Ronan grew up in Dublin with his father, the late Peter Ronan; mother, Elizabeth “Elsie” Ronan; two sisters and a brother. One of his sisters lives in Dublin, and the other is in Perth, Australia. His brother immigrated to the United States after he did, and now lives in Chicago. Their father had been a mechanic, and their mother a housewife.
He arrived in the United States for the first time in the summer of 1982, when he worked at a store in Wildwood, New Jersey. At the time, he was studying accounting at the College of Commerce, now part of the Dublin Institute of Technology. He went back to school after the summer, but was “pining away to come back to America again.”
He returned with another visitor’s visa the following year. He worked at the same store in New Jersey for two more summers. In the other seasons, when the store was not open, he worked at a ski resort in Utah and a cannery in Alaska. He moved to the Valley in the mid-1980s after passing through Northampton on a visit to New Hampshire, and enjoying the alternative vibe of the city. As it turned out, the owner of the business where he worked in New Jersey had also owned a store in the Hadley Mall. Ronan recalls his boss telling him that he really would appreciate Northampton. “In those days I had a mohawk,” Ronan said with a laugh.