HOWLAND - Perhaps no name has been more synonymous with Howland Township than that of Richard E. Orwig.
The man who served as a trustee, a school board member and co-founder of the Athletic Club, among other positions, died Thursday evening at age 87.
"I think that I can speak for the whole community in saying that our hearts are saddened today. He was a pillar of the community and truly earned his title as 'Mr.Howland,'" Township Administrator Darlene St. George said Friday.
Orwig served on the Howland school board for 16 years, the Howland Board of Zoning Appeals for 17 years, the Howland Athletic Club for 20 years, the Howland Citizens Association for 10 years and as a township trustee for 30 years.
St. George said not only did she serve on the board of trustees with Orwig but that he was the one who handed her a high school diploma when she graduated from Howland. When she was came on to the board herself, she said Orwig was nothing but welcoming and helpful.
"I don't normally say this, but I was the first female elected to the board of trustees and it was new for everybody. Dick was nice about it, but he was also old school and sometimes he'd refer to me as 'honey,'" St. George said.
She said after the election, Orwig's wife and daughter called to say that they hoped his terms of endearment wouldn't offend her. St. George said he simply looked at everyone as if they were his daughter or sister.
"Whereas someone else might not get away with calling you 'honey,' Dick always got away with that," she said.
Howland saw many improvements during Orwig's tenure. They include a senior citizens center, water lines and sewers, a new administration building and a post office. When he left the board of trustees, the township had not increased taxes in 13 years and remained approximately $2 million in the black.
"He was one of the few people left that has really had a hand in making Howland what it is today," said Trustee Rick Clark. "He fought the annexation battles and the water battles and the sewer battles."
Orwig also co-founded the Howland Athletic Club in 1954 and was an active member for more than 40 years, and served on the Howland Board of Education from 1962 to 1978.
"I believe he started his public career as a school board member," Howland Superintendent John Sheets said. "He was always a strong supporter of Howland schools."
"He left his imprint on virtually every aspect of Howland," said Trustee Matthew Vansuch, who replaced Orwig in 2010 after a close election in November 2009. "It's a testament of his commitment and undying loyalty to Howland."
He was among the first class named to the Howland Achievement Hall of Fame when it debuted in 2011. The gazebo park off East Market Street was renamed Richard E. Orwig Park in his honor in 2010.
Beyond his service in public offices, Orwig was a 1943 graduate of Howland. He was drafted into the U.S. Army out of high school and served in the Pacific theater in World War II. He was stationed in Iwo Jima, Salpan, and Okinawa and attained the rank of master sergeant.
When he came home, Orwig tried different jobs before settling as a self-employed cabinet maker and keeping busy with his public offices and a stint as commander of the Howland American Legion.
Calling hours will be from 6 to 9 p.m. today at Roberts-Clark Chapel and from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday at Howland Community Church with a service at 2 p.m. followed by military honors. Interment will be in the Howland Township Cemetery.