TROY — Remembered for his robust laugh, rosy cheeks and words of wisdom, Troy’s “constant cheerleader” passed away on Wednesday.
Former mayor Pete Jenkins was a lifelong resident of Troy and a Troy High School graduate. He was 84 years-old. He is survived by his wife of 60 years Ruth, their children David Jenkins, Mary Jenkins Barker and Julia Jenkins Melle and five grandchildren.
“As a family, we miss the great father, the great husband and the great person in our lives. We are very grateful for the community service that he was a part of and that he loved. That was a big part of his life. We are very grateful for that part of his life as well,” Ruth said.
Dick Steineman, who spent a great deal of time with Jenkins, shared several stories including how Pete would visit the soup kitchen every couple of weeks, grab a plate of dinner and sit with its patrons. Ruth would also visit and take the patrons’ blood pressure, he said.
“He will always be the mayor of Troy. He is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met,” Steineman shared. “Pete cared about everybody. Sure he was concerned about economic development, but he was concerned about the poor. There were so many things that he did. Pete never tooted his own horn.”
Steineman shared how Pete served on the board of St. Joseph’s House and was “always upbeat no matter what trouble we were having, he’d help us inside the city.”
“Behind the scenes he was helping so many people,” Steineman shared. “Pete was a guy who cared about everybody. Pete was a man who didn’t want a whole bunch of notoriety, but he did so much behind the scenes.”
Steineman visited Jenkins often while his health declined and shared how he never saw Jenkins complain.
“He took care of his community, just like his dad did. Pete led a very fulfilled life. Pete was one heck of a guy,” he said. “Pete was everywhere — the lobby of the newspaper, the golf course, the sewage plant, the maintenance facility, the soup kitchen. He had a real good feel for the city and the less fortunate in the community. That makes a great mayor. You have to take care of everybody, from the businesses to those in need. He always had a tender heart for the poor and less fortunate.”
Jenkins was a graduate of John Carroll University in Cleveland and worked for Hobart Brothers for 31 years.
He served on Troy City Council from Jan. 1, 1978, to Dec. 31, 1981. He served as president of city council from Jan. 1, 1982, to Dec. 31, 1991, and then as mayor from Jan. 1, 1992, until Dec. 31, 2003.
Mayor Michael Beamish remembered Jenkins as a civic cheerleader, including spelling out “T-R-O-Y” at various events. Jenkins passed out the patriotic “Troy, Ohio USA” pins to any and all who were willing to receive them, Beamish said.
“He was the constant cheerleader for Troy. He was president of council, he was mayor and I had the opportunity to follow him. I know he was one of those guys that was so proud of Troy and what it was all about. He passed out pins like they were candy to anybody and everybody,” Beamish said. “He was the father of the Festival of Nations. He and Ruth really founded the Festival of Nations and got that started. He promoted the sister city program and it grew and that’s another positive he brought. He was always concerned with the safety of the people. He’d always go out and ride with the police department.”
Clerk of Council Sue Knight described Jenkins as a man of quiet yet deep faith. He once gave her a stone from a religious site he visited during his travels in the Middle East.
“He had such a great affection and love for this community. It was overwhelming, his love for Troy and he only wanted the best for Troy,” Knight said.
Knight also mentioned Jenkins’ passion for Troy’s sister city, Takahashi City in Japan. “He loved people and he loved his town. He wore it on his sleeve.”
President of City Council Martha Baker said, “Mayor Pete set the standard for others to follow him as mayor.”
“He had a sincere love for the city, knew all employees by name, and sincerely thanked them personally and routinely. He often visited the various departments including the fire department and would be seen frequently riding in police cruisers with the police officers. He had his finger on the pulse of the community. In his position at Hobart Brothers Company, as he followed in his father’s footsteps, he was respected and friendly and always treated others with respect. He was a true people person,” Baker said.
Beamish and several council members recalled how Jenkins fought to keep the city of Troy family-friendly in the late 1990s.
Many recalled the time Jenkins left a council meeting with WHIO-TV’s Northern Bureau Chief Steve Baker to see the Total Xposure nightclub. The club opened under the guise of a teen club the night before the city banned adult entertainment nightclubs. The city battled with the owners until the adult entertainment business closed its doors.
Steve Baker shared his memories of the now-legendary story of Jenkins’ initial shock when the adult venue opened its doors in Troy.
“As Mayor Pete was leaving City Hall following council meeting, I approached him and asked, ‘Mayor, do you know there is already adult entertainment in Troy?’ He responded, ‘No, there isn’t, council just passed legislation tonight.’ I said, ‘Your Honor, follow me,’” Baker recalled. “I took him out to Total Xposure, paid both of our admissions $10 each. We were in there 45 seconds and he said angrily, ‘Let’s get out of here!’ He made a beeline back to City Hall, where several council members were still chatting. That was the start of The City of Troy vs. Total Xposure.”
When current council member Bill Lutz was a college student working at True Value Hardware store, Jenkins would have lunch with the hardware store employees and visit with customers.
“That was really encouraging of him because at the time I was learning about urban affairs and how cities were run and managed. He probably had more of an impact on my life than I realized,” Lutz said. “He had a huge impact on our life and our community. He was there every week, with his Ording’s sandwich, visiting with us kids and hanging out at the hardware store — that was Mayor Pete right there,” Lutz said.
Lutz also remembered the efforts Jenkins’ administration made to improve downtown and make it beautiful. In addition, he fondly recalled how Jenkins hired him in the planning and zoning office and would stop to talk to every employee.
Council member Todd Severt said Jenkins was a mentor and an inspiration to him.
“He would always have a smile on his face and always put Troy first. During my tenure on council in the late ’90s he was a fighter and advocate for the betterment of our city. These were some difficult times with the hospital mergers and Total Xposure and the mayor always maintained true to his beliefs. His motto to ‘Be Kind’ welcomed all visitors to our fine city and he will be missed greatly,” Severt said.
Council member Bobby Phillips said, “I will always remember Pete’s smile. He and Ruth are terrific folks that exemplify Trojan pride. Pete will be missed by the community he supported and loved.”