ROCKPORT, Ind. (WEHT)- The City of Rockport is setting up a memorial this week to honor Mayor Don Winkler. He died yesterday after suffering a heart attack over the weekend. City officials say he had heart problems in the past, but his heath went downhill over the past month.
Today, community leaders came together to recognize Winkler’s accomplishments. Ferman Yearby serves in the City Council and grew up with Winkler.
“When he was having a tough time the other night, Peggy (Winkler’s wife) said he was working with his hands. She asked him what he was doing and he said I am separating these bolts,” says Yearby.
Yearby says Winkler was more than just a mayor. Leaders say he was compassionate, dependable, and had a strong work ethic. Connie Hargis, the Rockport Town Council President, choked back tears as she and Winkler’s friends shared stories.
“In one instance, I was walking my dog early in the morning and this huge bloodhound started following me. I called my husband and he did not answer, so I called the mayor and he came to get me,” Hargis says.
“I asked if he had a few minutes and he said yeah and he’ll swing by. The next thing you know I get in his truck and we are gone 35 to 40 minutes driving around the southern part of the county… I thought I was going to talk to him for 10 minutes in his truck,” says John Obermeier, a business owner in Rockport.
Winkler was elected mayor in 2019. Over the past four years, he helped improve the city’s infrastructure and still had projects lined up to work on.
Officials are also setting up a Memorial for Winkler on Wednesday morning outside City Hall. The flag will be lowered to half-staff and the community is invited to bring cards and flowers. Local Republican officials have 30 days to appoint a new mayor.