Closer to the Heart
1990 Mazda Miada
Article and photography by Richard Butschi
Have you ever noticed how some people develop an unnaturally strong attachment to a particular and sometimes even odd item? We often see it in young children with a blanket or stuffed toy, but this seems to stay with certain people, especially guys. It could be a moth-eaten sweatshirt from college or a pair of raggedy tennis shoes that are continually rescued from the trash. In the case of Ron DeWitte, it’s a red 1990 Mazda Miata convertible. DeWitte was on a bicycle ride on the northeast side of town about eight years ago, when he came upon the little red beauty that was for sale. He didn’t need another car and this certainly wasn’t a practical vehicle, but it ended up following him home like a stray, but very lovable, mutt. His wife, Lynne Rothrock, didn’t think much of it, but Ron was excited about it which was reason enough to give it a new home. It became a fair-weather car and Ron took great pleasure in zipping around town with his two dogs, Maggie and Lindy, and even Lynne, once in a while.
1990 was the first year of the Miata, debuting at the Chicago Auto show in ‘89. It evolved from the British sports cars like the Triumph Spitfire and closely fashioned after the Lotus Elan. The first generation model sold 400,000 units from ‘89 to ‘97, winning several awards, including “Best Sports Car of the ‘90s” and “10 Best of All Time.” With its even weight distribution, “wishbone” suspension and weighing only 2070 lbs., it had superior handling - great for SCCA racing events. It has rear-wheel drive, 4-wheel disc brakes and is powered by a dual overhead cam, 4-cylinder engine, with 115 bhp transferred to a 5-speed manual transmission. It does 0-60 in 8.3 seconds with a top speed of 126mph.
Ron and Lynne are local music celebrities. As Lynne states, Ron “was born to play the guitar,” having been inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame and a four-time inductee into the Iowa Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. He currently plays with “The Swinging Doors,” but has done guest spots with SPT Theater and a variety of other gigs. Lynne is a flaming red-haired cabaret singer, formerly living and singing professionally in Nashville, where the two of them recently revisited and ended up playing with Vince Gill and his band! They perform together often and can be seen on December 14, 15 & 16 at the CR Library’s Whipple Auditorium for their annual Christmas Cabaret. Tickets are available at lynnerothrock.com. Make sure not to miss this show!
The Miata and Ron fell on hard times about three and a half years ago. Ron was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the Miata was relegated to a spot in the yard where its condition declined while Ron and Lynne began the fight for Ron’s life. Early on, Dr. James Howe performed a radical surgery called a “Whipple procedure,” which gave Ron a new lease on life and a new fan. Dr. Howe now rarely misses a performance. Ron got back to his beloved convertible, but it needed a lot of care. Close friends, Denny and Patty Walsh also noticed the deterioration and recently took matters into their own hands. Arrangements were made to get the Miata into Pat McGrath’s body shop for exterior detailing. Patty did some interior detailing herself and added some new floor mats. A surprise reveal was orchestrated in August by Lynne and Ron’s daughter, Jody, and husband Scott Jensen at Sutliff Cider, where Ron and the band were playing. The reveal also revealed a prominent dent in the driver’s side fender, as there wasn’t time for a repair at McGrath’s. Another good friend and fellow musician of DeWitte’s, Paul Clark, and wife Jeri, were at the reveal and had already taken steps to correct the situation, having ordered a replacement fender. Ron later brought the Miata to Center Point where the new fender was painted by Complete Automotive and installed by Clark. Good friends will do things like this.
Ron and Lynne continue to fight, but it remains to be a matter of time. The couple recently returned from Florida, taking last looks of the ocean, courtesy of The Dream Foundation. Maggie and Lindy are gone now, but still in Ron’s heart when he occasionally cruises around town or pulls up a lawn chair beside his red beauty, cracks open a beer and remembers good times and friends. It’s so hard to let go.