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In Memoriam: Dick Wiedenman (Not That He’d Want It)

Last updated on 2015.02.28

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.


  1. mike from iowa 2015.02.23

    Cory,this crusty gentleman sounds like a green Libby at heart. No sense cluttering up Ma Earth with more toxic poisons and dead weight. Cremation is the only way to go.

  2. bearcreekbat 2015.02.23

    Cory, sorry for your loss. We knew a fellow named "John" much like Dick in Vermillion many years ago. My spouse used to run a diner and would pretend there was leftover food and coffee whenever John came around. He was always grateful. One day he showed up at the doorstep of our home with some stuffed toys he found somewhere, probably at the dump or in the department store's trash, and wanted to give them to our kids as a thank you. RIP Dick and John.

  3. Pat Richardson 2015.02.23

    Dick was definitely one of a kind. He had a good heart and if you needed something he'd be the first to offer his help. He was quirky and goofy and all those things you pinned on him but he really was a man who cherished good friends and truly care about those people he called his friends. He never failed to ask about how my kids were doing or what was new in our lives when I saw him. He was a great and true friend to my mother and has been a good friend to me throughout the subsequent years. He will be missed.

  4. Bill Dithmer 2015.02.23

    Way to go Dick toasted, and a new body for research.

    Same here, my eyes are going for research and my body will be crispyed. Nobody would want my organs.

    The Blindman

  5. Bill Dithmer 2015.02.23

    MFI, there are many doing the exact same thing.

    The Blindman

  6. Les 2015.02.23

    It seems almost every small community has one and few are recognized for their contributions. Thanks for the good read, Cory.

  7. South DaCola 2015.02.23

    Reminds me of my grandpa's cousin who was worth millions and lived in a chicken coop surrounded by electric blankets (he had no electricity) and other stuff he ordered from the JC Penney catalog (other electrical trinkets like coffee makers, microwaves and blenders). The Sheriff found him one cold winter morning sitting up against a tree frozen stiff. His kids who didn't give two-shits about him dug up his farmyard looking for mason jars of money with no luck. My grandpa offered to build him a shanty one time and he told him the chicken coop was perfectly okay.

  8. Jaka 2015.02.23

    All of us who know someone (or more) of these kind of people are very fortunate when once we get beyond ourselves and see into their souls for the good there. And it's there somewhere, usually............

  9. Gayle 2015.02.23

    For Dick and others who do not always choose to live as many think we should.

    “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection."
    From the Bhagavad Gita

  10. Joan Brown 2015.02.23

    Back in the late 50s and early 60s I worked in the National five cent, 10 cent and $1.00 store in Madison. I worked in the candy counter, the kind that people would look at the candy in glass bins and tell the employee how many cents worth of a certain kind they wanted. There was this old, really dirty little man that came in once a week and bought five cents worth mints(the pink kind, for the life of me I can't remember what their name was). He stank to high heavens, he was so dirty. I even hated to take his nickle. Due to the job my uncle had, he knew who the man was and where he lived. To me his house looked like a really tiny shack, dirt yard, and a lot of over grown trees, and shrubs.

  11. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.23

    Odd people are important in the neighborhood they frequent. I think they almost always have something very important to teach us, sometimes just by being. I've had some really wonderful chats with homeless people in the MN metro. I don't mean about homelessness. The topics have been widely varied. I am grateful for those opportunities to learn.

  12. Ed Tounjian 2015.02.24

    I knew Dick Wiedenman for the last year or so. Wish I had known him sooner. He was a very smart man and he made
    a fortune digging through our junk.
    The stories I have heard about him are truly amazing.
    One of my favorite stories is about Wieder Ville. A bunch of old houses/shacks he rented out,and of course the city was always on his case. Well he was ready to give up after years of fighting with city and offered to sell land to Gerry for 10k. Well a couple weeks later Gerry shows up with the money, and Dick says the deal is off because the city bought him out for 200k and gave him a year to take what he wants. And on top of that he had like 5 places on the same water meter for like 10 years and the city never knew. Plus he was collecting money from each renter to pay the bill times 5.
    I have a roll off container truck and I had a box in Worthing after the flood for scrap metal. I told Dicky Do about it and that he would be proud of me because I found
    some good towels for the shop. He says how do I get there from here,I told him and off he went. A few hours later he calls and needs me to bring tow truck,ok where are you?
    He is at exit 4 in South Sioux ok. I get there and I ask how
    did you get here? He said he was looking for his friend in Lennox. On the way home I said we will stop in Worthing to see how full my box is. Before I could set the brakes Dick was already in a dumpster going to town.
    He actually did find some good stuff over the years. He has some very nice antiques and some very good wood trim from old houses and his estate auction will be very interesting.
    Rest in peace Dick we will find homes for your treasures

