The Examiner

Ex-P’ville Mayor, Insurance Agency Owner John Guion Dies

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John Guion’s photo at Pleasantville Village Hall when he served as mayor from 1959 to 1963.

Former Pleasantville mayor John A. Guion who dedicated himself to the village he called home for most of his life died on Christmas at his home in Green Valley, Ariz. at the age of 94.

Guion served as mayor from 1959 to 1963, overseeing implementation of the village’s first Master Plan and the move to place the old New York Railroad tracks below ground, which helped to reshape downtown Pleasantville.

But far beyond his tenure in office, Guion was remembered as a pillar of the community, a longtime Rotarian and a caring and honest businessman who for close to 30 years led the Guion Insurance Agency on Tompkins Avenue that was started by his father, Archer Guion, in 1919.

Remembered for his deep and booming but kind voice, the 1940 Pleasantville High School graduate and World War II Air Force veteran would also enjoy visiting students at Bedford Road School dressed up as Abraham Lincoln, of which some said he had a resemblance to, particularly after he had grown a beard.

His death was announced by his oldest daughter, Carla, on Dec. 28 on Facebook. He and his wife, Jean, had moved to Arizona about 13 years ago, her post mentioned.

“He was larger than life. He just commanded attention,” said Roger Gagne, president of Guion Insurance, who bought the business with Michael Brooks when Guion retired in 1993. “He was incredibly kind, always looking to help people. He was a mentor to me and others.”

Brooks, who was hired by Guion in 1983, became partner within about a year. He recalled Guion as someone well-versed in the insurance business who sought to have both sides come away from a negotiation feeling like winners.

“He was excellent with figures and very generous, stern but warm with his employees and staff, an excellent negotiator, a good arbiter,” recalled Brooks who was brought into the Pleasantville Rotary by Guion in 1985. “He knew the insurance contracts inside and out very well, so he was very good at negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of our clients, making sure they were fairly treated.”

Friend Thomas Langan said he met Guion around 1980 while he was serving as chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners. The fire district used the Guion agency for its insurance coverage.

At about that time, the state legislature had just approved the service award program, which Guion helped set up for the district. The plan remains in effect today.

“A very friendly guy,” Langan said. “After he was kind of semiretired I would see him occasionally, and always a hand out, a smile on his face and the big booming voice. Just an all-around nice guy and very knowledgeable in his field.”

While few people remember Guion in office, he served as a fountain of knowledge for future officeholders to draw upon. He also would encourage others to serve the village.

Current Mayor Peter Scherer said Guion continued to be interested in village matters for the remainder of his time in Pleasantville.

“He remained a steady, enthusiastic presence for many years thereafter,” Scherer said. “His beard and bearing reminded many of us of Abe Lincoln. That’s an apt association for a man whose deep roots in Pleasantville and legacy of leadership will be long remembered.”

Former mayor Bernard Gordon said his experience and perspective was highly valued.

“He had retired from politics and always felt free to offer his opinion and his opinion was sought,” Gordon said. “I know he was mayor at a very critical time when the New York Railroad built the below-ground tracks going through Pleasantville, so that had a major economic impact on the village. He was very knowledgeable and very friendly.”

His daughter’s Facebook post stated that he flew 33 missions during World War II. Gagne said none was as harrowing as the day that he lost an engine while flying over the English Channel. His co-pilot had to ditch the plane and as he flew over the coastline he was forced to parachute out.

Guion’s co-pilot didn’t make it, but Guion survived icy waters by swimming ashore then walked the countryside until he reached an old farmhouse.

“He was one of the Greatest Generation and he fit the mold perfectly,” Gagne said.

Guion and his wife each had two children from their first marriage and multiple grandchildren. There was no information available regarding arrangements.



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