MOUNT VERNON — Everyone who knew him is mourning the loss of former Mount Vernon City council member Charles “Chuck” Dice, who died Wednesday. The ultimate public servant, Dice left an indelible mark on the community.
“He will be missed,” said Conard “Dude” Conway. “He and I were best buddies. A lot of people in Mount Vernon loved him. He was a wonderful man. He was active in everything. He was a community man. He was always involved in the community doing everything he possible could.”
As the older members of the VFW, Dice and Conway regaled their comrades with stories during weekly poker games. On Wednesday, Conway said, Dice’s seat was left vacant.
Conway said he has a lot of fond memories of Dice.
“We sort of grew up together,” Conway said. “Chuck lived in the west end and was part of the Swamp Angels gang. I lived in the east end and belonged to the East End Alley Rats. We went to different schools, but, for some reason, we were always close. We became and stayed close friends all these years.”
Conway and Dice worked together to start Little League and Babe Ruth in Mount Vernon, and both served on the City Council for years.
“We worked very good together on City Council,” said Conway. “Anything connected with youth and sports, we were involved in. We always seemed to be together because we were always working together on different projects for the community. Chuck got along so well with everybody. If he told somebody he was going to do something, he would do it. He would do his best to do anything for anybody. He was always working in the community, for education and the youth, and politically. He was very active. I just thought he was a wonderful man.”
John Booth, who served with Dice on City Council for decades, said Dice’s contribution to the community is extraordinary: “Chuck never tried to be a big shot or anything. He just did the job. He was an extraordinary man. He was a mentor for me. My learning years on council then me becoming president, he was definitely my mentor. He was quite a gentleman in the true sense of the word. Not only in council chambers but everywhere.”
Asked what he believes Dice’s greatest service to the city was, Booth replied, “Chuck was always really proud in working for the parks. I would say our parks would be his greatest achievement. He was really strong for the parks and for the kids. That would be No. 1, and the kids.”
In a 2011 interview with the News when announcing his retirement from council, Dice himself said he was proud to have had a hand in developing the parks and liked watching them grow into such a valuable city asset.
“As you know, our parks department has really grown,” Dice said. “Foundation Park is the gem of the city as far as I’m concerned. That’s one of the biggest achievements that sticks in my mind and I’m glad to have at least a part in it.”
Anna Kinnard also sat on City Council during Dice’s tenure.
“He was always concerned about the city,” he said, “and he was concerned about the west end, doing everything he could for the people.”
Dice certainly was very vocal speaking up on behalf of the 2nd Ward and the west end. At a 2006 council meeting, the News reported, Dice said the west end, for years, has been the proverbial unwanted stepchild.
“If you want to live in an area where you can stockpile junk, move to the west end,” Dice said. “If you want to let your grass grow a foot high, move to the west end. If you want to own a dilapidated house, move to the west end.”
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis confirmed that the west end of town was Dice’s favorite part of the city. “He and his wife, Dory [Doris], lived there their entire lives. Together they were a real team down there. They only lived a stick’s throw from Arch Avenue Park and they worked tirelessly to beautify it. They planted flowers, and we planted more trees. We ended up putting in a water fountain that worked and made other upgrades.”
Dice was tireless in his effort to make things better, Mavis said, and not just in the west end.
“He tried to do anything he could for anybody around town,” said Kinnard. “He was interested in anything that would help the city.”
An example is the growth of the Coshocton Avenue area.
“The upgrades and widening of Coshocton Avenue have been incredible,” Dice told the News in 2011. “I can remember when it was just corn field.”
“He was always really nice,” Kinnard said of Dice. “He wasn’t nasty one day and nice the next day. He was nice every day.”
“I don’t know of anybody who had a cross word to say about Chuck Dice,” said George Curry. “I always thought a lot of him. I had the advantage, I met him when I was a kid and then I became an adult and I knew him both ways.”
Curry said he became acquainted with Dice when he started playing ball at Lamb Park in 1957 and Dice was the manager of Pittsburgh Plate Little League team.
Curry said, “Pittsburgh Plate and South Vernon butted heads several times. Pittsburgh Plate won the city championship in ’60 and South Vernon, my team, won it in ’61. Chuck Dice was just a great guy, a westender his whole life. He cared about kids. That was probably the most important thing in his mind — the youth in Mount Vernon. Probably second on the list is the west end. He cared about the west end, that’s for sure. Lamb’s Park out there covered the west end kids and the south end kids.”
Mavis also said Dice cared about the youth in the city: “He had this energy to build and support youth programing. He always was looking to gain more fields and courts and diamonds to provide more benefit for youngsters to have activities. I can’t name all the things he did, but I know he officiated for years and he provided leadership for the South Vernon Youth League.”
“You couldn’t ask for a better guy,” said Curry. “If you needed something, on the record or off the record, you could ask Chuck and he’d try to get it done.”
Dice was president of City Council for 24 of the 40 years he served.
“That says a lot,” Mavis said, “that he had that kind of dedication. He gave so much and he didn’t ask for much in return. Chuck was always looking for ways to make not only the west end a better place, but the entire city. If he had an issue he felt strongly about, he could bring that to the floor and deliver an oratory that was very convincing and very difficult to ever argue with. He’d never give up. He was driven to make Mount Vernon a better place and that’s his legacy. We are a better place because he served.”
Mavis said flags in the city will be flown at half staff on Tuesday, the day of Dice’s funeral.