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.24

    I love the stories Dick Wiedenman brings out. As folks above indicate, we can't just dismiss Dick as a crazy old coot; he was a wily, discerning man. He lived differently from others not because he didn't know better; he knew full well what he was doing. He discomfited people who want (need?) to believe that their conventional lifestyles are the only logical path a sane citizen would follow.

    I also love the questions about conformity and social order that Dick and odd birds like him raise. Just how different are we allowed to be before we reach the bounds of tolerance and the community can justify taking action against us?

  14. Jenny 2015.02.24

    Hate to break your bubble, but Wiedenman was known as a slumlord to the College students. His apartments were considered unsafe, the guy was as cheap as could be and would never fix anything. A bigger town wouldn't have had put up with his antics.

  15. Bev mader 2015.02.24

    shortly before his death, he was in MN and stole some family heirlooms from my friend's house. The police in both Pipestone and Madison tried to recover some of them. Most were never found. The police confronted him about it and he admitted that he had been there. They had his license number. I talked to her yesterday, she is hoping to get more of it back when they go through his stuff, but not counting on it. She believes he might have sold the stuff. Sad this happen so I pray they will get some of it back.

  16. Bill Fleming 2015.02.24

    LOL, looks like every silver lining has a cloud. :-) Anyone here see Birdman? How 'bout that ending? Reminds me of this guy in a way. Heros and villains in all of us.

  17. Jenny 2015.02.24

    I'm not surprised Bev. The good guys around Madison would tell me not to rent from Wiedenman, and if you did, to not leave any money laying around. The guy was a thief.

  18. Marilyn Moothart 2015.02.24

    I have known Dick since I was 9yrs old. My mom actually rented an apt from him for us. Never had any problems with him. Through the years I have heard numerous stories about him lending money to people in need. I have actually helped him in some real estate deals and appreciated his business. I know he battled Dementia towards the end but I agree with Gayle's verse. Rest in peace Dick!!

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.25

    Jenny, a bigger town wouldn't have put up with slumlordery? I should check with Joop Bollen's tenants in Aberdeen. ;-) That said, with all of its targeting of Wiedenman's other antics, did Madison do anything about his substandard rentals?

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.25

    Bill, I haven't seen Birdman yet, but I want to... especially if I can turn it into a metaphor for and local discussion of Dick Wiedenman's life.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.25

    Bev, is there any way to sue the Wiedenman estate?

  22. Bill Fleming 2015.02.25

    Lots of metaphors in that movie Cory. I'm going to have to watch it a few more times to see if I can figure them all out. Bottom line, it could be that it's a metaphor for itself. Ouch, right? :-)

  23. Nick Nemec 2015.02.25

    Some people look better in their tighty whities than others.

  24. Bev 2015.02.25

    Cory: all that would be up to my friend, I was merely commenting on what happen to my friend. I wanted her to see your story partly in hopes that she would understand yes he had dementia. Her incident vas reported to the Pipestone County Sheriff and to the Lake County. She got back a couple of things but not the family things that were important to her. I am sure if these items are located in his stuff, Ron Moe will be sure she gets them back. I have ask her to contact Ron.

  25. Ed Tounjian 2015.02.25

    Dick never took anything unless he thought it was abandoned.
    He loaded up a bunch of stuff from my acreage that no one
    lives on,and tried to sell it for scrap metal where I work.
    I would say he did not know what he was doing.
    He was definitely not playing with a full deck the last couple
    of years. A car dealer d.b.a. Moto Joes screwed him for 250k and tried to sue him for the rest of the 500k he had
    offered. Thats how Ron Moe became his trustee.
    Others took advantage of him as well.
    I am pretty sure he left what ever is left of his estate to some charity.

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