BRYAN - William C. Runkle, 79, the mayor of Bryan nearly a quarter-century who, wherever he went, was a goodwill ambassador for the Williams County seat, died Friday in Bryan Care and Rehabilitation Center of complications from congestive heart failure.
He did not seek re-election, after 24 years, in 2001.
"He was just the nicest, most understanding gentleman there was," said Sue Huffman, his secretary for 16 years. "He was just so much fun to work for. He liked the people, and he liked Bryan, and he always wanted to do so much for Bryan."
Current Mayor Douglas Johnson was elected in 2001 to succeed him and said during the mayoral campaign then that he never would have run against Mr. Runkle. "That would be like opposing Woody Hayes or Bo Schembechler," Mr. Johnson said.
To remind everyone of a hometown business, Spangler Candy Co., Mr. Runkle while mayor carried pocketfuls of Dum Dums and handed them out liberally, whether in New York to woo a new business or in Columbus to call on state agencies and officials.
"He knew everybody and everybody knew him," his son David said. "He wasn't afraid to talk to the rich people, the poor people, the white-collar class, the blue-collar class.
"He was mayor all the time. He was not a 40-hour-a-week mayor, which, as a son, made me proud," David Runkle said.
Still, Mr. Runkle was so well known and so approachable, it wasn't easy for him and his two sons to have lunch at a restaurant and spend an hour uninterrupted.
"We'd go to Toledo, and someone would walk up and say, 'Hey, mayor!'•" his son David recalled.
Mr. Runkle worked hard to make sure Lynn Run, an open ditch, was enclosed, his son said. He helped oversee construction of a municipal building that houses several city departments, the court, and council chambers, Mrs. Huffman said.
"He had goals, and he usually accomplished those goals," Mrs. Huffman said.
Mr. Runkle was a former president of the Mayors Association of Ohio and was a past vice president of the Ohio Municipal League. He was a former vice chairman of the Maumee Valley Planning Organization.
He served four years on Bryan City Council and was its president.
For two years in retirement, he worked at Sauder Village in Archbold. Dressed in bib overalls and a kerchief, Mr. Runkle made sure visiting children had a smooth ride on its mini-Wabash Cannonball.
He was a plumber by trade and from 1963 until early in his time as mayor he had his own Bryan plumbing and heating business.
Born in Green Springs, Ohio, Mr. Runkle grew up in Sandusky. He was a 1947 graduate of Sandusky High School.
He was an Army veteran of the Korean War. He was a past commander of the Bryan American Legion post.
He and his wife, Marvel, married June 6, 1953. She died Sept. 9, 1994.
Surviving are his sons, Kenneth and David, daughter, Catherine Shell, brother, Tom, sisters, Pat VanDooting, Margaret "Peg" Kaufman, and Sally Brennan, 10 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Friday in the Krill Funeral Home, Bryan. Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in First Church of Christ, Bryan, where he was an elder and deacon.
The family suggests tributes to the Mayor Runkle Memorial Clock Fund through Bryan Parks and Recreation.