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Faribault County lost two great legends, all in the same week

By Staff | May 8, 2010

The Faribault County community lost a couple of legendary persons last week. The deaths of Dick Maher and Lillie Ziegler left a void, and the end of an era, for many people.

Maher was well known for his years of coaching wrestling and being the Athletic Director at Blue Earth Area High School.

Ziegler was an institution on the local radio airwaves for years.

I won’t try and relate their life stories in this space. Full obituaries appear elsewhere in this week’s issue, which do a much better job than I could.

I only briefly knew the two of them. Others, who knew them well, have extolled their exploits, shared funny stories about them, and remembered their lives in detail.

But, I did have the personal pleasure of having interviewed each of them over the past couple of years for stories in the Register.

Lillie was named the Faribault County Fair Person of the Year a couple of years back. It was one of many awards over her lifetime.

It may have been one of the more interesting interviews I have ever done. It certainly was one of the longest.

It didn’t take me long to realize I was in the presence of a true ‘personality.’ She had more stories than I had ink and paper for. Eventually I put the pad down and we just talked for the rest of the afternoon. While it was one of the longer interviews I had ever done, it was also one of the most interesting.

Later, Lillie invited me to be her guest on her radio show. I agreed. Then, she told me to show up and bring a recipe.

“A what,” I asked? Recipe. Everyone had to bring her their favorite recipe to share with her listeners on the radio. I obeyed, of course.

It was a bit nerve-wracking to be on the other end of being interviewed. Lillie gave me no previous idea of what she would be asking me, live on the air, and a couple of the questions almost got me stuttering – trying to think of an answer.

But, she was a character, and I enjoyed my brief friendship with her.

She liked the article I did about her, and gave me high praise for the work we were doing at the newspaper.

It didn’t take me very long after I met Dick Maher to realize I liked the guy. Of course, I found out that was not unusual –everyone did.

Sometimes on a walk I would stop at his shop and chat a while. Sometimes it was about his wood creations. Sometimes it was about the City Council.

Once, I wrote that one of the detriments to having so many special council meetings was the expense of paying the council members for all the extra meetings.

Dick waited a while and then gently pointed out that the council members are paid a flat monthly fee, no matter how many meetings there are. I apologized for the error. He said it was no big deal, there are bigger issues going on than that.

Eventually I wore him down and he agreed to let me do a story about his wood shop. He said he would do it if we didn’t discuss the City Council. I agreed, but I think we both broke the agreement. We had a great visit.

We spent the afternoon touring his shop, sitting in his kitchen, and talking about his wood working hobby. And the City Council. And his mom, growing up in Iowa, being Irish, his kids, grandkids, and his philosophy of life.

Well, we didn’t call it a philosophy of life, but that is what it was.

Figure out what is the right thing to do, and then do it.

Both Jack Eustice, Blue Earth Area principal, and Rob Norman, BEA athletic director, said virtually the same thing.

Dick taught them a lot, mainly by example.

He had a high moral character, believed in doing what was right, had a great sense of humor and lots of just plain common sense, Jack and Rob say.

Dick had a huge impact on those around him, from school staff and coaches, to students and and athletes. From his fellow City Council members to the whole Blue Earth community as well.

That even includes ink-stained newspaper editors.