His name is Ron Ziegler.
He’s 45 years old now, lives in Southern Florida and is doing fine. He’s got a got a longtime girlfriend and caring parents who provided and continue to provide “unconditional love.” He advocates on behalf of the disabled. A deeply religious man, he believes someone upstairs is keeping a close eye on him. And, through Star Trek, of which he is a devotee, and with an assist from the Internet, Ziegler has befriended dozens of equally avid Trek fans and even a few of his heroes.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. So let’s press the rewind button. “I was born in Jackson, Michigan,” Ziegler says. “I was adopted three months after my birth by Martha and Paul Ziegler. We lived in Indiana until I was 13 years old. I have two brothers, Eddie and Jerry, and one sister, Suzie. Eventually, I was diagnosed as ADH emotionally challenged. We moved to South Florida and I was in a program for people with emotionally challenged issues. I was later diagnosed with manic depression, which is a mental health issue.”
Determined to lead a fulfilling life, one with “no more labels,” Ziegler and his family moved swiftly, or as swiftly as they could under the circumstances to improve Ziegler’s situation. The family relocated, leaving behind bullies who inflicted emotional and physical abuse on teenaged Ziegler. Later, Ziegler gained independence by living in his own place. And a regimen of prescribed medications helped ease the emotional and mental issues. By the time his parents retired and moved to Indiana a number of years ago, Ziegler chose to stay in Florida.
“That was a difficult change in my life, but having stability and friends now, I am independent and a free spirit who can boldly go,” Ziegler says. “Having a mental illness I try to fight it through logic and medications and regular counseling and seeing my doctors. Sometimes I have drama in my life. However, that is normal with every human being, especially people with mental illness. But I think we all want to achieve our goals and wait for our dreams to be a reality.”
Among Ziegler’s dreams: living normally and independently, being in a relationship, sharing his story with Star Trek fans across the world, and sitting in Captain Kirk’s chair. And, steady as she goes, he’s getting there. “I am in a relationship,” Ziegler says proudly. “Her name is Brenda. It’s 10 years now and she deserves a medal for being with me so long. And now, if there is drama, she’ll kick my butt and keep me going. We both have mental illness and we overcome it through our love for each other. I have been independent now and have had my condo for 18 years through my parents and being on disability (benefits). I have time to advocate for the disabled, and I joined a couple of groups to try to make a difference. One is called People First. And I’ve met with such politicians as Gov. Charlie Crist, Sen. Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman, and they all know me through advocacy work for the disabled and people in need. I am making a difference.”
And now to Star Trek – and Captain Kirk’s chair. You see, through just about everything he’s ever experienced – the ups and downs, the periods in which he felt like a burden to others – Star Trek was always there for Ziegler. It was there on TV and in movie theaters, there to turn to on video and now on DVD and Blu-Ray. The technology may change, but the power of the Star Trek stories and their influence on Ziegler remained steady. “It was like God was showing me that my dreams would be a reality,” Ziegler says. “I became a Star Trek fan during my youth in Indiana. I had no friends for a period of my time. I would watch Star Trek no matter the hour if I could get away with it. My parents got me everything Star Trek. Star Trek characters became my friends and I would dream of being with them on a starship, cruising through space and making friends in other worlds.
“That’s why I became a fan of Star Trek and why I have always wanted to sit in captain's chair and meet my heroes, like William Shatner and Patrick Stewart and Avery Brooks and Nichelle Nichols and Scott Bakula, and share my story,” Ziegler continues. “Star Trek gave me new opportunities to make friends. Star Trek also gave me the chance to share my art talent with the Star Trek cast and gave me the opportunity to use a computer and actually contact some of the cast of Star Trek on Facebook. It’s made a big difference in my life to meet my heroes (at conventions) and actually talk to people like Gary Graham and George Takei and Nichelle Nichols. Star Trek was my friend when I had none and it gave me a purpose to be me and express how I feel as a human being. I can achieve even with frailties. We can all makes our dreams a reality.”
But what about Kirk’s chair?
“That’s still a part of my lifelong Star Trek dream,” Ziegler says. “And I hope it’ll be a reality soon.”