AHWAHNEE — Well known local artist and former landscaping contractor Ronna Adler is leaving the area — and on Sunday, June 9, friends and fans are gathering at Rev’s Farmhouse in Oakhurst to give her a proper send-off.
Ronna, 83, has lived in Ahwahnee since 1990 and now she’s moving to Oklahoma next month to live with her daughter.
“This is such a beautiful area and I have so many good friends here,” she said this week while packing for the move.
Her friend Susie Rappaport helped organize Sunday’s going-away party.
“Ronna can’t drive anymore and, since she lives alone, it’s impossible for her to get around.”
Sunday’s party will not be the only time area residents have gather to honor Ronna.
“She’s been involved in so many things and there are so many aspects to Ronna’s life,” Rappaport says. “I’ve known her for sixteen years through our involvement in [the area’s] Jewish community. She’s a very spiritual person. She’s also been very involved at the Positive Living Center and in the local Buddhist community.”
Ronna Adler was born in Detroit but grew up in southern California.
“I came here for one reason,” she says. “I love horses.”
Although she had to stop riding ten years ago, Ronna spent thousands of hours in the saddle. Snapshots of her two favorite horses, Red Cloud and Mister Chairman, are taped to her refrigerator.
Equine images, many of them Ronna’s own, fill her entire home and studio, where she still paints almost every day. Over the years, her work has garnered numerous prizes at local, state and national exhibitions.
Her formal art career began when she was 19 and attending Orange Coast College and won a scholarship to the Rex Brandt School of Watercolor.
She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Art from Idaho State University and a teaching credential in Art from U.C. Santa Barbara.
Horses have always been an inspiration for her artwork.
“I can remember feeling a connection to horses since I was a small child. I love their beauty, their freedom, their intuitiveness. Look at how horses are used today for therapy, especially with [special-needs] children.”
Married three times, she’s been happily single and living independently in eastern Madera County for a number of years now.
“We won’t get into my marriages,” she says. “Let me just put it this way: picking husbands was never my good point.”
She has four children and eight grandchildren. One son, Max, is an equine veterinarian. Her daughter Taria lives outside of Tulsa.
“I’m sad to leave but I really miss my daughter and and am looking forward to spending more time together.”
Ronna is also well known to many in the area as an organic gardening expert and licensed landscaping contractor. She ran her own landscaping business in Madera County for 13 years and also wrote a weekly gardening column for the Sierra Star.
“When I worked as a contractor, there weren’t many women doing it. But with my art background, I always felt like I was ahead of the game. Landscaping is also an art — you’re just painting with plants and soil.”
In 2018, Ronna self-published a book on Amazon called ‘Landscape Gardening in the Sierra Nevada and Other High Elevation Climates.’
“I was hoping to get rich and famous in my old age,” she jokes. “So far, it isn’t working out that way. But some people have paid $15 to download it.”
These days, transportation is a key issue for Ronna, who used to drive her own truck as a contractor — and would occasionally appear on horseback in local parades as “the galloping granny.”
“Horsewoman, artist, landscaper, spiritual seeker, community volunteer, Ronna is all of those things,” says Susie Rappaport. “For so long, she’s been an influential figure in the foothills community and an advocate for so many people and causes.”
“I’m really going to miss this place,” Ronna said to her friend Wayne Woodward when he stopped at her home this week to help with an air conditioning repair project.
“I love Ronna,” Woodward said. “She’s a such a wonderful, caring person, so full of life. They don’t make them like her anymore.”