NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Fellow Council members and others remember Richard Jaenke as a thoughtful man who took his role as a public servant seriously.
Jaenke, 78, died Friday at home after a battle with cancer.
A four-term councilman, he was someone who preferred to focus on others instead of himself.
“That was a testament to Dick’s character,” said Mary Lou Steed, co-owner of Remax Crossroads Properties in Strongsville along with her husband Dennis, where Jaenke worked as a Realtor since 2007.
“He never wanted to worry anybody about anything,” Steed said. “He always had a positive outlook. He never allowed himself to feel defeated.
“Even when he was having a poor day, he’d say, ‘I’ll rest and feel better tomorrow,’” Steed said.
He retired after 33 years with the former Ohio Bell Co. and worked more than 30 years in the real estate field until a week ago, according to Steed.
“Real estate was his second career after he retired,” Steed said.
“He was just a gem of a person,” she said. “He literally put everybody else first.”
Jaenke’s death came as something of a shock to people, including Councilman Dennis Boose, D-Ward 2.
“I knew he was ill but didn’t know he was that ill,” Boose said.
Describing Jaenke as “very cordial and professional,” Boose said his colleague was a private person when it came to his own life.
“He sat next to me but never confided to me about it,” Boose said.
“I was sitting across from him at a meeting and wondering how long he would be able to continue doing this,” Councilwoman Bernadine Butkowski, R-at large, said. “Cancer doesn’t care who it gets or at what age.”
City Council President Kevin Corcoran, R-at large, spoke with Jaenke some weeks ago.
“At the time he was hoping to re-gain some strength but said he definitely needed prayers,” Corcoran said.
Jaenke’s wife of 59 years, Patricia, said it was a blessing that her husband went quickly.
“We woke up Friday morning not expecting it that day, but he and I both knew he had a short time.”
Jaenke had his bladder removed in May 2012 after grappling with bladder cancer, according to his wife.
“He was doing fairly well but at the beginning of this year” tests showed cancer had resurfaced in his lymph nodes, Patricia Jaenke said.
Richard Jaenke had undergone chemo treatments weeks ago, but they were halted after proving too hard on his system.
“His quality of life just wasn’t there,” Patricia Jaenke said. “He was too sick to do anything.”
Prior to moving to North Ridgeville in 1996, Jaenke served 10 years on Strongsville City Council when he lived in that community, including two years as council president.
First winning election to North Ridgeville City Council in 2004, Jaenke was midway into his fourth term on Council.
Council will have 30 days after its next regular meeting Monday in which to name a successor to serve the remainder of Jaenke’s term.
Unlike some verbose politicians, Jaenke was one who reserved his comments for times when he felt he had something meaningful to offer to a debate or discussion on an issue.
“He didn’t babble just to babble,” Butkowski said.
Gillock described Jaenke as “old-school.”
“He knew how things should be done and had a lot of insight to provide,” Gillock said. “When he did say something he knew what he was talking about.”
Willing to compromise, Jaenke also “stuck to his guns” when that was called for, Gillock said.
“He didn’t mind being in the minority,” Gillock said.
Boose was impressed by Jaenke’s thorough research of issues before making up his mind, and his devotion to residents of his ward.
“They were of paramount importance to him,” Boose said. “He always made sure they were taken care of.”
Steed recalled Jaenke as a calming influence.
“He did the right things for the right reasons,” Steed said. “He just had a quiet strength.”
Jaenke balanced work with family vacations to South Carolina and Florida.
“We’d try to get everybody together in the summer,” Patricia Jaenke said. “The grandkids all love the beach.”
In addition to his wife, Jaenke is survived by three sons and four grandchildren.
Visitation will be 11:30 a.m. to the time of a memorial service at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Bogner Family Funeral Home in North Ridgeville.
Burial will be in Sunset Memorial Park in North Olmsted.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.