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Lillie Ziegler, 93

May 8, 2010

Blue Earth — Lillie Ziegler, age 93, of Blue Earth, formerly of Elmore, died at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center, in Blue Earth, on May 4, 2010.

Funeral Services were held Saturday, May 8, 2010, at Shiloh Lutheran Church, in Elmore. The Rev. Robert Roettger officiated. Burial was in Riverview Cemetery, in Elmore. Winter Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.

Lillie Nelson was born in Kossuth County, Iowa, on Nov. 23, 1916, to Lars and Erna Nelson. Her family moved to Elmore when she was 4 years old.

Lillie Nelson was baptized, confirmed, and married at Shiloh Lutheran Church in Elmore. Lillie married Harry Ziegler, a farmer living north of Elmore, on Sept. 5, 1937. A new home was built for them and they lived there for 38 years until their son, Donnie, bought a new home for them in town, and he and his family moved to the family farm.

Lillie attended Elmore High School and later spent 20 years attending short courses at several Minnesota Universities and Tech schools and also one at the University of Illinois. The subjects she took included journalism, gerontology and government.

Lillie did not speak English when she started school. Her parents were from Norway, and she, being the eldest child, spoke her “Mother Tongue” of Norwegian. The Norwegian language was a plus when she traveled the Scandinavian countries in later years.

Harry and Lillie had five children, Jeanette, a nurse; Erna Marie, a teacher; Carolyn, a nurse and farmer; Helen, a school counselor; and Donald, a farmer, electrician, former County Commissioner, and State Senator. She had several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Lillie was the Senior Nutrition Manager, in Blue Earth, for eight years and then started the Nutrition Site, in Elmore. She wrote the grant that funded the Home Delivered Meal Program.

Homemaker Programs were popular in the 40’s and 50’s. Being a “stay-at-home” Mom with their four daughters and being a farm wife, she needed an outside challenge, so she started writing articles for newsletters, Farm Magazines and entered the “25 words or Less” contests. The writing intrigued Adella Shoemaker, host of the “Homemaker Program” in Shenandoah, Iowa. Adella stopped in Blue Earth to meet Lillie. She invited Lillie to her home to broadcast with her. Later she invited all seven members of the Ziegler family to stay in her home when they traveled out west.

Lillie’s second mentor was Annabel Webb, a popular host of a morning show on KSUM, in Fairmont. She was on her show and Annabel said, “You’re a natural, would you take my show when I go on vacation?” Being naive, Lillie did just that. Lillie substituted for Annabel for 14 years, in addition to doing some area news coverage for Newsman George Brooke. “The rest is history” as they say.

Coincidentally, Lillie met Mr. Brooke 20 years later in Redwing, when she spoke there as Minnesota Mother. Mr. Brooke was also kind enough to recommend her for an “Information Please Program” at the new KBEW station that Paul Hedberg built and managed in Blue Earth. The stations first program was broadcast on Aug. 29, 1963. Paul and Lillie went on the air at 9 a.m., and their first guest was the Mayor’s wife, Esther Putnam, with a recipe to share. Lillie had to change the format of the Homemaker Program because she worked with too many men as the Farm Bureau Woman’s Chairman, and these men listened to her show on their tractor radios. The KBEW program was changed to include interviews, reports of meetings, and of course the recipe segment.

Lillie chaired and was a member of many organizations, which was a plus for their organizations and benefits. She was extremely cautious of any political or religious topics. She had organizations submit the contests before she featured them on the air.

In addition to visiting interviews, she loved to do the “Man on the Street” interview. She was known far and wide for carrying her tape-recorder in her purse (just in case!).

Paul Hedberg was a real asset to Faribault County. He was a born leader, with vision, goals and accomplishments. He was instrumental in bringing the Green Giant Statue to Blue Earth. He also pushed for the completion of U.S. Highway I-90. He and Mr. Ankeny were successful in promoting the Industrial Park west of Blue Earth.

Lillie interviewed thousands of people these past 60 years. She learned a great deal and they benefited by sharing their needs, their joys and their experiences. Her home had been a “haven” for many. She and Harry took two boys into their home to be raised with their five children. Classmates, church, Farm Bureau and 4-H members were always welcome in their home. For 12 years, Lillie hosted the World Press Journalists through McCalester College in the fall to observe Agriculture as well as Farm Fest contestants. The journalists would travel all over the USA to observe the political and other activities in our country. A Japanese journalist called Lillie just before he left the U.S. He told Lillie “of all the things I have learned from being in the USA he was taking home to Japan the concept of the unity of family. This was what impressed him the most. “The Ziegler’s are a closely knit family living in a rural area with very little money“.

Lillie had been privileged to have received so many unexpected honors and she was always grateful and surprised.

It had been a God given privilege to be part of the Radio and Cablevision programs. Lillie was grateful to the station owners, managers, staff and family for all their support. She could not have done all of this by herself. The opportunities are God given and it was truly a blessing to live in such a great country.

In 42 years, Lillie had never missed a program. thanks to our modern recording devices, whether she was traveling in the USA or Europe or counseling at a Citizen Camp, she had a program, and her recorder always traveled with her for interviews along the way.

Lillie felt she had been so blessed to work with the radio staff, the support of her family and the response of the listeners and sponsors. It has been a gratifying journey in life…one of learning and friendships.

At 93 years of age, there are the health issues to be expected. The positive usually outweighs the negative, so Lillie often said she was grateful to still have her “M & M” (mind and mouth).

She is survived by her children: Jeanette Fenske, of Blue Earth, Carolyn (David) Halvorson, of Buffalo Center, Iowa, Helen (Dr. Tom) Wicks, of Eden Prairie, and Donald (Joyce) Ziegler, of Elmore; son-in-law, Kenneth Eischen, of Buffalo, NY; and many grandchildren; and great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Harry; daughter, Erna Eischen; son-in-law, Wayne Fenske; and two grandsons.

Online condolences and personal e-mails may be left at www.winterfuneralhome.com