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The unexpected death Thursday of Jeffrey Stribing has left the Village of Lancaster stunned and saddened.

The 55-year-old village development director was a fixture in the community and had served in many roles.

“Jeff is going to be deeply missed, not only because of his dedication to the village, but to many organizations. The man was amazing – from how he handled his disabilities, along with his love of community and his family. He was a great man,” Village Trustee Kenneth L. O’Brien III said Friday.

A Lancaster native, Stribing was active in numerous civic organizations, among them the Lancaster Lions Club. A former village trustee who served on the board in two separate stints in the 1980s and ’90s, Stribing had served as community development director since 2005 and as president of the Community Development Corp. He also was still serving as chairman of the local Citizens Party at the time of his death.

Stribing, also a former Erie County sheriff’s deputy, was legally blind and unable to drive. He often was seen walking throughout the village with his white cane, and it was the norm for him to walk the mile to work each morning from his home in all kinds of weather, rarely asking for a ride.

“He called me for a ride one time to a meeting, and I didn’t get the message for an hour, and when I later told him, he said, ‘That’s OK. The rain washed me off,’ ” recalled James Allein, village Planning Commission chairman who also served with Stribing on the board of the Lancaster Rural Cemetery.

Stribing’s latest big project – for which he was instrumental in securing funding – was the effort to reopen West Main Street, an area that hasn’t been accessible for more than 40 years. Part of the former BOCES building was recently razed to help restore the original street and re-establish the village center.

Mayor Paul Maute, also a personal friend, said Stribing’s office lights were always on, sometimes as early as 6 a.m. and sometimes as late as 10 p.m. “As I’d walk by, he’d say, ‘Mr. Mayor, do you have a minute to talk?’ ” Maute recalled. “It was never a minute. He’d talk for hours. I’ve never seen anyone put more time into their job.”

Maute said he was speechless when he learned of Stribing’s death. “He educated me on something every day,” Maute said. “When it came to community development, he was my right-hand man, my go-to guy. His knowledge of government was fantastic.”

Stribing also was heavily involved in securing grants to help revitalize Central Avenue and promote facade improvement.

During the last few years, Stribing also played the village’s Santa Claus at Christmasville and appeared at the Bloomsbury Lane Toy Shoppe on Central Avenue. “He loved doing that for the kids,” Allein said, noting he’d have his hair dyed each November to prepare just the right look.

One of Stribing’s favorite sayings was “peace always.”

“He signed every letter and email that way,” Maute said.

Funeral arrangements were not yet available.

– Karen Robinson