Dover real estate entrepreneur L.D. Shank dies, leaving behind a lifetime of unforgettable tales

DOVER — Luther Dreher “L.D.” Shank III was a real estate entrepreneur and a visionary.

But most of all, according to his numerous friends, he was an unforgettable character.

Mr. Shank died Tuesday morning at age 73 at Christiana Hospital after he reportedly suffered a reoccurrence of cancer about six weeks ago.

He is survived by his wife, Donna, and his son, Morgan.

Attempts to reach the family were unsuccessful on Tuesday afternoon and funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

Social media sites such as Facebook were abuzz with tributes to Mr. Shank throughout Tuesday.

Dover developer L.D. Shank stands in front of his Little Creek barn equipped with eco-friendly features like a windmill, solar panels on the roof and bigger, moveable panels on the ground. (Delaware State News file photo)

Dover-based lawyer John Paradee posted, “Terribly sorry to learn of L.D.’s passing. He was a client and a friend. He was also an inspiration and a legend to so many. We are all very blessed for having known him.”

Phil McGinnis, managing broker at McGinnis Realty, wrote a fitting tribute to Mr. Shank: “L.D., the man to be. The man with the power, too sweet to be sour. Miss you already! Rest easy, Big Guy.”

Mr. Shank, who was business partners with Robert MacLeish and George M. Records Jr., in Dover Renaissance LLC, developed quite a reputation over the years in restoring signature properties in downtown Dover.

Dover developer L.D. Shank reviews the many gauges and meter of his eco-friendly green initiatives. (Delaware State News file)

As recently as 2015, Mr. Shank had proposed his Dover Renaissance LLC group could buy both the old Dover library and Weyandt Hall, renovate them and then put them up for sale or lease

He also proposed a rebuilding of Dover’s City Hall. The city did not immediately move forward with any of the proposals.

Mr. Shank, who lived in Odessa, was an eighth-generation Delawarean with family ties to John Hart, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Gary Wallick, funeral director at his family’s Torbert Funeral Chapels, was a very close friend of Mr. Shank.

L.D. Shank III

He said he had many memorable moments with him, including meeting him in 1979 at a Pete DuPont-hosted fundraiser at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as keynote speaker.

After Mr. Wallick met Mr. Shank for the very first time and shook his hand he received the ultimate surprise. Mr. Shank took him back to the green room where he had the opportunity to meet Mr. Kissinger.

It was the first of many unforgettable moments that Mr. Wallick had with his friend, or as he called “25 years of misguided adventures.”

Mr. Wallick moved away from Delaware for several years but when he returned he found that Mr. Shank was right in the middle of his social circles.

He said the two picked up like they never left off.

Mr. Wallick said about 10 years ago his phone rang and Mr. Shank was on the other end. It was a typical conversation between the two.

“He goes, ‘Dawg, be at my house at 8 a.m. Wear clothes you’re going to be comfortable in for 36 hours and bring a new toothbrush,’” said Mr. Wallick.

Mr. Shank then hung up.

“How do you turn that invitation down?,” Mr. Wallick said, with a chuckle.

L.D. Shank III raises his arms in triumph after sneaking out from behind a tree at Maple Dale Country Club and “winning” a charity race some 40 years ago. (Submitted photo)

The next day the pair flew to Providence, Rhode Island, and visited his son, Morgan.

Then they all went to a theater to watch comedian Lewis Black perform. The only one who seemed to know the plan until the last second was Mr. Shank.

“We shared a very, very special friendship,” Mr. Wallick said. “We were the kind of friends that you could sit and not say anything for two hours. It was great just being together. We really enjoyed each other.”

Mr. Shank obviously left behind a trail full of fond memories – and laughs with nearly everyone he met.

Mike Harrington Sr., a friend for nearly 40 years, said Mr. Shank was not only notoriously successful in real estate but he was also a legendary jokester.

“We started out as friends when we were very young in the Young Republicans,” he said. “We had a lot of fun partying back in those days. We used to have a lot of different sayings for L.D., like ‘L.D., the man to see.’ He was quite a character.

“I think if you talked to him now that he’d have a new joke for you regarding his death. He had a great sense of humor and was very generous in supporting causes. He’s a legend. There will never be another L.D. Shank.”

The Facebook tributes continued to roll in Tuesday.

Judy Diogo Schrock, president of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, posted, “L.D. was one of the best most colorful and animated individuals I ever met. He was generous and a good friend! This world lost a good one!!! May L.D. rest in peace.”

Former Dover Mayor Aaron O. Knopf wrote, “Years ago we called L.D. God. Now that he is up there. I expect things to get better. Do your thing big guy. You will be so missed.”

Dave Bonar, a former Dover city councilman, called Mr. Shank “An amazing asset to Dover and Delaware.”

While Mr. Shank proved to be quite successful in the real estate field, there’s no denying he was also extremely successful in another — the field of friendship.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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