Lancaster loses dedicated community member
BY: Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | March 05, 2014
LANCASTER- “Jeff was a very prominent member of this community and that was one of his dreams. He wanted to be a contributor to the success of the Village of Lancaster and he definitely was in a lot of different areas,” remarked Lancaster Village Trustee William Schroeder.
A friend to many, a mentor to some, and a man dedicated to his community, Jeffrey J. Stribing may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.
A community was saddened and shocked when news of Stribing’s death was heard on Feb. 27. Although, Stribing, who was 55 years old and served as the village’s community development corporation (CDC) director, passed away he accomplished so much in his life. He was well known for his dedication to his family, friends, and community.
A Lancaster native, Stribing was a part of many organizations including the Lancaster Lions Club and he was a volunteer firefighter prior to losing his sight in 1991. Stribing started to lose his eyesight through a genetic disorder called Mucopolysaccharidoses, a group of rare, inherited lysosomal storage disorders that are clinically characterized by abnormalities in multiple organ systems and reduced life expectancy.
The disease eventually worsened and Stribing was left with total blindness in his left eye and legal blindness in his right. After 15 years he was forced to retire as a sheriff’s deputy for Erie County.
However, this didn’t stop Stribing from pursuing his dreams. To better help those who are visually impaired, Stribing formed the Lions Vision Beyond Sight Foundation, which helped build the Lions Diagnostic Imaging Center at the Ross Eye Institute, a not-for-profit research, teaching, clinical care facility in Buffalo for persons with/without health insurance nor the ability to afford eye care.
He was also the youngest elected trustee in the Village of Lancaster when he was first elected at the age of 20 in the 1980s. He served again in the 90s.
“I remember I asked him to run in the 1997 village election and he said he would run on one condition that he was allowed to work on the downtown revitalization,” said Department of Public Works (DPW) Superintendent William Cansdale, and former village mayor. “That was his condition to return to the board.
During his time on the board he reduced water fund deficits and ultimately was a big part of the consolidation of the water system with Erie County Water Authority. He also pressed for a study of merging the village and town police departments leading up to the merger.
“When he got elected to the board that’s when a lot of great things started happening in the village,” said Cansdale. “I think he was the driving factor behind, not just the downtown revitalization, but there was a period of, I think, more progress than ever occurred in the village.”
In 2005, Stribing decided not to run for reelection, but to serve in a different capacity as the director of the CDC. This lead to the purchase of the former Boces Building, the Central Avenue streetscape, the façade program, and the extension of West Main Street.
Cansdale added his crowning accomplishment was taking down the Boces building to pave the way for the revitalization of Downtown Lancaster.
“He dreamed big. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “It’s a shame he didn’t get to finish the whole thing, but I think he left all the pieces in place for others to pick up the ball and carry it over the goal line.
Jeff was the real deal. He was a devoted husband, father, and dedicated to the community.”
Cansdale said he loved to talk to Jeff. Many nights after a village meeting when he would on occasion drive him home, they would sit in his driveway and just talk for hours.
“It was hard to break up conversations, because of the passion he had for this community and his desire to follow through on his dreams,” remarked Cansdale.
Schroeder knew Stribing for well over 20 years and really got to know him when they worked side-by-side in the fire department. Schroeder recalled a time when he and Stribing responded to the Methodist Church for a fire. Schroder was driving the fire truck and Stribing manned the radio. When they arrived they were the first fire truck on the scene. Schroeder said he wishes he had the audiotape of the radio conversation.
“Jeff was extremely personable, energetic, and very passionate about his village,” said Schroeder, adding Stribing outlived his life expectancy a good 10 to 12 years from what doctors predicted.
With Stribing having an extreme amount of knowledge about the community, the CDC, and the village’s master plan his passing is definitely going to have an impact on the village.
“For someone to pick up where Jeff left off is going to be extremely difficult,” said Schroeder. “Jeff did a lot of things himself, because I think he wanted to make sure they gotten taken care of.”
“Jeff reached a number of milestones in his life,” added Schroeder. “Working with Jeff since I’ve been on the board has been a memorable experience. Although, physically he may have not had a lot of sight, he had a lot of foresight. He was able to see things that a lot of us had a hard time imagining.”
There were times working together they didn’t always see eye-to-eye on things, added Schroder.
“There were things I didn’t understand from his perspective and vice versa, but we always walked away friends,” he said.
A reaction no different than anyone else’s James Allein, chairman of the village’s planning commission, said he was utterly shocked when he heard the news. What started out, as a working relationship became a friendship for 10 years. Stribing also served as a Lancaster Rural Cemetery Board Member where Allein currently is president.
“For all his handicaps, he never felt bad about them. I remember just a few months ago, before we torn the [Boces] building down, we were taking a walk through the building and here we were about four or five of us and Jeff said, ‘is there a light in the hallway here?’ And we said, ‘no.’ He said, ‘well let the blind follow the blind then, Allein laughed. That’s just the way he was. He didn’t let his handicaps overcome him.”
Allein added Stribing was one of the fairest men he has ever known.
“He was willingly to listen to anybody and not afraid to give advice back. And if you were wrong he would tell you so, but politely,” remarked Allein. “He was mentor to many on the village board including myself.”
Stribing leaves behind his wife Kimberly and their five children Shaylee, Amber, Jasmine, Chanelle, and Trever. He has one deceased son Hayden. Stribing also had eight grandchildren. A funeral service was held Thursday morning at St. Gabriel’s RC Church, in Elma.