John P. Schinas- 6/16/1937 – 11/27/2020

History loves a legend, a being conveniently enlarged with anecdote and subjective preference.    But, then there are the facts, ma’am, just the facts.

Born in 1937 into a large Greek family in Buffalo, NY, John was shuttled between parents, step parents, and eventually raised by his English grandmother.

With little resources other than his own initiative, John supplemented (“a childhood of tedious”) school studies with paper routes, lawn mowing, and pesticide spraying.    First in upstate NY, then in Hingham, MA, he would follow where ever his restaurateur Dad would summer. “Pete’s kid’ was a great dishwasher.

Eventually, attending but disdaining an ivy league enrollment, he won a basketball scholarship from, and hitched to, University Texas, El Paso, where, although interested in architecture, he earned an engineering degree.    While there, he and his beloved, Helen, married, and began a professional migratory lifestyle working for multiple companies.    In such environs as Sylvania and Raytheon, John garnered skills in technical security, surveillance and radar detection, rocket propulsion, cosmic navigation and landing, and later translated print type to electronic application for The Washington Post.    Mid-career, he adapted and condensed the once-bulky LAN user from single to multiple server use; and, he eventually refined a Stearns computer and invented the DigiBoard.

(See ‘John P. Schinas’, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/06/20)

But, who was he to Rangeley?    Hunting and fishing drew John to the area, but in the early 1990s, he moved his family from Minneapolis, MN, and integrated into the community with his wife and four young children.    For the next 30 years, his commitment to his adopted community benefitted many, most of whom are unfamiliar with his achievements because of his low profile ‘operating under the radar.’

“Considered a visionary and a generous heart” (L. Wilbur), John initially participated in the community context in the evolution of The Public Service Building (Fire Station).    Easing through multiple, contentious meetings, ‘he pursued both the concept and then coordinated the design process’ (Wilbur), thus enabling a new utility facility for the town’s firetrucks, ambulance and administrative offices for safety personnel.

Also in the early 1990s John was approached to help support a local medical facility, the Rangeley Family Medicine structure.    Along with a core group (Ed Kfoury, Dave McMillan, Stephen Philbrick, Leanna Wilbur, and Beth Brunswick), John gave his support to this endeavor which years later expanded into The Rangeley Health and Wellness Pavillion.

During a five year effort by three area businessmen (Rick Walker, Gary Patnode and McMillan) to expand and refine the Lakeside Movie Theatre, John collaborated by purchasing both the adjacent land and building.    This step enabled the overall construction and carpentry of the complex which today, as The Fine Arts Theatre and Playhouse, stands as a landmark cultural site on Main Street enriching the community’s artistic endeavors.    Also in town, ever notice the windmill at The Church of the Good Shepard?    This successful project conceived and spearheaded by Joanne Dunlap was endowed with John’s funding to his family’s chosen ‘house of worship.’

With his love of ‘Northern Exposure’, John responded to another McMillan effort in establishing a community-radio station.    Equipment for the studio came from a federal grant while John enabled the purchase and installation of the early transmitter located atop Saddleback Mountain.    Along with the enthusiastic programming and voices of Ron Hoar and Derrick Wendelken, and with further endorsement by Joanne Dunlop, William Wegman, and others, WRGY 90.5 FM earned it’s kick-off more than a decade ago.    With limited and intermittent broadcast capability, John subsidized a second, more powerful transmitter in 2015.

Over time, John sought and purchased businesses to support the economic community and family that he and Helen loved; and, included:

— The Rangeley Inn, run by his son, David, and daughter-in-law, Rebecca, for nearly a decade;

— The Wamco Mill on Mingo Loop Road, co-managed by his son, Robert, that grew into a furniture-making factory with vast orders from box stores.

After closure, the Mill building was donated to a non-profit Tibetan order; and, — Rangeley’s Photography Studio was started and run by his daughter Dawn (Lacina).    Over time, this building and land parcel were donated to the town.

John was considered by many as just ‘a regular guy’ available to and respectful of anyone committed to the community.    Whether a volunteer or a philanthropist, each was afforded his undivided attention.    But, he loved ‘the game.’    As an avid attendee at Ronnie Nobbs’    Thursday night poker games, John mentored many a player, guided a few strays, and earned a coveted place among affiliates as ‘The Big Dawg.’    As an avid golfer, John along with his son, David, Dave McMillan and Ronnie Nobbs as well as with a rotation of others, won several golf tournaments with McMillan recalling in awe, John’s ‘Sandy’— a one-shot-into-the bunker followed by a 2nd onto-the-green and into-the-hole.    All celebrated at his favorite bar, ‘The 19th Green’ at The Country Club, with John mildly stating, “We’re not here to play, we’re here to win.”    And, that he did, repetitively for friends, family and the town.

Although sportsmen endeavors lured him to the area, John eventually gave up ‘the hunt’ for more reflective pursuits.    As a committed conservationist, John’s family home and property conserved over 120+ acres of native woodland from RT 4 to the lake which to this day accommodate bear, moose, deer, turkey, coyote, species of song & migratory birds, and protects two unmolested, feeder streams to Rangeley Lake.      But, whether in a tux or hiking boots, he’d be the first onto a dance floor and lure others‘to cut a rug.’    Given funk or Seal, country western or Andrea Bocelli, his music interests and appreciation were vast.

Ultimately, John was a quiet, unassuming man, viewed by some as ‘stand-offish’ and by others as ‘a legend.’ (Haley)    “He met all challenges or persons with calm, patience, perseverance, and deep interest.” (Wilbur)    With this genuine interest in others, he respected their differences while always demanding excellence in himself.    Although his reserve was often misunderstood or underrated, John overlooked slights and continued to engage with others and contribute to the community.    With little fanfare or expectation of reciprocity, his financial largess sustained many programs, buildings and persons throughout Rangeley.    Suffering personal loss (the tragic demise of his wife and the challenges met by his children), John unfailingly gave of his resources, opening his doors to business associates, aiding workers and friends, and developing an extended family while always maintaining loyalty to his immediate family and then, dedication to his community.    What enabled such diverse friendship and association was his style.    Again, according to Nobbs, John was “playing poker in all aspects of his life—never getting mad, but always strategic.”

Thank you to the following for their invaluable stories of and heartfelt friendship for John:

Joe & Crystal Haley, Ed Kfoury, David McMillan, Ronnie Nobbs, Jackie Patnode, Linda Sikes, and Leanna Wilbur.

Any errors of “fact” or omission of involved persons, are due solely to the unfamiliarity and shortcomings of this writer who shall be ever grateful for their near-decade partnership and adventures.

In loving remembrance,    Dale T. Wilson

Dale Wilson & John Schinas

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