according to state law. The sparest arrangements usually cost about $1,500, Hoagland said.