A Time to Remember: Clarence Nehlich

Serr, Bonnie. “A Time to Remember: Clarence Nehlich.” Northwest Blade, 22 September 2011.

Clarence Nehlich has spent the majority of his life serving the people of McPherson County and especially the citizens of Eureka. He started working for the County in 1953 and helped build roads. He remembers working side-by-side with Joe Imbery, Johnny Kirschenmann and Adam Preszler. In 1956, the county used the caterpillar and scraper to level the ground for the Eureka Auditorium. The dirt from the auditorium project was moved to the ballpark area. In the same year, all the water, sewer, curb and gutter were installed by city employees. In 1957, they cut down 11th Street (formerly known as Mortgage Hill) so a housing development could be started. Les Heilman built the first house in this area. Clarence recalls that he was paid $1.25 per hour for road work and $1.00 per hour for repair work.

On October 1, 1958, Clarence started his career with the City of Eureka. He served as the water superintendent and police officer. He read the water meters, regenerated the softeners and repaired breaks. In an effort to make water meter reading more efficient, Clarence placed a note on each door asking the homeowner to call the city office with the meter read. In future years, self reading meters were a time saver for the city. He was paid $225.00 a month when he started his city employment. The first well was dug in 1960. The second one was dug in the park. In 1983, the City purchased their first digger. This enabled Clarence to fix the water breaks and lay new lines. To this day, the city employees consult with Clarence for advice regarding the city’s water mains. He spent countless hours repairing water breaks. When Clarence Wald started working in the late 1970’s, they had six water breaks during the winter in his first week of work. Most of the breaks needed to be repaired after midnight.

Snow removal was a monumental job. Main Street was always cleaned out at night. During Clarence’s many years of employment, he worked with different mayors including, Al Bender, Dan Bieber, Henry Jundt, Alfred Fischer, Freddy Aman, Arnie Lapp, Willis Mehlhaff and Mel Geist. Fred Jakober was Chief of Police until he resigned in 1963. Howard Eiseman and Clarence were in charge of the police force. In 1970, Howard resigned and Clarence served as Chief until 1990. Police officers that he served with were Fred Jakober, Howard Eiseman, Herbert Spitzer, Richard Hayes, Clarence Wald, Henry Roggenkamp, Walter Dais, Curt Weidmeir, Scott Kary, Paul Jundt, Guy Boschee, Milbert Metzger and Ron Hemmingsen. Ted Brockel was the first night policeman. Sheriff’s that he assisted were Mutscher, Shannon, Keszler and Kunz. State Troopers he had the privilege to work with were Lofswald, Cass, Stamp, Benson, Dravland and Markquardt.

I’m positive that Clarence could write volumes of books about his police experiences. He told me he never had problems with the city’s youth. He made every attempt to visit with them. I’m sure he had gained their respect throughout the years. He recalls getting called to a domestic dispute where he needed to wrestle a firearm from an intoxicated man that was threatening to kill his wife and mother. In the mid 1960’s, he assisted in a road block after a murder in Zeeland. He needed to search all vehicles that crossed the border. He recalls an escapee from the Sioux Falls Prison that was being held in the Eureka jail. The prisoner couldn’t wait to get back to the penitentiary because he said the accommodations were much better than in Eureka! Clarence also assisted Dr. Mac wrestle a prisoner down to the floor before Alma Stoebner RN could inject him with a sedative. During a blinding blizzard, Clarence opened the road to the hospital with the City blade. This effort helps save the woman’s life. The most difficult part of his job was to inform a family member on Christmas Eve that their loved one had died.

Another unsung hero in this story is Clarence’s wife of 59 years, Doris. She needed to man the radio and answer many police calls that came to the house. She spent many times of concern, knowing her husband faced many challenges, waiting for Clarence to return home safe and sound. She proudly states, "Everyone respected Clarence because he had such a positive attitude and never held a grudge." Clarence credits his family for supporting him throughout his long career of community service. We, as the community of Eureka, owe this gentleman a debt of gratitude. He certainly went above and beyond the call of duty for 33 years of exemplary service.

Story courtesy of the Northwest Blade, Eureka, SD.
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