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Eulogy to R. Douglas Ziegler by Peter Ziegler

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With permission from Peter Ziegler – here is his eulogy to his father, R. Douglas Ziegler.


I’m honored to be here today to speak to you about our father. On behalf of Sharon, my sisters and brothers and the entire Ziegler Family (and there are lots of us), I want to thank you for your presence here today, for your many words of consolation and even more the prayer you have offered at the death of our father Doug Ziegler. Over the last few days, listening to his friends speak about how Dad impacted their lives and the deep personal connection that people felt with our Dad, has been an overwhelming personal experience for all of us. Thank you.



Each of you are here because Dad touched your life in some way. Each of you had your own relationship with Dad, each of you have your own set of memories. I hope in this eulogy that I offer, you will recognize some part of the man we all knew, the man who will never be gone until all of us have passed.


Dad was truly an extraordinary ordinary man. Extraordinary in terms of his rich experiences, business accomplishments and the number of lives he impacted in a positive way. Ordinary in that he was not a complex person, he grew his own tomatoes, drove old cars, picked his own water cress, and bought much of his wardrobe at Fleet Farm. You always knew where he was coming from and he lived by a simple set of strong values.


He grew up in WB, the son of a high school educated, self made business visionary. His father started three very successful businesses, all of which became public companies, and guided a number of other businesses within WB as a director, president or investor.



To say Dad was a handful as a youth, is an understatement. His mother, Grammy Ziegler wrote in her diary “always a naughty little boy – seems to live with a high strung tension – wild beyond belief”. He learned to drive when he was 11, and one weekend when his parents were away he took his Grandma Eickelberg out for a 200 mile tour of the countryside. At age 13 he drove a Decorah Farm Dairy milk truck for milk deliveries around the Cedar Lakes.


Too much to handle at home, his parents sent him Northwestern Military Academy at age 11. At 14 he was struggling at WBHS, he was shipped to Lake Forest Military Academy for his Sophomore and Junior years. At ages 15 and 16 he was still rebellious and ran away from home. First time to Montana and second time to Seattle.



He ended up at Northwestern University for college. He eloped and married Mom and had his first of 7 children (maybe not in that order) his freshman year. He enlisted in the Merchant Marine at 18 just before the end of the war. After two tours of duty in the Pacific, he was discharged 2 days after his 19th birthday in 1946.



In the short time between his discharge and his father’s early death in May of 1946 he shadowed his Dad every day at the office at the West Bend Aluminum Co. These were a precious and formative few months and gave Dad a firsthand perspective on what would become his vocation.



Dad really had three very distinctive business careers. He spent 25 years at the WB Co running the outboard motor division and then the Consumer Products Group of Dart Industries, into which the WB CO was merged. In 1972, Dad and Uncle Bernie felt the calling to move over to the B.C Ziegler & Co. when there was a leadership void due to the tragic death of its CEO. This business, that his father had founded, flourished as a nationally recognized investment bank, brokerage and money management firm. When he turned the reigns of day to day operations over to me, he managed money for Ziegler Asset Management until he was 75. He was extremely successful because of his performance track record and people just trusted him.



Dad never really retired. The thought of Dad taking up a retirement hobby just wasn’t him. I never saw him sit by his pool, on his deck or on his pier just to relax. He felt he was cheating himself. OK, I did see him a couple of times sit on his deck in his beloved Snowmass and take in the view. But after a few minutes he would grab his fishing pole and box of worms (that he brought all the way from WI) and go down to the stream or ponds to fish for trout.



The day I left for graduate school he called me down to his office for a chat. We talked for a long time but he wanted to tell me two things. First he told me was always remember the number 168. That’s the number of hours in a week. He told me no matter who we are, what we do for a living, where we live, or productive we are, we all get the same amount of time. 168 hours per week. The difference among us is how we spend that time. I think that’s why he couldn’t relax. In fact, in his last few days, Sharon, Faith, Heidi and I all witnessed him in his half asleep state conduct business meetings for hours on end. What he was is how he died. He wanted to make to make a difference in this world – and he did. Second, he told me, always be willing to compromise but never sacrifice your principles or values. I’ve always tried to live by that.



Dad’s business accomplishments are many and I won’t list them but to say he was a director of 12 public companies and many private ones. Yet what we as a family remember most about our Dad is how he lived his life – his character, not his accomplishments. He didn’t favor trends, gimmicks or cleverness. In fact he lived by something his Dad told him – “an ounce of honesty is worth more than a pound of cleverness.” Probably Dad’s most prominent characteristic was an unfailing sense of honesty and integrity. With Dad, there was never a question about doing what was right and there was never a question about where Dad stood on any matter – he was very direct. He had little patience for gossip, prattling or politics.



