EXETER — Ken Oke is being remembered for his dedication to his family and community and for his accomplishments during a lengthy career in municipal politics.
The former South Huron mayor and Huron County warden died Aug. 4 at South Huron Hospital at the age of 63.
Oke was well known in the area for his 20 years in municipal politics, including a term as mayor of South Huron from 2006-2010 and county warden in 2009.
Previous to his term as mayor Oke served two terms as a South Huron councillor and nine years on the former Usborne Township council.
Oke and his wife Susan had three children and one grandchild.
Former Usborne and South Huron clerk Sandi Strang, who knew Oke for 43 years, described his death as “a shock to everyone.”
Strang worked with Oke on South Huron and Usborne councils and said her husband Keith grew up with him.
As a council member, Strang said Oke was always fair and levelheaded and took the job seriously.
Strang said when Oke became mayor it was very important to him to have the other councillors realize they represented the entire municipality.
During times when council was dealing with controversial issues Strang said Oke always persevered and gave members of the public the chance to talk at meetings.
“He took that very seriously, trying to be a good mayor and to be good to the people.”
On a personal note, because they were neighbours, Strang remembers sharing rides to meetings with Oke where they would share casual conversations about the neighbourhood. She said Oke always had a story to tell.
Strang said Oke hosted a number of parties and her grandchildren will always remember July 1 fireworks at the Oke residence.
Former South Huron Mayor and Usborne Reeve Rob Morley shared 15 years on council with Oke. Morley said one of Oke's assets as a member of council was that, as an employee of Middlesex County, Oke was able to see things from both sides and knew how council decisions would affect staff.
“That was always interesting,” Morley said.
As a member of council, Morley said Oke always let his feelings known about an issue, but he was also good at accepting decisions and moving on even if he didn't agree with them.
“He was very good at that,” Morley said.
He adds Oke was a strong supporter of the community during municipal amalgamation talks.
Oke was a good team player who always wanted to go the extra step and was effective at getting things accomplished.
“It's a great loss to the community, there's no question,” Morley said.
On a light note, Morley remembers Oke as “a great chef of buns and breads ... Three meetings out of four in Usborne Township we used to have home cooking ... It was great.”
South Huron chief administrative officer Roy Hardy described Oke as “an example of a fine rural gentleman. Friendly, outgoing and cordial in sometime the most challenging situations while mayor.
“As a colleague, Ken knew his roads and how to keep projects on time. We were on opposite sides of the bargaining table, but Ken could always listen to another's point of view, which I came to appreciate when I came to South Huron.”
A Legion memorial service for Oke was held Sunday night, while the funeral was Monday morning at Exeter United Church.