We said good-bye to a great man on Tuesday by the name of Ron Shiesley. Ron had been winning his battle against cancer only to have the Lord take him in his sleep. In a way it was how Ron did so many things in life, quietly when no one was looking.

Ron Shiesley is well known to so many who are over the age of fifty in Tonawanda and Niagara Falls. Ron was a Tonawanda Recreation Director, Niagara County Parks Commissioner, Niagara Falls Parks Commissioner and more recently worked for the Niagara Falls Board of Education. However, those are just titles because the most important things Ron did few heard about.

Ron was a great athlete in Tonawanda, a triple threat. Ron excelled in football, basketball and baseball and is a member of the Tonawanda High School Athletic Hall of Fame. So many told me Monday night at his wake that he was a legend or “my idol.”

Ron Shiesley helped countless kids and young men through his summer camps and job placement over his life. But it was what he did so many times behind the scenes with his generosity that impressed me the most. Ron helped so many inner city kids by helping to pay their way or using his vast influence in political circles to get them a job or bail them out of trouble. He did it quietly, no fanfare and no expectation for repayment.

One young man in particular that Ron mentored is James Starks, now of the Green Bay Packers. Ron took James under his wing while he was a standout football player at Niagara Falls High School and was there for him at UB and then the NFL. Ron even spent Christmas in Green Bay a few years ago to watch James play and treated his entire family to a holiday dinner.

Ron did things like that for so many and they didn’t have to be a star athlete. If he heard that someone needed help he quietly reached out and did what he could do.

Ron was a man of means and spread it around supporting every sports team imaginable in WNY. He had season tickets for the Bills, Sabres, UB, Niagara, Canisius, Cleveland Browns, you name it and those tickets were always available for friends or family.

If a fundraiser was being held to help someone who was sick Ron reached into his pocket and buy a handful of tickets. If a friend was being honored Ron would buy an entire table and host as many of his friends that he could.

Two years ago when I was honored by the Buffalo Bisons as their “Italian Man of the Year” ( if you haven’t heard how Bob Koshinski was named Italian Man of the Year then you’re not paying attention) Ron rented an entire box suite and hosted ten of my friends to come to the game and be a part of the festivities. The group all tried to pay him at the end of the night and he argued with them before finally accepting a fraction of what it cost him for the suite. In those situations Ron would always say “don’t embarrass me.”

Ron Shiesly

Niagara Falls high school A-turf complex

One of Ron’s biggest challenges and accomplishments was the construction of the A-turf athletic complex behind Niagara Falls High School. The nine field complex has been called the largest of it’s kind in the country and includes turfed fields for football, soccer, lacrosse, baseball and a field house. Ron worked tirelessly on the project, most weeks being there six or seven days a week while crews were on the scene. It was his baby and he fought for it in an extremely political Niagara Falls environment.

I tried last year to do a story on the complex with Ron, but he refused to be a part of it, instead deferring to one of the senior leaders in the Falls school system. When the Buffalo News did a story in October of 2013 Ron’s name was nowhere to be found, yet he was the sole driving force in getting it built. Now, ironically there is talk of having the complex named after him. Ron would have been embarrassed and fought against it, but I wish he could have seen it.

Ron would be angry with me for writing all these nice things about him, but now it can known. Yet, some may wonder why I took the time to write an entire column about him? It’s because I have seen so many who do good things only when people are watching, but Ron Shiesley did good things for people when no one was watching which is so much harder.

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