Leonard V. Trankina, who directed the Mackinac Island Chamber of Commerce and managed The Island House, Mission Point Resort, Lilac Tree Hotel, and Stonecliffe, on Mackinac Island over many years, passed away Thursday, July 12, 2012, at Jacksonville, Florida. He turned 76 June 27.
He leaves a daughter, Robin, and his former wife, Vicki, both living in England.
Mr. Trankina came to Mackinac Island in 1981 to manage The Island House for Harry Ryba, bringing with him a creative spirit and professional insights into hotel and resort management and promotion.
Born in Chicago June 27, 1936, he often said he developed his strong sense of character in people while working as a bellhop at the Morrison Hotel, where he became the youngest union bellhop in Chicago. He once told the Town Crier that no other person in the industry can size up a person as quickly as a bellman.
He learned hotel management from Playboy International, and was promoted from working the lights and supervising the bunnies to managing food and beverage service and eventually helping to open the Playboy resorts at Ocho Rios and Boscabel, Jamaica.
On Mackinac Island, Mr. Trankina also managed the Lakeview Hotel, Mission Point Resort, and Stonecliffe Resort, before leaving for several years to rescue an East Coast hotel chain from bankruptcy.
He returned in 1991 to open the Lilac Tree Hotel, and developed a thriving winter business on Mackinac, especially over the December holidays, by promoting the tranquility of Mackinac to downstate media and coordinating activities among all the businesses open for the winter.
He was hired as the executive director of the Mackinac Island Chamber of Commerce in 1994, and served in that capacity until 2004, developing a strong bond with travel writers and photographers from around the country and marketing Mackinac Island as an authentic, true-to-life experience like no other in the Midwest.
“Len was the ultimate professional hotel man,” said photographer and good friend Terry Phipps of Traverse City, who visited him in Florida last April. “His command at the helm of the tourism office (the booth) was a 24/7 love of his. I do not remember a single day he wasn’t working. His smile and his quick, dry wit was second to none.
“From the perspective of journalists,” said Mr. Phipps, “we all have fond memories of being ‘Leninized.’ He had a way of making us all feel twelve again.”
Mr. Trankina loved interacting with the visitors and the business community, and he greeted guests and soothed their irritations with the same flair he used when managing hotels.
“He can make disgruntled tourists feel like special guests with a few magic words and a favor or two from a stable of businesses ready to help out,” the Town Crier reported in a 2004 profile.
With things running smoothly, he spontaneously handed out mugs and posters and little stickers to surprised visitors with his “pleasant surprises” campaign.
Also during his service to the Chamber of Commerce (now the Tourism Bureau), he expanded the Lilac Festival and introduced the limited-edition festival poster. Miss Michigan received an invitation to the parade each year, and many accepted, and, while she never came, Julia Child received an invitation each winter to the Chili Cook-off.
He authored the book, “Mackinac Island Memories,” appealing to the sentimental and tranquil essence he loved to portray about the Island.
He like to joke about his little information booth, crammed with projects and open to a steady stream of visitors, and, over the years, it became a symbol to him of innovation and accomplishment.
“It’s satisfying to see the growth and development of something like this,” he said when he retired. “It’s such an efficient little booth. I’ve worked in so many places and under so many different conditions, but never have I experienced something as personal as here, where you don’t send memos, you just speak to people.
“It’s relatively easy to be highly productive and easy to make changes quickly here.”
Mr. Trankina also served on the Mackinac Island Board of Education, and he instilled in a number of Island youth a sense of esteem and introduced them to the joys of performing, whether for entertainment or for work.
“I love the Island and the people,” he said. “I believe Mackinac Island is a microcosm of the American spirit.”
Mr. Trankina moved to St. Ignace and then to Florida several years ago.
Service and burial arrangements are incomplete and are being coordinated by A. B. Coleman Mortuary in Jacksonville.