Family life with Dad was an adventure, in many ways. He was a tough disciplinarian. We all remember having to get a job when we were 16. We all remember the lineups – ala The Sound of Music and Captain von Trapp, where we would all stand in a line until he got the information he was looking for. And you never ever wanted to tell Dad a lie. I remember the time Faith told him I put stones in the gas tank of his car. Those were the days when you got spanked, and I got spanked and then Faith told him – April Fools.



He was the father that gave us the great adventure of family life.

Dad was a hiker, a traveler, a sailor, a skier, a fisherman, a gambler, a racer of motorcycles, iceboats and go-carts and if you were ever unfortunate enough to ride with him, you would probably say he was a racer of street cars. (and boy, did he miss not driving his last 8 years of life.) He was an all around adventurer. He was a business mogul, an investor, a conservationist, and a philanthropist. He did all of this with zeal and passion to win. But most of all he was a father, a husband, grandfather and great grandfather (Grandpa Dougie to the next generations of 20 Grandkids and 20 Great Grandkids (whose names he had trouble remembering -could you blame him?)). He said many times, he was lucky twice in his marriages, 32 years to Mom and 36 years to Sharon.



Dad wasn’t a real religious person although there were a number I times I heard him use some biblical terms. Like the time I backed his new sailboat into the rock wall or when we were splitting wood and I dropped a log on his foot.



Our Dad taught us to treat everyone we met, no matter what station in life they were from, with the same dignity and respect. I watched him treat his family as he did his maintenance crew as he did his Board of Directors – equally.



Dad was super competitive in all walks of his life. He played gin rummy competitively in Las Vegas, loved to shoot craps, bet on football games, took great enjoyment from taking money from his children and friends in a “friendly” game of hearts, and those that sailed against him knew of the fire in his belly to win.



I remember a Saturday morning C Boat race when I was his crew (kind of like preseason football games, not real meaningful). Dad never looked at it that way. It was a light fluky wind and we were dead last at the last mark and the lead boats were a half a mile ahead of us and not far from the finish line. He said lets buckle down, we can win this thing and he was dead serious. We got last that race. But he always thought he could win.



That’s why he enjoyed managing money. He had a benchmark to beat and everyday he could keep score against that benchmark.



He had a favorite fishing spot he discovered on Snowmass Creek he called the “Canyon.” I fished it with him many times; it was about a two hour hike from the house. The last time I fished it with him was 1998. Hiking with Dad was not a casual walk in the woods, it was a sprint. This day he kept looking at his watch. I said to him, what are we running for, the fish aren’t going anywhere. He said, last time I hiked up here it took 2hrs and 1 minute. I’m trying to break 2 hours. You all know the ending to this story, 1 hr 58”. It was all about the competition.



Dad truly believed wealth is not what you’ve accumulated when you die but wealth is what you can’t take with you. In that vein, he was a great philanthropist. He gave back generously with his treasure and his talents. He chaired more than a dozen fund drives, always led by making a generous lead gift and then was relentless in always making goal (that competition thing again). This career of philanthropy was capped by recognition in Washington DC by the International Assoc of Fund Raising Professionals, where he received their singular Volunteer Fund Raiser of the Year award in 2014. But his greatest philanthropic legacy is not how much money he raised but how many lives he has touched and improved and will improve for many future generations.



We can’t eulogize Dad without talking about his Colorado property. At a young age of 31, in Sept. 1958 he and Mom ended up in Aspen for the first time. A beautiful aspen glow weekend. His impulsiveness and intuition took over and he ended buying a sheep ranch. He would say it was dumb luck, but we all know better. 10 years later the Snowmass Ski area opened adjacent this property. For the last 58 years it has been a natural treasure, for four generations of Zieglers to recreate. He called it the best residential view in NA. To cap it off, in 2010, treasure was struck again when during a routine excavation on the property, a mammoth skeleton was uncovered. Over the next year the site would become known worldwide as the most significant high altitude Ice Age discovery as over 6000 large mammal bones were uncovered. Dad would kid the GK’s that he knew they were there when he bought the property.

During Dad’s last years, old age and illness stole some of his quality of life and physically limited him. He never complained or felt sorry for himself. Although he told us he really missed hiking in CO. In his final years, what amazed me was how much was still left and he was still able to accomplish after so much had been taken away.



Since I shifted careers 33 yrs ago to work with Dad, he and I talked almost every day. Personally, I haven’t come to terms with the fact we’ll never have another conversation.



Goodbye Dad, may the wind always be in your favor. We already miss you beyond words.



Sharon, we all thank you for your love and compassion for Dad, we know it added time each of us could share with Dad. Thank you.


  1. Posted by Lisa Lickel

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