Longtime Rep. Ralph Regula, a moderate Republican and humble servant whose tenure as a US Congressman from Stark County covered 36 consecutive years, passed away recently. He was 92.
I’ve been accused of favoring Democrats and one of my favorites is John F. Kennedy. But that accusation is far from the truth. Of that I’m sure. I may not be a rocket scientist, but I’m smart enough to know that political parties do not make people. It’s the people who make political parties.
I’ve admired many Republicans and still do. Among them are Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Sen. John McCain and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Ralph Regula is another politician whom I’ve always admired. He never cared much about receiving credit. He strongly believed he was elected him to help his constituents, not himself.
While he never represented us here in southern Summit County specifically, his accomplishments have touched so many in Northeast Ohio, they’re hard to ignore. In an era when politicians look out for themselves, first, and then think of others, Ralph Regula was the exception.
Upon his first election to 18 consecutive terms, he recognized that his first obligation was to represent the people. After that, the chips could fall where they may as long as they did not bring harm to his constituents or the rest of his beloved country.
If you think I’m talking through my hat, take a look around. It’s hard not spotting an improvement over nearly the last half century in which Ralph Regula did not have a hand.
As a Congressman from Stark County’s Bethlehem Township, Regula teamed up with two Ohio Democrats, Congressman John Seiberling and Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, in a bipartisan effort to preserve the 33,000 acre Cuyahoga Valley as a national park and recreation area.
When the legislation risked being vetoed, Regula used his influence through Ray Bliss to persuade President Gerald Ford to let it pass. He then used his position on the House of Representative’s dominant appropriations committee to earmark $200 million for land acquisition and park development.
Years ago I met him at the Stark County Fair. After asking my wife and I to consider him the next time we voted, I explained that we certainly would, but we live just across the line in Summit County, not Stark. He then went into a five minute conversation about one of his pet projects; the establishment of the Ohio and Erie National Heritage Canalway that runs through Summit.
From the time he was a young man who took his children on hikes along the canal, he believed strongly that someday a park would be built to preserve this historic area. Little did he know it would be he himself who would be so instrumental in creating that park and its Towpath Trail.
Being a lover of the great outdoors and a strong believer in protecting our natural resources for future generations, I took a shining toward the man and wondered why there weren’t more politicians like him in both parties.
His hand was also prominent in establishing the Northeast Ohio Medical University in Portage County and Stark County’s Stark State College. In addition, Regula helped establish the National First Ladies’ Historic Site in Canton, of which its library was operated by his wife, Mary.
Ralph Regula’s goal was never to receive praise or credit, but rather to use his talents helping others. And he used both sides of the aisle to achieve that goal. His constituents knew they could call on him for anything. ANYTHING! Even to get their cats out of trees - and he actually received such calls!
Today’s politicians could take a lesson from Regula on how to shun the limelight and work together assisting others, instead of helping themselves.
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