A Tacoma Minister known for lifting his community from life’s toughest situations died suddenly Sunday after complications from a bleeding ulcer.
Rev. Ron Vignec was a champion for people most gave up on - like Frederick Stanford. At 23, Stanford just got out of jail and was homeless.
“I was like a bandito, wild out there,” said Stanford.
That’s when Stanford first met Rev. Vignec.
“He showed me the more positive things in life,” said Stanford.
Vignec, 70, was a champion for children and victims of violence, cleansing crime scenes so families could begin their healing process.
He also founded the Salishan/Eastside Lutheran Mission where everyone from gang members and felons to families were welcomed.
“He never questioned who they were or what they are, he was just interested in serving them,” said Dr. Eugene Wiegman, friend and a former Pacific Lutheran University President.
“He knew our good bad ugly stuff and loved us anyway. A lot of people are probably feeling like they lost a grandpa because he was that or a father figure,” said Tandi Rogers, who says Vignec was like a mentor.
Damien Shenefield, 32, is one of the many lives Vignec touched.
“We were broke as can be, but we knew if we needed help he was there to help us,” he said.
With Vignec’s help, Shenefield went from the streets to having a secure job. He’s now married with three kids.
“He pretty much changed my life,” said Shenefield.
While losing Vignec is tough, Stanford, who is now 48, says his friend won’t be forgotten.
“I have to keep moving you know what I mean? I’m going to use everything he’s taught me to keep myself sane and straight,” he said.
Friends are planning a public memorial for Vignec. Given his popularity, they’re looking into holding it at the Tacoma Dome.