Tuesday, January 08, 2008 STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Musician, producer and sound engineer Ronald (Ronnie) Ardito, a Brooklyn native who moved to New Brighton 10 years ago, lost his battle with brain cancer Saturday in Richmond University Medical Center. He was 53. Mr. Ardito played guitar and keyboards for the punk band the Shirts, a group he helped create in 1972. The band became part of the golden era for the now-shuttered, legendary venue CBGB. Mr. Ardito was also a sound engineer at the club for a decade and became close friends with its late owner Hilly Kristal, whom he regarded as a "father figure," his wife, Marsha Hodgson, said yesterday. CBGB posted a memorial on its Web site, in which it called Mr. Ardito a "good friend, artist, musician, producer, and former employee." Mr. Ardito had earlier been diagnosed with lung cancer, but in April learned the disease had spread to his brain. Still, he lived twice as long as doctors expected because "he had music yet to write," Ms. Hodgson said, which included a final song to his wife, Confession in C-Minor, completed shortly before his passing. "It was his last piece; I will cherish it forever," Ms. Hodgson said. "I have never known anyone as tender, loving and caring as Ron. He was a gentle man who enjoyed truth and honesty." Mr. Ardito and Ms. Hodgson grew up together in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where, as a teen-ager, Ardito was a member of the Street People Coalition, a group of activists who helped get the neighborhood officially named Sunset Park. The lifelong friends reconnected after Ms. Hodgson was divorced 11 years ago; they married soon after and moved to Castleton Corners, finally settling in New Brighton. Mr. Ardito became a cherished second father to Ms. Hodgson's two sons, Chris and Rob Cahill. Baseball season was always special fun in their household, with Mr. Ardito a Yankees fan and Chris a Mets fan, she said. When they married, Mr. Ardito suggested she retain her own name, the one she had when they fell in love, Ms. Hodgson said. "He didn't want me to be anyone but myself, and I didn't want him to be anyone but himself," she said. Mr. Ardito is also survived by his brother, Joseph Ardito, and a granddaughter. A celebration of his life and music, "The Ron Ardito Memorial Hootennanny," will be held Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. at the Rainbow Cafe, Sunset Park. Arrangements, including cremation, were handled by the Matthew Funeral Home, Willowbrook.