PORTAGE | Liz Modesto recalled the first time she met Ed Gottschling.
It was 1986, she told a standing-room only crowd gathered at City Hall last week. She and her husband, steelworkers, were on strike. They'd gone to the township trustee's office. Gottschling was an investigator for the trustee at the time.
"He talked to me for an hour, two hours. He gave me the necessary encouragement at the time," said Modesto, holding back tears as she talked about the man she also called her mentor.
It was his kindness and compassion that struck her, she said, adding he always put the needs and concerns of the Portage residents first.
"We were elected at the same time. He's been a rock. I'm going to miss you Ed. You are like a father to me and I love you," Modesto told him.
Gottschling was honored Tuesday before the monthly City Council meeting. He was presented a key to the city by Mayor James Snyder for his "energy, vision and results" and his continued work for Portage.
"I'm dumbfounded," Gottschling said after the ceremony, during which he received two standing ovations. "This is very special for me."
The ceremony was a surprise. Gottschling only learned of it an hour before when he was surprised by his son, Dan, and daughter, Laura, at City Hall.
Gottschling, who will be honored by the U.S. Congress on July 10 when U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky reads a proclamation about Gottschling into the Congressional Record and served as the city's Fourth of July parade grand marshal Wednesday, served 16 years on the City Council, 10 of them as president.
He also served on the Plan Commission and as a police commissioner. Gottschling, a World War II veteran who served in both the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy, is active with the Portage American Legion Post and is the past commander of the Tolleston VFW Post. He is also active with the Porter County Aging and Community Service Corp., The Governor's Commission on Aging and served on the State Legislative Committee for AARP.