Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper says Ron Schenk “told it like it was and didn’t back down from anything.”
Schenk who had served on council since 2003 died Friday after what Napper calls a “courageous battle with cancer.”
Schenk had a stroke in 2019 but returned to council in January to help with budget deliberations. It was not widely know he was suffering from cancer.
Schenk was in his fifth term on Plympton-Wyoming councillor serving in almost every capacity including on the fire board and parks and recreation committee. He was known for voicing his opinion particularly on development issues and the budget. He was also one of the more vocal opponents of wind turbines in the municipality.
Napper was a veteran politician when Schenk was first elected. He knew he was a smart businessman, but little else. “As time went on, he became my neighbour, living right across from (former councillor) Ben Dekker on Michigan Line.
And they became friends. Schenk would stop by on his way home for a chat with the mayor. Napper says the interactions weren’t always cordial.
“He was frustrating,” Napper says. “My relationship with Ron was you either hated him or you loved him and I would do both in the same day.”
The mayor eventually came to realize that once Schenk made up his mind, there was little anyone could do to change it. “We would argue and I would have to say, ‘this conversation is over.
“He told it like it was, and didn’t back down from anything. If he believed in something, it was hard to change him and you didn’t change his mind. I never won an argument with him. Ron was always looking for my advice and he would never take it,” Napper recalls.
While he may have been “gruff” on the outside, Napper says “if he was your friend, you had a true friend.”
Schenk he says was an avid sailor and was looking forward to breaking a record at the annual Mackinac race. But that didn’t happen after he broke his ankle.
Schenk, Napper and Dekker were trying to capture a racoon in the roof of the old Plympton Town Hall. A trap had been set and Schenk climbed a ladder to check it. The ladder – which the mayor and Dekker were supposed to be holding – slipped and Schenk fell about 20 feet, breaking his heel.
There was also a side of Schenk that Napper says many people would not know – his love of his family. “He sat at my table and talked for hours about his children and how proud he was of them,” says Napper.
His daughter, Olivia, announced his passing on social media Friday morning.
“He had a great sense of humour and I have so many memories laughing together. Family was really important to dad, and I could not have asked for a better father to raise me and my brother.”
And she acknowledged he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind.
“Dad always said what he wanted to say and did what he wanted to do. He lived a life regret free, and died with no loose ends left to tie.”
Napper was able to visit with his long-time friend and fellow council member before he passed away.
“I’m not sure I could have been that strong facing what he was facing,” said Napper, his voice filled with emotion. “He was so brave, the way he faced it all. I have a lot of respect for him for that.”