The Portage Exchange Club celebrated a pillar of the community recently. In honor of his 91st birthday and all that he has contributed to the city of Portage, Mary Jo Bryan, President of PEC, put together a dinner party for friends, family, and current and past city officials to get together in recognition of Portage resident, Ed Gottschling.
“I’m not sure there’s a better grand citizen of Portage than Ed Gottschling,” said Ken Elwood who, unfortunately, couldn’t make it to the dinner, but quite fortunately, has known Gottschling for years, since 1992 to be exact. Having met through Portage’s Democratic organization, Elwood has had a relationship with Gottschling, both professionally and personally.
Known for raising money and having fundraisers for not-for-profits, Gottschling often paid Elwood a visit, usually persuading Elwood to buy something that the proceeds go to a good cause. “He was famous for trying to sell you tickets – well, not trying – I mean, you couldn’t say no to Ed,” Elwood said. When Elwood didn’t see him while he was at work, he would catch Gottschling at the YMCA every time he went to work out.
Elwood said, “He worked out, I think, every day of his life at the YMCA – at least in the time that I’ve known him. I would always go around noon, and he was certainly there a lot more than I was. I don’t ever remember going there at that time and not seeing him.”
Even when Elwood’s grandmother passed away, there was Gottschling, arriving at the wake to pay his respects. “It was really touching. Like I said, I didn’t know him that well, he didn’t know who my grandma was, but just that’s him. He’s very selfless. He’s always about others and the community,” said Elwood.
The thing about Gottschling is he treats everybody like that – not just Elwood, and not just a few individuals. In fact, when past Portage Mayor Olga Velazquez was in office, Gottschling was dedicated to his position as City Council President. To Velazquez, he was her right-hand man.
“Ed was a voice of reason that I often listened to,” said Velazquez, “He’s a very fair-minded person, a great listener, and looks at the big picture. He sought compromise as much as he sought improvement.”
Velazquez was happy to be able to attend Gottschling’s dinner. She said that a brochure including all of Gottschling’s contributions, participation, and community involvement was distributed to attendees, proving how dedicated of a public servant he was over the years. Of course, the brochure was a full page of achievements. By his side during some of the accomplishments on the list, Velasquez can recall their time working together and how Gottschling had a way of reassurance and confidence.
“I have a picture that I reflect on of he and I, sitting at the American Legion, and I have this very serious look on my face,” described Velazquez. “I had been sharing with him the struggles of the budget and the challenges we were facing and he’s just looking back at me with this smile and peaceful focus and encouragement that said ‘everything’s going to be okay, everything’s going to be okay.’”
From the time that he moved to Portage to the present day, Gottshling has remained active in his church, in government, in his participation as a councilman, and in community service through Portage Exchange Club, all with a goal to impact.
It’s safe to say that Gottschling has been making incredible differences so far in his 91 years of life. Here’s to Ed!