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A Passion for Community – Remembering Ron Schell

Stouffville lost a dear friend recently, a man that celebrated his community, a man that without hesitation gave back to his community, a man that always had a smile or a joke to welcome you to his store. Ron Schell passed away suddenly on March 3, 2022. He was a good friend of mine, as he was too many in our community.

Ron was born and raised in Stouffville, went to public school and high school in Stouffville before heading off to the University of Toronto where he graduated with an engineering degree and then to Western where he graduated with his MBA. Ron went to work for Gray Engineering for a few years before coming back to Stouffville to join the family business.

Ron was one of a kind. He was a generous kind person that loved people, and he knew a lot of people. I found it amazing that no matter where we went Ron knew someone, he knew someone on every road and on every lake. You could be in an airport somewhere in the world, on a golf course in Florida and Ron would bump into someone he knew.

Ron always had a story to tell and a joke or two and he always made you feel welcome. Sometimes a quick visit to Schell could take 30 min or more if Ron caught you. I can’t tell you how many times I would say, “Honey I am just whipping over to Schell, I’ll be back in 10 minutes…” 45 minutes later I’m still there listening to one of Ron’s jokes.

Ron loved being a part of the Stouffville community. He took pride in serving on the Downtown Stouffville Working Group. I remember all the drawings he did of his vision of how the downtown should look, and he was passionate about his vision. He would create storefront drawings, streetscape drawings and drawings on how the parking and calming lanes should be on Main Street. Stouffville was his heart and he cared about his town, just like his dad Percy.

Ron had big shoes to fill following in Percy’s footsteps. Percy Schell was and still is a passionate supporter of Stouffville supporting everything from building and infrastructure to team sports, just take a look at the back wall at the Schell store and you will see years of plaques of the teams they have supported. Schell Lumber has supported kids sports in Stouffville for decades and that was something Ron was proud of. A friend of mine, who has two boys, needed to fix a hockey net so he went into Schell and approached Ron, who he had only met a couple of times. He explained to Ron what happened and discussed what was needed to fix it. Ron got the material together and when my friend went to pay, Ron said, “If this is for kids’ hockey it’s on me.” That was Ron.

Ron then took it a step further and started building ice rinks for families in partnership with CTV. Schell Lumber would donate the lumber and material and CTV promoted it. People would submit their stories on why they wanted a rink. There would be one lucky winner each year and they would be featured on the evening and sometimes morning news. Ron became a self-proclaimed ice rink expert, building 20 ice rinks for 20 different families in 20 years. Ron grew up on outdoor rinks, his dad used to build one for his family and some of Ron’s friend’s families would build them as well. He built a rink beside his house for years. It started when his children were young and involved in hockey and when they got older he continued to build it for the neighbourhood – when I say neighbourhood, I mean Stouffville, and anyone was allowed to use it. Ron loved building ice rinks, but what he loved, even more, was seeing all those kids using the rink for skating and playing hockey. Ron was also very involved in his kids’ hockey, he coached minor hockey and served on the minor hockey board. Ron was also President of Minor hockey. I can only imagine the fun he would have brought to those roles.

I asked a few people to reflect and tell me a bit about the Ron they knew, a good friend of Ron’s had this to say.

“I met Ron the Bomb 30 years ago when my dad and I were building my first house. He invited me to Friday beers and back then I think I was the 4th at the table with Ron, Dave and Terry. The group then seemed to grow and at times over the years there would be 12-14 people, you would have to go early to get a seat. More times than not Ron would pick up the bill for the drinks. It was tough to buy that guy a beer or lunch as he always seemed to get the bill paid somehow without us knowing. Our friendship continued through 6 builds, he and Monica were at our wedding, cottage trips to Haliburton, and many golf outings.”

“Ron started the annual Xmas lunch about 28 years ago. It went from an hour lunch the first year to a full afternoon of lunch the next year. He then decides, I think the 3rd year in, that we all need to support every pub in town. We would start in the west end and stop at every place until we got as far east as we could. Halfway through we realized how many places in Stouffville served wings and beer. We didn’t make it to them all. We always had a designated driver that would get us home at the end of the day. Ron was a great man; his passing has rocked the community and his close friends. The store isn’t the same walking in and not seeing him as the Walmart greeter. RIP my friend…” – Russ.

I was part of that Friday safety meeting for 20 years with Ron, Russ and crew, and I met some great people that I am still friends with to this day. That was Ron, always bringing people together.

Another good friend of the Schell family had this to say.

“March 3rd was a sad day with the passing of Ron Schell, for the Schell family, the Schell employees, friends of Ron and the Town of Stouffville. Ron was a boss who worked with you, he gave back to his community in many ways and someone you could count on if you needed a hand, that is the Schell way. It is not what you do in life but how people remember you. Honest, caring, enjoyed life and a gentleman – Ron Schell…” – Wayne, a former employee of 32 years.

I had a chance to talk with one of Ron’s oldest friends who I am sure has many stories to tell.

“I met my oldest friend, Ron, at the age of 3 while attending the Stouffville United Church Sunday School program. Rumour has it that my mom dated Ron’s dad while in high school. Crazy to think we could have been brothers! While Ron attended Orchard Park, I attended Summitview, but we remained friends thru hockey and later reunited at S.D.S.S. Together we skied and played rugby. It always amazed me that Ron lived right beside the high school and he was late for class every day! Ron was always a good student and while he was at U of T studying for his Engineering Degree and later at Western University for his M.BA, I was also at U of T as a Dental Student. We actually lived together for one year. And that is how Ron became my best man at our wedding.”

“Life in Stouffville, married life with kids and my weekly trips to Schell Lumber guaranteed a laugh with Ron! It also amazed me that Ron was an engineer and Ron’s family owned a lumber mill and yet, the only thing I ever saw him build was an eloping ladder as a gift on the birth of my fifth daughter. In true hilarious form, we spent almost every New Years’ Eve together. Ron was always the life of every party. To say, “Ron will be missed” is ridiculous because Ron is such a part of my history that I will carry him with me always – I still think he will be sitting at the Schell Lumber front counter with one of his jokes I have already heard a million times…” – Bob.

For many people and I in Stouffville and the surrounding area, Schell Lumber is kinda like the town water cooler, a place to go and buy supplies of course but if you took a minute to talk to Ron, the people who worked there and the familiar customers you would more often than not have a good chat and a good laugh before you left. That was Ron Schell.

Ron Schell was a special person. He was a great friend to me, and my family, and he will be dearly missed. Miss you buddy!