By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian
Mike and Denise Roncone came together through a mutual love of music. They both played music in different bands, Mike as a bass player and singer, and Denise as a keyboard player and singer.
“I had just kind of dissolved my band and was asked to join another group, and that was the group Mike was in,” Denise said.
They got married in September 2000, and formed their own band called “Straight Up.”
“We did everything to be employed,” Denise laughed.
“Basically your Top 40, everything,” Mike said.
“It just all depends on the venue where we played,” Denise said. “It was whatever the crowd wanted.
“We still practiced to every week to learn new songs. Every week,” she said.
Denise and Mike both work at the Division of Highways in Bridgeport. Mike was the superintendent of highways for Marion County for eight years, but now works as the district’s oil and gas coordinator. Denise works as the permit supervisor, a job she’s held since 1986. They recently started working in the same office for the first time.
But while it might be more convenient for them to live in Clarksburg or Bridgeport, Mike and Denise have continued to live in Monongah.
“It’s like the town is your family, you know?” Denise said. “You know everybody. We have a connection, a heritage that’s here.”
“The small-town setting — it just fits the way we are,” Mike said.
Mike is originally from Pittsburgh, but Denise grew up in Monongah. The house they both live in now used to be her grandparents’ house. Denise moved into the house in 1993, and they have lived there together since 2000, when they got married.
Mike and Denise are very involved in the community, volunteering at their church, the Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Monongah.
“Denise does all of the decorating for all of the different church seasons,” Mike said. “And it’s not a one-time deal. You are constantly involved in the process.”
“There’s always something going on,” Denise said.
Denise said she hopes the work she does will encourage others to be more active in the church.
“Those are the things that keep your church colorful, and it keeps people participating in things,” Denise said. “We’re always looking for more participants.”
“If we could get more young people, that would be the ideal situation,” Mike said. “When we’re gone, you wonder what’s going to happen next.”
Mike and Denise also worked to organize the music at the Catholic Mass at the Boy Scout Jamboree last July.
“That was an enormous undertaking,” Mike said. “There were over 10,000 Catholics that came to the Mass.”
“And it could not have been undertaken by just us,” Denise said.
“We needed help,” Mike said.
Denise and Mike are humble about their involvement, always emphasizing the contributions of others.
Thirty people were on stage for the Mass itself.
“Primarily we wanted the kids to cantor for the kids,” Denise said. “The participation by the Scouts was wonderful.”
“And that’s what they wanted. We were basically there to generate them,” Mike said.
“All in all, it was an awesome experience,” Denise said.
They are also involved in Clarksburg’s Italian Heritage Festival each Labor Day weekend.
“It’s not just a Labor Day celebration. It’s throughout the year, getting it ready to get to that point,” Mike said. “There’s a lot of fundraising.”
“That takes up every month,” Denise said.
Denise is on the board for the festival.
“I guess I really didn’t know what I was getting into,” Denise laughed.
She also sings the Italian national anthem for the festival. She learned the anthem in preparation for another event: the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Monongah mine disaster. She also sings the anthem at the Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival in Fairmont each year.
The Roncones were recently recognized for their service through Catholic Charities West Virginia’s Salt and Light awards at the annual dinner this past Friday.
“It’s a very humbling thing,” Denise said. “There are so many people who do so many wonderful things.”
Email Colleen S. Good at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.