You may think you know what a lion is — what it looks like, sounds like, all the tell-tale signs. But a true lion isn’t ‘King of the Jungle.’ In authentic form, a lion serves its jungle.
Meet Ronnie Kahle, Sr. — public servant of Kalida, Ohio, and charter member of its 1957 Lions Club. The 82-year-old Paulding Putnam Electric member won third place and $1,500 in the nationwide Touchstone Energy Who Powers You volunteerism contest, which honors unsung local heroes. Kahle was instrumental in the development of the 80-acre Four Seasons Park and Plum Creek Nature Area in the Village of Kalida, where he’s known as a “mover and shaker.”
He spends his retirement dripping in sweat under the Northwest Ohio sun, bulldozing more than 1,200 feet of walking paths purely for his community to enjoy. And when he’s not working to install a new playground, add another ball field, or build a toboggan ramp for adventurous sledders, he’s raising funds to transform these dreams into tangible experiences that connect the community, engage local youth and families, and help visitors explore the natural world.
Everything from arranging the purchase of the properties to designing and constructing this massive park has been proudly shouldered by Kahle, adding up to several thousand volunteer hours over the last 10 years — as well as raising more than $6 million.
“He has that special touch of knowing the correct way to approach a potential donor, not in a pushy or demanding way, but in a soft and easy manner,” says Kalida resident Bill Rieman, the man who nominated Kahle for the award. “He’s been such a tremendous asset for the park…I just don’t know what we’d do without him.”
Why, you might ask, would someone in their 80s spend this much of their golden years performing manual labor and persuading others to join their mission?
“The community has been good to me. I wanted to spruce things up for us all,” Kahle says. “It’s taken a lot of knocking on doors, but I wasn’t giving up.”
Kahle has a vision for Kalida. Here, the act of creating something that will outlast you, using your hands to consciously build something another hand will go on to touch, is what matters — not the individual bench, corn hole board, or fire pit within the park.
Let this lion take you on a tour and you’ll see it in his eyes as he gazes out over the park, his desired future quickly blending with the present as more and more people visit the park. Every footprint is justification for his efforts.
While Kahle is never one to look for recognition, knowing that his current and future grandchildren, great grandchildren, and community members will be using a park he helped build, is all the satisfaction he needs.
“My dad died when I was 10, and I never had a playground,” he said. “This here is great for us all.”
The park has consequently been able to host various county-wide events like Shop With A Cop last Christmas for kids ages 5 through 12, Putnam County Relay for Life, and the annual Pioneer Days, a four-day live entertainment festival celebrating the history of Kalida.
A man of brevity, Kahle must often be urged to elaborate on his thoughts; he considers the “doing” more important than the “reasoning.” This is why he steps ahead to hold doors open for people, purchases heavy machinery for park development, and doesn’t pay mind to the morning forecast. He considers himself a jokester, which helps smooth out any wrinkles that come up during the process. Simply put, nothing can stop Kahle.
This “go getter” attitude, Rieman says, inspires the rest of the community to follow Kahle’s enthusiastic lead.
“This is a man who could be sitting back in retirement and taking it easy,” Rieman says. “But that’s not Ronnie. He truly cares deeply about his community, even though there may be days when the aches and pains that accompany his age might stop others. The committee can count on him to show up with his tractor and stay until the work is done.”
Kahle hasn’t been one to give up on anything in his life: his 62-year marriage to his wife, Irma, being involved in his four children and grandchildren’s lives, or working hard to finish a job he starts — whether laboring in a feed mill as a teen or pouring concrete for a business he stood behind.
“I’m never stopping,” he says. “I’ll probably die here in the park.”
In true lion fashion, the impact of Kahle’s roar won’t fade. It will be heard for decades to come, echoing through his park as a reminder of what raw community service looks like.
To learn more about Kahle’s remarkable efforts, see his full nomination at www.whopowersyou.com. Touchstone Energy Cooperatives represents a nationwide alliance of local, member-owned electric co-ops dedicated to providing members with safe, reliable and affordable electricity. The #WhoPowersYou Contest was created to honor local heroes and spread positive energy across the cooperative network.