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Marking the 103rd birthday of Frank Zeidler

A Frank Zeidler Tribute—

Frank and I knew one another over a 35 year period. In this very building he was part of the committee that brought me to Milwaukee from Kansas City to coordinate the work of Lutheran churches in urban Milwaukee.

I had rented a car and I thought Frank was hanging around after the interview to talk with me. Maybe, but what he really needed was a ride to his home on North Second Street. I discovered that not having a car, but using public transportation, he always appreciated a ride.

The trip back that evening going straight up 6th Street (normally 15 minutes took nearly an hour as the stories would flow block after block.) For the next several years Frank Zeidler was my teacher. On tours around Milwaukee he would give me the best insight I would ever have to Milwaukee’s history. I would learn the efforts he had made to find ways to keep the city a good place in which all of us could live with decent jobs and safe neighborhoods.

Visiting him during his campaign for U.S. President in his small, crowded office on Old World Third Street gave me another chance to try to absorb Frank’s wisdom.

I would call him an ‘occasional’ colleague as we would occasionally touch base on projects or issues, like the Lutheran Social Action Committee on Vliet Street. He was the first person I called to check on the viability of initiating Habitat for Humanity in Milwaukee. We sat in a booth at a hot spot for political conversation called The Interlude at 40th and Vliet.

The longest conversations I had concerned the launching of the Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion. On behalf of Mary Campbell, Shelley Bruehling, Carol Medverden and a few others, Brian Tyndall and I with Frank on several occasions at his home and at George Webb’s.

There we listened for his sense of what kind of mission he saw for the public church and especially Redeemer Lutheran. This Center is an outgrowth of those conversations. Those mentioned previously plus Illona Cinis and Doris Watts, met regularly to birth the Center and provide the first training and discussions.

One final part of this story is this. When Frank, Brian and I return to his home after lunch for more conversation, no one was at home. Without wasting a moment, 91 year old Frank climbed over the gate to his backyard and opened the unlocked backdoor. He asked us to come in the front door.—-Rick Deines—September 20, 2015

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