James Seney, a long-time Sylvania mayor and well-respected Republican politician known for smoking cigars and giving no-nonsense advice, was killed Saturday during a fishing trip in Canadian waters, his daughter said.
Mr. Seney, 71, was on a nearly week-long fishing trip with his old buddies from Ottawa Hills High School, an expedition they went on annually for the past five years. They were heading back to land for dinner when the boat apparently malfunctioned, crashing into a rock wall. Mr. Seney and his former classmate, Robert Foster, were both killed instantly in the crash, his daughter said.
Canadian authorities confirmed two American men died Saturday in Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario, Canada, near the town of Kenora, but did not release their names or any details into the crash.
A third person was injured in the crash and is listed in stable condition, said Sgt. Greg Moore of the Ontario Provincial Police. He added that police in Canada are still investigating.
His daughter, Allison Seney, remembered him as a devoted family man who found peace being in his garden or fishing. But Mr. Seney’s past showed a wilder side, too, as he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and just missed out fighting in the Bay of Pigs invasion as a sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves.
“My dad was a man of adventure,” Ms. Seney said. “He died doing what he loved.”
Mr. Seney was the vice chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party.
Funeral arrangements are still pending for Mr. Seney, a father of six, who was married to Dawn, a Sylvania kindergarten teacher.
Community leaders expressed disbelief and shock of his death as news spread on Sunday.
“He just had the city in mind for everything he did,” said Dr. Read Backus, a Sylvania city councilman from 1971 to 2008. “It’s going to be a loss to the whole area.”
Mr. Seney grew up in Toledo, raised by his father, a used car salesman, and his mother, a swimming coach and physical-education director at the YMCA.
Mr. Seney, whose teachers once dubbed him a “lost cause,” graduated high school in 1959. He attended college, but never earned his bachelor’s degree, which made his rise into politics all the more impressive, said Ms. Seney, 25, a junior majoring in communications at the University of Toledo.
He served in the military for four years and was on the verge of getting called to fight in the Bay of Pigs. But he never saw battle.
Over his career, he became a fixture in Sylvan politics where he served as mayor from 1977 to 1995.
Mr. Seney was an advocate for the city’s recreation department, which grew under his tenure with the construction of the Tam-O-Shanter Sports Complex. A park in the city is named after him.
He held Ohio statewide positions, including executive director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission from 2000 to 2006.
In July, 2010, Mr. Seney was elected vice chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party by unanimous vote of the party’s executive committee. He was later re-elected to the position in April.
Jon Stainbrook, Lucas County Republican Party chairman, described Mr. Seney as one of the most respected GOP leaders in northwest Ohio.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Mr. Stainbrook said Sunday of his friend. “This is a huge loss. We’re devastated.”
In the world of politics, where there’s no written handbook to instruct the rookies, Mr. Stainbrook said he often turned to the older veteran for advice, early in his carer.
In his no-nonsense, matter-of-fact manner, Mr. Seney often told him, “If you feel that you are right, then stand up for what you believe in and fight for that until the end. Don’t back down.”
Ms. Seney remembered holding the bible during his mayoral swear-in ceremony as a little girl in the early 1990s.
But she also thought of her father as someone who knew the right way to cook a steak and was a passionate supporter at hockey games.
“I always saw my dad as a dad, not as a mayor,” Ms. Seney said. “He was my best friend. He was my rock, my guardian, my mentor.”
In addition to Allison, Mr. Seney is survived by his wife, Dawn; children, Meg, Josh, Todd, Matt, and Jack, and five grandchildren.
Contact Gabrielle Russon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6026.