Shenandoah native remembered for lifelong service to town

Page News and Courier

SHENANDOAH ― The only list longer than the number of community councils, boards, committees and clubs he was a part of is the names of those who were touched by his service.

On Thursday, Dec. 28, U.S. “Jack” Rinaca Jr. passed away. He was 92.

Sometimes referred to as “Mr. Shenandoah,” Rinaca held roles including Shenandoah mayor and councilman, president of the former Shenandoah Chamber of Commerce, president of the Shenandoah High School Alumni Association and the District 5 representative on the Page County School Board.

But that's just to name a few.

Rinaca additionally served on the boards of trustees or directors for the Rockingham Library Association, the Shenandoah Community Library, Page Memorial Hospital and the Shenandoah Industrial Committee ― a role he held for 40 years. He served an 11-year appointment on the state Water and Wastewater Operator Certification Board and served 31 years on the Shenandoah Industrial Development Authority.

Rinaca also held roles on local, district and state committees for the Republican Party.

“If you live long enough, you can find time for a lot of things,” Rinaca told the Page News during an interview in 2014 at the age of 88. “A lot of people burn themselves out by 50 or 60; they sit at home, become a recluse. They kind of abandon the future, but you've got to keep living for the future ― keep yourself interested in your community.”

Born in Shenandoah on Nov. 13, 1925, Rinaca dedicated much of his life to his hometown, often the first to volunteer for a project or event and the last to leave.

“I have the highest respect for Mr. Rinaca,” said Shenandoah Mayor Clinton Lucas. “ He was always a community-minded person. Everything he could do, he was willing to do. He was one of those citizens who was wiling to put his town first.”

Collectively, Rinaca's community roles total more than three centuries of service. His service was often recognized and awarded, though he was quick to shy away from the attention.

In 2000 Rinaca was given the Shenandoah Masonic Lodge's Community Leadership Award. Eight years earlier he was named the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year. In 2013, Rinaca served as the grand marshall during Shenandoah's annual Memorial Day Festival and Parade.

Through his longtime commitment to the Shenandoah Lions Club, he was named “Lion of the Year” three times. And for his service as a radarman second class with the U.S. Navy during World War II, he was a Purple Heart recipient.

On Dec. 12, 1944, Rinaca was one of six men wounded by shrapnel during an attack by Japanese planes. Another shipmate was killed. After a few days in a hospital, Rinaca went on to serve another year.

After the war, Rinaca obtained his pre-engineering degree from Florida Southern College. In 1951, he graduated with a chemical engineering degree from the University of Virginia. That same year, he married his seven-year sweetheart, Stanley native Billie Ann Burns, who survives. This month would have marked the couple's 66th wedding anniversary.

“That's a really long time for folks these days,” said Billie. “There were never any conflicts in our marriage and we were always happy. He was a wonderful husband and a super father.

“He spent a lot of time away from home because he was a dedicated public servant, and that meant a lot to him,” she continued. “He always wanted to do everything he could for people in the community.”

In addition to his wife, Rinaca is survived by a son, Gregory Rinaca; daughters Robin Ann Rinaca and Jill Marie Rinaca; and two granddaughters.

Those and other family members, said Billie, gathered with Rinaca last week to celebrate Christmas ―a favorite time of year for the Shenandoah native.

For more than five decades, Rinaca organized the Shenandoah Lion Club's “Christmas Cheer Project” ― a town tradition that began when a local textile plant shut down 52 years ago, leaving Shenandoah families hungry during the holidays.

On a chilly Saturday morning in December 2016, Rinaca gathered with fellow Lions Club members at the Fields United Methodist Church, filling boxes with stuffing and crackers, cereal and milk and whole turkeys and hams.

Donning a bright yellow baseball cap and a matching winter vest almost as vibrant as his personality, he walked up and down the lines of donations, offering upbeat hellos and how-are-yous in his distinct gravel-tone voice.

When thanked by the volunteers that day, he humbly shied away from praise or credit, instead attributing the project's success to fellow Lions Club members.

“If we didn't have about 10 energetic Lions and a bunch of friends, we couldn't do this project,” he said.

Taking turns carrying heavy boxes to a half-dozen trucks parked outside of the Shenandoah church, they offered words of thanks to their longtime leader: “Wonderful job, Jack ― you made it all go smoothly.”

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