John S. Renninger, 80, lawyer

Posted: April 07, 2005

John S. Renninger, 80, a lawyer who also represented Bucks County in the state legislature for 12 years, died Saturday at Pennswood Village retirement community in Newtown from complications from a fall.

Mr. Renninger, a Republican, was a state representative from 1964 to 1976. That year, he ended his political career when he lost a narrow race for the Eighth Congressional District to Peter Kostmayer.

Though he first became involved in politics as an admirer of Barry Goldwater, his daughter Ann said her father was liberal in his social activism. He was conscious of the needs of others, she said, and in his law practice often handled pro bono cases. He became involved in politics, she said, to serve the community.

In the legislature, he was an early proponent of no-fault insurance and was most proud, his daughter said, of legislation he sponsored to promote open housing and prohibit discrimination by real estate brokers.

Mr. Renninger grew up in Glenside and graduated from Cheltenham High School. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps as a radio operator in the Pacific. Following the war, he served in the Naval Reserve while earning a bachelor's degree and law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

For 40 years, Mr. Renninger practiced law in Doylestown. In 1994, he moved his office to Newtown. He was a founding member of the Bucks County Estate Planning Council. He retired last year.

An avid aviator who flew until five years ago, Mr. Renninger was a member of the Lawyer Pilots Bar Association and provided legal advice to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. During his years in the legislature, he was nicknamed the Red Baron because he commuted to Harrisburg in his own plane.

His wife, Katherine Steele Renninger, was an accomplished painter, and he often flew her to art exhibits, their daughter said. "They were very supportive of each other's careers," she said. Katherine Renninger died last year.

Mr. Renninger was a former chairman of the board of the Pennsbury Society and served on the board of the Pearl S. Buck International Foundation.

He enjoyed playing the clarinet with a local Dixieland jazz band, the Newtown Mudcats, and portraying Lt. James Monroe in the annual reenactment of Washington's Crossing the Delaware.

In addition to his daughter Ann, Mr. Renninger is survived by daughters Molly Rumsey and Sally Henriques; a son, Patrick; and eight grandchildren.

A memorial service is private.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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