The big news I heard around Madison over the weekend was that Dick Wiedenman had died.

Dick Wiedenman collected junk, lived in junk, annoyed the city and county with junk. His junkiness provoked the county to deem him a nuisance and the local paper to skewer him. People looked at him as some crazy old geezer, wearing junk-man clothes and riding his old bicycle around town.

Dick served on the local Smith-Zimmerman Museum board. He spoke up and spoke intelligently on civic affairs. Yet rumor has it he also housed illegal immigrants in old semi trailers on his property. Dick was not an easy guy to like, but Dick didn't seem to give a darn about what anyone else liked or disliked.

It's widely believed that Dick had money tucked away, but he was always looking for freebies. He came to church for free potluck dinners. The local lore about his death Friday is that he went to the hospital for his free coffee, then plunked down and died. The headline should be not "Wiedenman Mooching to the End" but "What Was in Hospital's Coffee?"

It's less likely that the hospital poisoned Dick Friday than that they decided to move their operations to the south edge of town just so it would be too far for Dick to walk to get his free coffee. The prospect of that loss was just too much for Dick's old heart.

Dick was my dad's friend way back in high school. He built the garage that became the lake cabin that I renovated several years ago into a permanent residence. Not one stud in that building was 24 inches on center. But after a half-century of winters and winds, it's still standing straight.

Like all of us, Dick was a mix of good and bad. My pathological affection for pariahs means I have to say I'll miss him. We could drop by the funeral home or the cemetery to pay our respects, but Dick would have none of that. Folks in Madison say he donated his body to science. The USD med school will chop him up, analyze his guts, then burn him back to ashes and dust. Unlike most of the civic fathers who so groused about his presence, no stone shall clutter the landscape and no fancy box shall rot in the ground on Dick Wiedenman's behalf.*

*Update 2015.02.28 16:17 CST: But wait! I'm informed secondhand via FB that Dick's brother Jack said no such body-donation took place! According to the Weiland Funeral Chapel, following the memorial service on Feb. 26, Dick's remains were to be inurned at Graceland Cemetery.