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Rancho Santa Fe couple’s road to success filled with twists and turns

Horse owners and part-time Rancho Santa Fe residents Bingo (left) and Gino Roncelli. Strong Wind, a 2-year-old colt they own in partnership, will race in the I’m Smokin’ Stakes on Sept. 3. Strong Wind is a son of Tribal Rule, a stallion that stands at Ballena Vista Farm in Ramona.
Horse owners and part-time Rancho Santa Fe residents Bingo (left) and Gino Roncelli. Strong Wind, a 2-year-old colt they own in partnership, will race in the I’m Smokin’ Stakes on Sept. 3. Strong Wind is a son of Tribal Rule, a stallion that stands at Ballena Vista Farm in Ramona.

By Julie Sarno

In the 1960s, a movie titled “The Graduate” captured the public’s interest, starring a then-unknown Dustin Hoffman. A young man seeking to advance himself, Hoffman was given one word of advice by an older executive at a party — that word was “Plastics.”

Well, Gino Roncelli must have seen the movie, as plastics has been his pathway to success. Today, Roncelli and his wife spend about three months each year at their second home in Rancho Santa Fe. During summers, the couple eagerly follow their runners at Del Mar. The Roncelli’s best runner currently is Strong Wind, winner of the Graduation Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths at Del Mar early in August. He is being pointed for the I’m Smokin’  Stakes on Labor Day, Sept. 3.

The couple has been married for 55 years. But, first, let’s return to their early days.

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“In today’s society, most people work one job,” began Roncelli, whose youthful appearance belies his 77 years. “I needed money, I worked (a second job) as a private detective. All the jobs were at night. Many involved being in bars. It was perfect.”

In 1956, they were both attending Pasadena City College (PCC). Gino and Bingo (her legal name since adulthood) met at a fraternity/sorority party at the Huntington Sheraton, now the Langham, Pasadena (for years, it was a Ritz Carlton).

“I was with a date,” said Gino. “Bingo was with a date as well. I went after her as she walked toward the Ladies’ Room, and got her number.”

The couple began dating and six month later were married — Bingo was 20 and Gino was 22.  Gino was older because he enrolled in college after from serving in the armed forces in Japan. He played football for PCC.

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“Nine months and three weeks later, we had our son, Brett,” recalled Bingo. Gino was working at General Petroleum as an accounting clerk and accepting private detective assignments in the evenings.

“The guy that sat at the next desk had been there for 30 years,” said Gino. “He was not doing any more important work than I was. I thought to myself, ‘Is this what my life is going to be?’”

Even though the couple had a baby on the way, Gino left the job and joined a friend’s business, becoming a gardener.

“That’s what it says on our son Brett’s birth certificate for Gino’s occupation, ‘gardener,’” said Bingo. Her husband took several different jobs over the next few years. Then he was offered a job in sales.

“It was perfect for me.” said Roncelli, who worked for the next eight years in sales for companies producing plastic parts.

“Then I started my own little company,” said Roncelli, acknowledging the importance of his experience in sales in the plastics industry. “It was an immediate success, Roncelli Plastics. You really can’t start a business in something you don’t know about.”

“We started out doing the easiest jobs, producing a high quantity of low quality parts,” said Roncelli. As the company made money and acquired more sophisticated machinery, they reversed the formula. “Now, we produce high-quality, low-quantity parts.”

Founded more than 40 years ago, Roncelli Plastics is one of the oldest companies in Monrovia, Calif. With 90 employees, they rank as one of the leading employers. They number Boeing and Jet Propulsion Laboratory among their customers.

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“The new Mars Rover, Curiosity, has over 100 of our parts on it,” said Roncelli, who serves as CEO of the company. “Some of the work we are doing today, not many companies can make these parts. They are made in the U.S.A.”

Roncelli’s son-in-law Riley Cole, married to their daughter Jill, is president of Roncelli Plastics. Grandson Christopher Cole and granddaughter Allison Cole also are employed there. The Roncellis’ other daughter, Jill’s twin Janna, lives in Encinitas. Son Brett and his wife, Renee, and their daughters Raven and Trinity live in Sonoma.

In addition to raising the couple’s three children, Bingo focused on volunteer work for 30 years. She is a longtime board member of the Pasadena Playhouse. About her 55 years with Gino, Bingo says, “It’s been a merry go round. There have been lots of surprises. Life has never been dull.”

Gino serves as president of the Winner’s Foundation, which helps anyone in racing suffering from alcohol issues or drug dependency. For six years, Roncelli served as a board member for Magna Entertainment, which operates Santa Anita and a number of other race tracks. He resigned in 2006.

The couple own all or parts of 10 horses in training with conditioners Peter Miller, Bob Hess and Steve Knapp. Knapp trains Strong Wind. Their best horses to date have been stakes winners River Keen and Chinese Dragon. River Keen won two Grade 1 races and more than $1.6 million in purse earnings. Chinese Dragon, also retired, now stands at stud in New Zealand.

“Bingo and the race horses made it necessary for me to make a lot of money,” said Roncelli.


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