William Edward Belinger (1939-2018)

William Edward Belinger.
William Edward Belinger.

SWANTON — William Edward Belinger, who brought his business background to bear while serving as Swanton mayor and a member of village council, died Tuesday in Baptist Health East, Louisville. He was 79.

He developed complications from pneumonia, his son Bill said. Mr. Belinger and his wife, Dianne Belinger, moved from Swanton to Louisville about five years ago to be near their children.

Mr. Belinger and his family moved to Swanton in the late 1970s, when he and two business partners started a women’s clothing store in Toledo, Dafi — later called Jay-Gee. The village, straddling Lucas and Fulton counties, was a short drive to work while allowing the family to be away from the city’s hustle-bustle, his son said.

In 1981, Mr. Belinger was chosen from among six applicants to fill a vacancy on village council. 

“He wasn’t going to sit back and not do anything,” his son said. “It was a small town, and he saw concerns, and he saw things he wanted to affect, and that was the best way for him to affect them.”

When it came to the affairs of the village, Mr. Belinger played an important role through his positions as a chairman of most committees, president of council, and mayor, said Jeff Pilliod, who joined council in 1995.

“He always felt Swanton was home to him,” Mr. Pilliod said. “He was kind of a mentor to myself, and it’s nice to have people who have that much of an interest in the community who want to share it with other people.

“Bill was an excellent listener, and he wanted to be a fair person, whether you agreed with him or not. We could still leave the meetings and still be a close friend to him, and he was to me,” Mr. Pilliod said. “He was a heck of an individual. The other thing that helped him was the experience in financial advising. He was good with numbers.”

As head of council, he was appointed mayor to fill vacancies on at least two occasions. He ran unsuccessfully twice for mayor. 

He retired from council in 2007, after his wife retired, saying he decided to do something besides attend council meetings on Monday night. He was back on council within a couple years, resigning again when the couple moved away.

“He was a man who finished what he started,” his son said, adding that his father still received the Swanton Enterprise newspaper and the bulletin of St. Richard Church.

“He’s never left. He had that much love for the town, and the town had that much love for him,” his son said.

He was born May 27, 1939, in Cleveland to Leonarda and William Joseph Belinger. He was a graduate of John Adams High School and received a bachelor’s degree in business from the former Fenn College, which became part of Cleveland State University. He was a veteran of the Army Reserve.

He began his business career as a buyer for the May Co., the department store chain. The women’s clothing store he co-founded in Toledo grew into 14 stores across northern Ohio and southern Michigan. 

He later was a salesman for the Lloyd Bros. Walker Co., the monument company located across from Historic Woodlawn Cemetery. For more than a decade afterward, he was a financial adviser and sold insurance.

“At the end of the day, it’s still a sales job,” his son said. “You’re still talking to a customer and have a product to offer, whether it’s a dress or an investment portfolio.

“Everyone he encountered in five minutes, they were at ease with him,” his son said. “He had an eloquence and a disposition that was likeable, as well as being honest.”

He was organized, grasped detail, and wasn’t afraid to put in long days at work, his son said. Still family dinner was sacrosanct.

“That was time with the family. He was very grounded in that respect, that the family was a ginormous priority and the biggest priority to him,” his son said.

Surviving are his wife, the former J. Dianne Winsper, whom he married July 27, 1968; daughter, Michelle Bailey; sons William D. and Christopher Belinger; sisters Carol Toth, Christine Taylor, and Marie McMillan; brothers, Robert and Arthur Belinger, and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday at Weigel Funeral Home, Swanton. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Richard Church, Swanton, where he was a lector and Eucharistic minister.

The family suggests tributes to St. Richard Church or Central Catholic High School.

Contact Mark Zaborney at mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.