Ronald Podesta

Obituary of Ronald Bruce Podesta

Our hearts are deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved father, Professor (Emeritus) Ronald B. Podesta, (Dad, Grandpa, “Doc Pod”).  Dad passed away suddenly after a difficult struggle with declining health while an inpatient at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario.  Dad was surrounded by Stella, Jason and myself and we held his hands until his very last breath.  Dad was born on March 24th, 1943 in Medicine Hat, Alberta to Ernest and Janet Podesta and grew up in Redcliff, Alberta.  Dad was an athlete and loved to play all kinds of sports; he played basketball and slow-pitch into his early 70s.  He completed his B.Sc. at the University of Alberta in 1969 during which he also studied at the School of Tropical Medicine, University of Liverpool.  He completed his PhD in the Department of Zoology at the University of Toronto which was the beginning of his research career; he moved to London, Ontario after taking a Research Professorship position at Western University’s department of Zoology in 1978 where he stayed until his retirement.  


Dad embodied kindness, warmth and love; he was a support to everyone around him and his door was always open.  He loved to cook! Big batches of food and during holidays, when his many international students had nowhere to go, he hosted all of them in his home, often cooking two turkeys and all the trimmings.  Those holidays were very special to my brother and I; it was fun having so many people around and seeing our dad in the kitchen in his glory.   His motto was always “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice” and he certainly lived by that. 


Dad’s academic and research accomplishments were extensive including being awarded one of the first WHO research grants in Canada, and the distinguished professorship award (I have a large binder of student submissions on his behalf that they made for him and will cherish it).   His greatest accomplishment however was his vaccine research.  His research focused on vaccine development for a tropical freshwater parasite called Schistosomiasis and he was at the mice testing phase with excellent outcomes.  His longest standing student, Dr. Afzal Siddiqui, who completed his PhD and post-doctorate in Dad’s lab at Western, carried on the vaccine trials in his research position at Texas Tech.  With the much greater funding in the USA (CDC, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) the first round of vaccines were administered to people in Madagascar on November 17th, 2023 – the first day of Dad’s radiation treatment.  Dad wanted to live to see the day that the vaccine for “schistos” (as my dad affectionally called it) was completed and we are so thankful that he did.


Dad was a loving partner to Stella Johnson for the last 30 years, and devoted father to Jason Podesta (Julie) and Janelle Wittig (Mike).  His grandchildren (Ethan, Emma, Noah and Lily) meant the world to him; he was so proud of them and took delight in knowing all about their sports and academic accomplishments.  Christmas was a particularly special time for dad and in healthier days, he would turn his home into a winter wonderland.  Most notable was his beautifully decorated 10-foot-tall Christmas tree and his extraordinarily elaborate Christmas Village that he would put together for the grandkids.   Dad belonged to the large “Podesta” clan and leaves behind many nieces, nephews, in-laws and extended family in Alberta.  He was predeceased by his parents, Ernest and Janet Podesta and step-mother Lix, as well as his beloved sister Virginia ‘Tudi’, and brothers Bertie, Gary, Greg and Kim. 

Our hearts are shattered and we love you and will miss you tremendously. 


Our Dad did not want a funeral; we plan to throw a celebration of his life in the Spring of 2024.

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