Family and friends of Dick Zink remember him as a force for equitable politics, a passionate advocate for the people of Hillsboro, and above all, a kind and loving family man.
Zink, a longtime Hillsboro business man, city council member, council president and two-term mayor, passed away Sunday. He was 80.
To many Hillsboro residents, Zink was a compassionate leader who never let party lines or disagreement get in the way of friendship. But to his daughter, Andrea Holt, he was nothing short of a hero.
“He was always there for me,” she said. “Even at times when I was going through some rough patches in my life, he never gave up on me and always encouraged me. He never really thought he did a whole lot, but to me my dad was very humble… My dad was my hero.”
Steve Zink, Dick Zink’s son, said his father was devoted to his family more than anything else.
“He was always there for us. It didn’t matter if he had something else planned,” he said. “That’s just the way he was. He always put family and community first. All he wanted was the best for Hillsboro.”
Greg Grant met Dick Zink in 1981 at Hobart, where Zink was the plant superintendent, and the two remained friends until the end.
Grant later joined the Hillsboro Fire Department as a volunteer, and attended council meetings as Zink struggled to find a solution to deteriorating emergency personnel buildings and other contentious issues.
“Dick got a lot of grief over the fire department and police department buildings, but Dick did what he truly thought was the best for the citizens of the community and the health and wellbeing of the police and firefighters in those buildings,” he said.
Grant said whenever Zink walked into a public meeting as an elected official, “he checked his politics at the door.”
Betty Bishop, another former Hillsboro mayor, described Zink as “an outstanding community man.”
Bishop served on council with Zink, and he served as president of council during her tenure as mayor, Bishop said. During those times, Bishop said she shared a special bond with Zink that allowed them to call each other out if one thought the other was wrong.
“But we could sit down and talk it out and do what was best for the community,” she said. Bishop said it was Zink’s propensity for humble and honest discussion that steered him through choppy waters in local politics.
“All of us through the years have made mistakes,” Bishop said. “He made very few.”
Ralph Holt, who served as safety and service director under Zink for eight years said Zink was “a nice guy” and never treated anyone poorly.
“I’m going to miss him,” he said. “I’ve already started missing him. He was a friend.”
Bob Hodson, one of Zink’s friends, remembered him as a strong community leader who cared deeply for the citizens of Hillsboro. Hodson said despite being a registered Democrat, Zink was popular among both political parties and was always driven by the task at hand.
“He was one of those guys who saw an idea and set out to complete it,” Hodson said.
Lisa Leeth, who first met Zink as a neighbor on Westover Drive, said Zink was a dedicated servant — not just to the public, but to those he knew.
“He coached ball, he was a Cub Scout leader… He’s always been a servant. He’s always worked with the community,” she said. “To Dick, politics didn’t matter. People mattered. The important thing was how much he loved people.”
Andrea Holt said the love Zink poured into the community has flowed right back to his family this week in the form of prayers, encouraging words and other kind actions.
“My dad would be so proud of that,” she said. “I see this community pulling together and remembering how we used to be when we had the great ones around to show us how to do that.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.