Tony Mistlin, a businessman who reminded us all that it is about doing our part to make the world a better place, has passed away.
Mistlin died on Jan. 18 at age 95.
Mistlin over the past two decades made it his mission to share his success with his beloved community of Ripon. His success at doing so can be heard in the squeals of kids frolicking in the Mistlin Sports Park water play feature, the sounds of kids and adults playing soccer and softball at Mistlin Sports Park, and can be seen on the smiles on the faces of countless couples who have posed by the water feature at Ripon’s Main Street entrance from northbound Highway 99.
All of that and more was made possible because Mistlin, along with his beloved wife Joan, opened both heart and pocketbook.
Mistlin, who owned the Modesto Honda dealership that carries his name, didn’t do it for name recognition. If you doubt that all you had to do was catch the look at his face when he dropped by the park for events such as the Almond Blossom Festival, the now defunct Ripon balloon festival or to simply take in a softball. The smile on his face and the twinkle in his eyes told you the pleasure he got from helping build a community.
Mistlin, who as a 15-year-old immigrant came to the United States to escape the bombing of England during World War II, was the man who made the Ripon sports park that carries his name possible.
Mistlin Sports Park stands as a testimony to the unselfish gestures, commitments, and gifts that build communities like Ripon. It was among more than $10 million in gifts the man who once sold cars with an up and coming San Francisco Giants prospect by the name of Willie McCovey at a Van Ness Avenue dealership in The City made to Ripon over the years that included:
- The land for the original land donation for the 122-acre Mistlin Sports Park on River Road and subsequent land to expand it.
- The indoor soccer facility at Mistlin Sports Park.
- The interactive water feature at the sports park.
- Artistic statues for the beautification of Mistlin Sports Park.
- Construction of the amphitheater at the sports park.
- The water feature at East Main Street at the entrance to Ripon off Highway 99.
- The Oak Street gazebo and park.
His generosity was not just directed at the Ripon community. Modesto as well as people throughout San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties benefited from his philanthropy.
It shows up in support of the arts with the Mistlin Gallery in Modesto as well as the statue of Chief Estanislau — the indigenous California leader for whom the Stanislaus River and Stanislaus County are named and the inspiration for the Ripon High mascot.
Mistlin during the Labor Day 2006 dedication of the sports park he made possible, shared he wasn’t even close to being done with his overall plans for the park.
”Every day I come up with something else that I’d like to see out there,” Mistlin said emphatically. “It’s something that I love and it’s definitely a work in progress. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the point where I really think that it’s finished.”
With all the hard cold vibes Wall Street gives off we forget that Main Street has hundreds of thousands of business people like Tony Mistlin who give back to their communities not just by providing jobs and fulfilling a need for customers, but by helping support numerous endeavors.
They give back what they can. Sometimes its sponsorship of a youth supports team; sometimes it involves staging a free community Thanksgiving dinner. And sometimes it involves helping turn a community park into the heart of a community.
Tony Mistlin exemplified business people that are caring and generous.