January 23, 2020 – West Bend, WI – A beautiful tribute Thursday afternoon at the Schmidt Funeral Home in West Bend as friends, family and neighbors paid their respects to the family of Bernie and Margaret Ziegler.
The funeral parlor was packed with old friends including Ken and Marge Miller, Allan Kieckhaefer, Gloria Dawn Strickland, Nancy and Vern Van Vooren …. to name a few. There were flowers and flags of Peg’s favorite sports teams including the Brewers, Badgers and Packers.
Rick Gilbertson, accompanied by piano and violin, sang a couple of hymns including “I come to the garden alone” and “In the Garden.”
Nicholas Novaczyk presented a touching eulogy that defined Peggy Ziegler as a champion blessed with a gift of compassion and an opinion.
Good afternoon. For those who don’t know me, I’m Brooke’s husband, and by marriage, a grateful and proud grandson to Gum Gum. Bernie, Jane, and JJ asked if I could say a few words on behalf of the family today, to mark the incredible life of their Mother.
Which gladly I will, but first let’s start with some housekeeping, please take out your phones and delete every email forward that you have ever gotten from Peg, she was prolific, and it should save you about 5 gigabits in space….
February 22, 1925 a day that set in motion the 94 years that will define an impactful life. The reaches of which are hard to assess, But I sense we all have a collective idea of how vast and deep Pegs influence on our lives are marked. The space and time that is filled between that day and January 15, 2020 is a legacy that I think we all can look to as a standard, as a goal, and as an achievement.
We all have our own stories of Peg, each of whom has shared and individuals memories that help us define what she meant to us, the subtle memories of a mother, the connect gift of a sister, The comfort of a grandmother, and the laughter and trouble making of a friend, but to define Margret Ziegler we may need a little more runway. Our world in which God has placed us is less today because of our loss.
*West Bend and Washington County have lost their champion, Wisconsin has lost a favorite daughter, and our Country has lost the strength and grace of a depression and war-era Matriarch.
So much can be learned from the examples that Peg set. Her gifts were many, and even more remarkable was her willingness to share them. Some might argue that her greatest gift was that of having an opinion, which in turn gave her the moniker of the “The General” This stern and rigid reputation was widely known and depending upon who you were, either blessing or a curse.
I would argue that her greatest gift was that of compassion, that gift, so often hides behind the above-described. Peg was straightforward and direct, but was also loving and kind, and connected these traits as well as anyone I have ever met. The world has changed so much of the last 94 years, throughout her life, as we all do, she felt loss and uncertainty, suffered tragedies and pain, but each time, she made a choice to not let those events and circumstances define who she was. She became better because of them.
I would suggest that she used those times as fuel to shine and be a light. Her leadership as head of her family, her leadership as a community member, and her devoted moral compass are many small examples of her storied life. The success she enjoyed in life was earned through her determination and resolve.
Her marriage to Bernie is a great American love story. Blessed are those who were able to witness that story unfold over the decades, I can only imagine what those early years together were like, as they planned and worked to create such legacy that will leave us so much better off because of them. I had the privilege many years ago to talk about Bernie and his life. I recall finding the words to describe him, as the Caddies and the Kings, after talking to one of his golf caddies in Arizona.
This was a man that could inspire the least of us and greatest of us without a changing tone. What I didn’t know then, and I certainly know now, is that this very well may be the case of the Women that made the man. Through letters and stories, and simple pictures or memories, she was to Bernie as she was to all of us.
*She made us better people, stronger people, Better Fathers, Better Mothers, better stewards of all the blessings that God has given us. This was not a request, she demanded we be better. I’m glad she did, and I’m hopeful that she will continue to demand us to be better as we move on from this day without her.
There is no doubt that Peg in the later stages of her life was truly blessed. Her strength carried her to 94 years old, her health stayed steady for most of those years, and her children surrounded her in the last hours. The void she leaves is vast, as often is the case with Matriarchs, there is no replacement, there is only the chance that we lead our lives with purpose, and with respect paid to what Peg wanted for all of us. Happiness, success, health, and the chance to make the world around us a better place.
A complete life is a rare site, but on occasion the example is so clear and bright, it is worth for us to stop and recognize that our Friend and Mother, had the good luck, the good fortune, the good looks, and the good lord beside her to make each of her 94 years on earth count in spectacular fashion.
*I can see the dusty roads of the 20’s and 30’ when she grew up in an American that was just becoming, I can imagine the the pause when she watch our country head to a War that would define her generation, The created memories she made raising a family in the great decades of the 50’s and 60’s. While I have no confirmed reports that she attended Woodstock in 1969, the next 30 years were spent building and shaping her family and her state, Peg turned the century as a strong and beautiful example of what the freedoms of America can produce. As her husband’s legacy does, Gum Gum belongs to the ages now. We all are eternally grateful for her and what she meant to all of us.
As her book is ending, those of us left to live our lives will watch the sun rise in morning. We get to decide on our actions and our choices we make each day on how to live, I think Peg left us with many indelible guiding moments for us to learn from. In honor and memory of this Ziegler’s life, I am going to ask you all to think about completing a task.
*It can be as small or as large as you can creatively organize. I’m going to ask that at some point in your life in years to come, you make a meaningful difference in the lives, communities, and country that you are a part of. The kind of difference that Peg so often made. The kind of impact that changes lives and makes it a little easier for others to achieve what maybe they couldn’t without a nudge or a little support.
****But here is the catch, after you do, and after the rewards are felt and seen, you can’t tell anybody it was you. You can silently say a prayer, and remember that Peg wanted all of us to be better, and that is enough I am certain, for anybody in all walks of life to aspire too.