Community reacts to death of Heinz Prechter
By Marla McMackin, Heritage Newspapers
Not every Downriver resident had the opportunity to meet Heinz Prechter, but one thing is sure: They all knew his name and felt his influence.
"He’s helped change people’s attitude about Downriver, opened people’s eyes to the fact that we’re not just a bunch of factory rats," one Trenton resident said.
Heinz Prechter exits one of his custom cars in 1992.
She asked not to be named, however, because she, too, suffers from depression, the same disorder that led to Prechter’s suicide Friday, and fears the stigma that often comes with it.
"It’s hard for people who haven’t suffered from it to understand," she said. "They just think you’re mentally ill.
"But when you’re depressed, you think that you’re no good to anybody. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have if you suffer from depression."
She added that she hoped Prechter’s death might make other people aware of the effects of depression and a little more willing to get help.
"You hate to think that someone had to die, but sometimes that’s what it takes to make people understand," she said. "I think that’s the biggest thing that will come out of this."
And although he will be missed throughout Downriver, the woman does not believe that the growth, prosperity and improving of the area’s image will end with Prechter’s life.
"I think the community will rebound from the trauma," she said. "It’s a great loss and it’s a personal loss, but we will bounce back."
Other residents, however, were not able to see anything positive in Prechter’s death. Most agreed that the loss would have a negative effect from Rockwood up to Ecorse.
Dennis Gronda of Southgate said he was saddened and a bit devastated Friday when he heard the news.
"He was a dynamic person and his presence and contribution will be missed greatly," Gronda said. "He was very well liked and I respected him for his position. I was also impressed by his business skills and his human relations skills."
Gordon Loveday, Lincoln Park deputy police chief, said he was equally shocked when he heard the news.
"I’ve met him on a dozen occasions, and every time I was treated as a gentleman with respect," he said. "For a man with such stature and power in the community, he always had time to talk."
Loveday said it is a major loss to the entire region.
"I think we’ve lost a great backer of the Downriver area for getting things done here and progressing the area," he said.
Grosse Ile resident Carol Bell never had the opportunity to meet Prechter, but agreed that there would be a definite impact.
"He was a real champion for the Downriver area," she said. "He was always out there speaking up for Downriver. I don’t see him being replaced by anybody.
"But, I just feel really bad for his family more than anything else."
Riverview resident Pat Foley also could not foresee a replacement for Prechter and all that he has done for Downriver.
"He’s going to be missed," he said. "He has done so much to help Downriver. It’s a void that will be hard to fill."
Geza Bolla of Allen Park said the news was terrible.
"I’m at a loss for words," Bolla said. "He was a hell of a man. He was a self-made man and we need people like that. He had exceptional character and he was just unbelievable."
Bill Ainsworth of Lincoln Park, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10168 of Riverview, said he also believes the death is a great loss, but he was hopeful that someone would carry on the tradition.
"He has definitely done a lot for the different areas," Ainsworth said. "I wish his family the best and hope that they continue on with the tradition of commitment to the Downriver area."