Wendy Dio admitted it wasn’t easy giving up some of the possessions that once belonged to her husband, Ronnie James Dio.
The heavy metal frontman with the powerful pipes who sang about the battles of good versus evil passed away in 2010 at age 67 from stomach cancer.
Dio teamed up with Julien’s Auctions and offered 666 items from the rock icon’s personal collection, including stage props, instruments used over the years, swords, medieval art and more.
The auction took place at Hard Rock Cafe New York on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15. Fans were able to score some unlikely items, including Dio’s 1993 passport.
The 73-year-old widow and former manager told Fox News the vast collection had been in storage for years, even before her beloved husband passed away. But nearly nine years after Ronnie’s death, Dio found herself contemplating on what to do with the late singer’s possessions.
It was her good friend Ahmet Zappa, the son of late singer Frank Zappa, who suggested auctioning them off to fans.
“Some of [the items] were very difficult to give up,” said Dio. “I still didn’t give up everything. But some of the things were very difficult. I had to go back-and-forth a few times about a letter George Harrison had written to him asking for an autograph. Some of the shirts still smell of him.
"But what am I going to do with all of these things? These items have been in storage since Ronnie was alive… I rather have these items go to fans or museums than just being stored up. … I think the best thing to do is let other people enjoy it.”
The auction also featured Ronnie's extensive collection of sports memorabilia, including countless jerseys and signed baseballs.
Dio insisted Ronnie was a passionate sports fans and would often write his hit songs while watching his favorite team, the New York Giants. And when he wasn’t out on the road, Ronnie found comfort “being a homebody” and inviting close friends over to watch a game.
Dio said one of Ronnie’s treasures was a baseball signed by Mickey Mantle.
“That was something he really, really wanted,” she recalled. “He was a huge fan of his. I actually bid on that at an auction. I paid way, way too much money on it. But, I bid on it for his birthday present. That’s how he got that.”
There’s also the signed Wayne Gretzky jersey, which nearly went missing.
“Wayne Gretzky gave him the hockey shirt that he played in,” said Dio. “I was going through a bunch of stuff one time and I thought, ‘Oh, what’s this old raggedy thing that’s 10 times bigger than Ronnie?' I nearly gave it away. A signed Wayne Gretzky! I almost got killed for that one.”
Wendy shared the auction gave her an opportunity to connect with fans, which her husband was always grateful for.
“He was just a very, very humble person,” she said. “He loved his fans. He never forgot where he came from. He never forgot they were the reason he lived in a nice house.”
Dio stressed her spouse was “just a normal human being,” one who enjoyed basic comforts when not performing on stage. He relished eating Indian or Italian food and was “quite a good cook.” And despite his jaw-dropping, custom-made stage costumes, he didn’t hesitate to shop at Walmart.
“I remember once being there in his hometown of Cortlandt,” Dio recalled. “We had gone to visit his parents. We were coming out of Walmart and this guy suddenly appears running up to us. ‘I didn’t know you shopped at Walmart?! Can I take your picture?’ Ronnie said, ‘Yes, of course!’”
At the time of Ronnie’s death, the New York Times reported his band Heaven and Hell had canceled its summer tour because of his deteriorating health. But despite being diagnosed with a fatal illness, Ronnie enjoyed the final years of his life.
“He was very happy because he had gone back to the Black Sabbath guys,” said Dio. “They had reformed again and made some albums and a bunch of tours. Because he had left before in the ‘90s negatively, it was really great that they were all back together and everything was good.
"I think he had completed his circle before he passed. He went out on a high note. I don’t think he could have lived if he had lost his voice and not be able to perform again. So I like to look at it in a positive way, that it was is time, that he chose to go.”
According to the New York Times, when Ozzy Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath in 1979, Ronnie replaced him and stayed until 1982. He briefly rejoined Black Sabbath in the early ‘90s, singing on the band’s 1992 album “Dehumanizer.”
In 2006, he began playing with members of that band, naming the group Heaven and Hell after the title of the first Black Sabbath album on which he had appeared.
The newspaper added Heaven and Hell toured widely and unveiled one album, “The Devil You Know,” in 2009.
But despite Ronnie’s lasting influence in a genre that is still often misunderstood, Dio said she still spends time clearing up misconceptions about her husband’s music. She claimed some still believe the singer, who sang of devils and defiance, was satanic.
“Which is totally wrong,” she said. “Ronnie was an altar boy. His songs were always about good versus evil and following your dreams. His music was positive. For instance, in the cover of ‘Holy Diver,’ you see it looks like a priest with a monster.
"That was Ronnie’s way of saying to look inside a person. Don’t go by what you think that person is based on the outside. How do you know the monster is not the good person and the priest is the evil person? That was his way of saying… Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
As for Ronnie popularizing the “devil horn” hand gesture? Dio said the seemingly occult-fueled imagery came from his childhood.
“Ronnie as a child was brought up… in a very Italian neighborhood,” she explained. “His grandmother... had come straight off the boat from Italy. He would walk with her when he was 4-5 years old and he would see her doing this sign. And it wards off evil. It’s an old Italian superstition that dates back centuries.
“So when Ronnie joined Black Sabbath and took the place of Ozzy, he knew Ozzy always did the peace sign… So he did that sign instead. And the whole world caught on. People say Ronnie invented it. He did not invent it. He just carried on that tradition his grandmother did.”
While Ronnie savored his rock ’n’ roll success during his final years, Dio said he started complaining about stomach pains five years before his passing.
“He felt like he had a gas bubble, indigestion,” she said. “I took him to a specialist in Beverly Hills. They gave him a test. They said, ‘Oh, it’s just a gas bubble. Don’t worry.’ If I knew what I know now — and I know a lot since going through cancer with Ronnie — I know I should have said, ‘Let’s go get an ultrasound, a blood test, and endoscopy, something.’ But I knew nothing about cancer at that time. Nothing. We just went on. He would eat like it was going out of style.”
Beyond the auction, Dio is determined to maintain her husband’s legacy. She said listeners can expect a re-release of his entire catalogue with some surprises next year. But she hopes Ronnie’s items will unveil a different side to the artist.
“He was just a normal human being, but a very special person,” she said.