Mason County loses two legends.

November 15, 2019

Mason County loses two legends.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

Mason County lost a couple local legends this week with the deaths of Bob Urka and Ed Stakenas. Both men oversaw family multi-generational family businesses.

Robert Matthew Urka, 89, passed away on Monday, Nov. 11, at his home in Spring Hill, Fla. and Edward William “Duke” Stakenas, 93, died on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at his home on the Stakenas farm in Sherman Township.

Bob was born on Oct. 17, 1930 and lived in Scottville most of his life. When he was 6-years-old, his father, Matt, who had been selling used cars, started a Nash automobile dealership in Scottville. Naturally, Bob followed in his father’s footsteps and started working in the dealership. In 1953, the Urka family switched from Nash to Chevrolet and added Buick in 1967 and Cadillac in 1976. Also in 1976, the dealership moved from downtown Scottville to its present location west of Dennis Road on US 10/31 in Amber Township. Bob’s children and grandchildren now operate the business, Urka Auto Center.

This brings us to Ed Stakenas, known fondly by his Scottville Clown Band brothers as “The Duke.” Ed was born on the family farm which is located on North US 31. His parents, William and Anna Stakenas, began farming in 1917 on North Amber Road just south of Fountain Road in Victory Township after they immigrated from Lithuania. A few years later, they realized the land wasn’t really good for farming, so they moved to the farm’s present location in 1920. At the time they raised 20 head of dairy cows.

Ed went to Scottville High School and graduated in 1945. In 1950, he married Clara Froncek and they joined the family farming operation. Together they raised six children. That farm operation has grown to be one of Mason County’s largest farms. Like Urka Auto Center, a fourth generation of the Stakenas family is part of the daily operation, with a fifth generation learning the ropes.

Family was clearly important to both Bob and Ed. Bob married his wife, Dorothy Rochon, in 1951. They also raised six children in the old Biegalle house just outside the Scottville city limits. Bob’s son, Mike, once told me that Bob loved that house so much that he started to make payments to Mr. Biegalle before the Biegalles had even decided to sell it.

Bob did more than sell cars. For many years he operated the county’s only wrecker service. He also drove school bus for many years. He took his civic duties very serious and served many years on the Scottville Fire Department, including a tenure as chief. He was justice of the peace for a time in Scottville and served on the Mason County Central Board of Education. Other organizations he served included St. Jerome’s Catholic Church, Knights of Columbus, Ludington Rotary Club, Salvation Army, Elks Club, and St. Simon Catholic Church. 

In 1947, Ed became one of the founding members of the modern Scottville Clown Band. He played faithfully with the band up until a few years ago. He served many years on the band’s board of directors and oversaw the band’s bus operations where he was known as the Transportation Tsar.

While both Bob and Ed were the second generation in their family business, they each were the leaders who took those businesses to the next level.

In addition, these two men clearly instilled a foundation of community pride and service in their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren which has greatly benefited all of Mason County.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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