Ronnie Ducharme

Ducharme Pond

Journal Staff Writer

BURRILLVILLE - Hundreds of children learn to trout fish there each year, baiting their hooks and casting their lines, often with help from a doting father.

Due largely to the efforts of a guy named Ronald Ducharme, the pond had a lot to offer: a teeming population of brook trout, springs, grassy banks, and a pretty little bridge arching over the brook feeding into it.

But the fishing hole didn't have a name. It was known simply as the pond at the Wallum Lake Rod & Gun Club, which invites kids to fish there for prizes each year in late May or early June.

That changed yesterday. From now on, the state's official maps will show it as Ducharme Pond - after Ronald Ducharme, the man who helped make the man-made fishing hole, the guy known around Wallum as the "Fishin' Technician."

"...[I]n tribute to his dedication and passion for making the pond's existence a reality," states the proclamation from Governor Carcieri.

Ducharme, 72, who recently was diagnosed with leukemia, learned of the honor at a special Father's Day event at the club, off Brook Road, that was planned by family and friends.

As cooks prepared lobster and steak, about 65 people sat in the pavilion and clapped wildly when the club secretary, Joseph J. Varin, announced the proclamation over a public address system.

"You make everybody smile and we're glad to have you around," said Varin.

"It's nice to be around," Ducharme replied.

He was stunned

"It was a big surprise," he said afterward.

Ducharme, a retired tile setter, is a burrillville native who now lives in Thompson, Conn. But he and his dog Becky are fixtures at Wallum, traveling to the club two or three times a week.

"Ronny is like your grandfather you wish you had," said Varin. "He's a very friendly guy, willing to do just about anything for anybody. He's a prince of a guy. He really is."

Ducharme joined the rod and gun club when he was 14 years old. In the 1950s, the organization's members started talking about building a pond and Ducharme was one of the biggest advocates.

He wouldn't let the idea go.

Around 1980, he recalls, the club finally raised the $12,000 it needed for the project. Excavators removed an underground ledge, and dug into springs about 28 feet below the surface.

They linked the new pond to a local brook and stocked it with trout.

On Sunday of last week, in the pouring rain, at least 130 children participated in the tournament, Varin said.

The prizes included more than 20 bicycles. A week ago, the club held a second derby, for more than 60 people affiliated with The Arc of Northern Rhode Island, a nonprofit group that supports children and adults with disabilities.

Ducharme has always enjoyed seeing a younster reel in a nice catch. He made sure that his own four children had ample opportunities for fishing and hunting.

His daughter, Robin A. Zira, of Scituate, was one of the ones who embraced the outdoors with him. She still hunts.

Zira was on hand yesterday with her sister, Shelley M. Nerbonne, 45 of Harrisville.

"Every time I pull a deer out of the woods, he's proud as a peacock," Zira said. "You would think he got the deer, not me."

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