This week Lansdale lost an iconic figure, with the passing at age 84 of former councilman and longtime Lansdale Cemetery caretaker Dick Stricker.
Stricker led an effort in the early 1960s to clean up and preserve the cemetery, and served on its board of directors as caretaker and superintendent from 1964 until it was handed over to Lansdale Borough in 2013.
Several borough officials shared their memories about Stricker following a moment of silence during Wednesday night's council meeting, including borough Manager Jake Ziegler, who said Stricker was one of the first councilmen he met when he started working for the borough.
"For some reason, right off the bat he just always kept calling me 'Misterrrr Ziegler' - I don't know why, but that was Dick, and that was the way it was always going to be," Ziegler said.
"Over the years I went on various tours with Dick around the borough. Most, if not all, of those tours wound up either passing through or ending up at the cemetery. It was really close to Dick's heart," he said, calling Stricker "truly a Lansdale borough citizen for life."
Mayor Andy Szekely said Stricker was one of the borough's "most colorful characters...he was my most frequent visitor in the Mayor's office, and certainly the most entertaining."
Szekely posted on his blog his memories of conversations with Stricker, sharing stories of how the longtime Lansdale Historical Society member tore out a large wooden staircase in his home to make room for rental apartments, yet would help those who fell behind on their rent.
" As a single man, to have a gigantic house was not his style; he was practical and made money off of the buildings and provided housing for others. Very utilitarian and very characteristic of Lansdale," Szekely wrote. Any other Stricker stories can be posted here, on Szekely's blog, or sent to the Historical Society.
Councilman Jack Hansen said during his term as council President in 2009 he'd hold public office hours, and every time Stricker walked in, "he would sit where my back was to the clock."
"Now, my office hours normally ended at 11 (a.m.), and somewhere around 11:15 or 11:30 he would say 'I've taken up enough of your time,' and leave. That was enjoyable," Hansen said.
Those visits continued to Hansen's home after his term as council president ended, and "he always came in with something good for the borough. That was his whole agenda, because Dick loved Lansdale, and Lansdale will miss him."
Council member Mary Fuller took over the leadership of the cemetery board after the borough takeover, and said she and Stricker would share stories about family members buried in the cemetery.
"To know Dick was to love him. At the heart of it, he truly was all about Lansdale. He gave his heart and soul when he served on council," she said.
During cemetery board meetings in recent years, "he would often say 'I'm not gonna be here, I'm not gonna be here,' and as much as he would say that, I just never believed it," Fuller said.
The cemetery board is currently working on plans to put a plaque at the entrance to the cemetery honoring the original board, and Stricker was glad that project was in the works.
"I know that he passed knowing that the cemetery was in good hands, and I guess that's a good thing because that'll be his future home," Fuller said.
Councilman Jason Van Dame said, similar to other stories of how Stricker would corner council members in their homes, something similar happened the first time Stricker visited him.
"My wife answered the door and told him I was at work, so being Dick, he let himself in and sat down and told her everything he was planning to tell me. He was a character, colorful, and he was definitely proud of this town."
Councilman Steve Malagari said Stricker "always had a big, bright smile on his face" and would introduce Malagari to others as "our new councilman," referring to Ward 1. On one particular run-in at the Fairmount Fire Company's firehouse, "he said, 'Did you know my name is on the plaque inside that building? When I was on council, I helped build this.'"
"Dick wasn't doing it to boast, he was doing it to say how proud he was. And every time after that, he said 'Do you know my name is on that plaque?' and every time I said 'No, I didn't.' and he'd show me every time."
"Rest in peace, Dick. I'll see you in the cemetery, and hopefully we can keep his memory eternal," Malagari said.
Friends and relatives can pay respects during services at Huff & Lakjer Funeral Home, 701 Derstine Ave. in Lansdale, from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 27 and starting at 9 a.m. on Nov. 28. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m., followed by entombment in the mausoleum. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Stricker’s memory to the Lansdale Historical Society, 137 Jenkins Ave., Lansdale, PA 19446.