Ron Pretlac (1936-2022) played hockey with the Wagon Wheel Cardinals


Ronald Pretlac came to Rockton in 1961 as a manager/player for the Wagon Wheel Cardinals. He played for other teams even while winning corporate sales awards for Xerox. He founded multiple companies, including GreenTech Motors, which were designed for NASA, in southern California. But he returned to Rockton, where he passed away peacefully on March 27, 2022, at Highview In The Woodlands, after a long, courageous battle with cancer.

Ron was born August 10, 1936, to Olga and John Pretlac in Fort William, Ontario, Canada, now part of Thunder Bay. His parents raised Ron and his two siblings in a modest home filled with love and support. He often said his favorite memories of his childhood were of his maternal grandfather who came to live with them and with whom he had a special bond. His grandfather instilled in him a love and pride in his Ukrainian heritage with stories of the homeland.

During these years, Ron developed amazing athletic ability as a stand-out hockey player. His athletic prowess gained him an athletic scholarship to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He quickly rose as a star player and became team captain on the UMD hockey team. During his tenure there, he was known as a fierce competitor, leading his team to the MIAC championship in 1959. Ron graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1960. While in Duluth, Ron married his college sweetheart, Patricia Kolstad, and became a father to his only child, Terrill Lynn, born February 8, 1960. Patricia and Ron later divorced but remained friendly throughout Ron’s life.

After graduation, Ron was handpicked by Walt Williamson, owner of the Wagon Wheel Resort in Rockton, IL to be the manager/player of his hockey team. A local hometown favorite, Wagon Wheel Cardinals games were packed with fans from the surrounding communities. After two seasons with the Wagon Wheel Cardinals, Ron joined the USHL's Fox Valley Astros for the  1965-66 season, scoring 15 goals in 29 games, with 27 assists. In 1966, he joined the Green Bay Bobcats, a senior hockey league one step down from professional hockey.  In 1972, he became the co-owner of the Chicago Cardinals, a semi-pro hockey team that played all over the Midwest.

After many years of being single, Ron was married to the love of his life, Nancy Kalinowski of Janesville on October 26, 1974,  until her death in 2012. They moved to the Chicago area where Ron continued to play hockey while working in sales/sales management for Xerox Corporation. While at Xerox, Ron was a high achiever, winning the President’s Award given for outstanding sales performance over 14 years in a row.

In 1980, Ron and his wife Nancy moved to southern California and resided in Westlake Village, CA until 2019. There, he continued playing hockey but also excelled in golf and tennis. The warm climate of California allowed him to enjoy year-round sports and he took advantage of that by joining several golf and tennis clubs. Sports continued to be an integral part of his life.

In business, Ron worked for multiple companies in the sales/sales management capacity. Throughout his career, Ron met and mentored many people who remained his close friends and associates. He sincerely appreciated all the support and guidance of those who worked with him. He was a risk-taker and lived life to the fullest on his own terms.

In addition to his love of sports, Ron loved to travel. He and his wife Nancy, traveled the world together, with friends and occasionally family. Some of his favorite destinations were China, Hawaii, Mexico, Vietnam, Italy, and Alaska. He also enjoyed his “winter visits” from his parents who came from Canada to stay with him and his wife in California. In the early 90s, Ron and Nancy got their first Bichon Frise, “Callie” who was the first of five beloved dogs that he and his wife adopted through the years. Ron loved being a “dog dad” and the animals were provided with a loving, caring home. Ron also had a very quick wit and loved having a good time. He and his wife were known for their fabulous dinner parties filled with wonderful food, great wine, and lots of laughter. He also relished those Sunday football games watching his beloved Green Bay Packers.

Ron is survived by his daughter, Terrill Smith (Kevin), of Roscoe, IL; his sister, Nancy Polhill (Bob) of Thunder Bay Ontario, Canada; his brother, Richard of Ottawa, Canada; as well as several nieces and nephews as well as their children. He is preceded in death by his wife Nancy; his parents Olga and John Pretlac; his sister-in-law Barbara Pretlac; his brother-in-law and sister-in-law Gordon and Audrey Rasmussen; as well as his five beloved dogs, Callie, Koko, Mia, Buddy, and Lily.

Per his wishes, Ron will be cremated and have his and his wife Nancy’s ashes scattered at their favorite spot in Maui, Hawaii. The family will not be having a service at this time. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Ron’s name to the American Cancer Society or your local Humane Society.

View condolences and photos from Ron's life on the Honquest website and on Flickr.

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