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'The spittin' image of a gentleman'

Roger Eickmeier dies at 96

PRINCETON — Longtime Princeton businessman and civic leader Roger Eickmeier died early Wednesday morning at Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton. He was 96.

For years, Eickmeier was known in the community for his roles as a bank officer and a board member at First State Bank in Princeton. He also was an integral part of the DePue State Bank, where he retired in 1983.

While his career was important to him, perhaps what Eickmeier was known best for was his active membership in civic organizations, including the Princeton Rotary Club, where he was a Paul Harris Fellow, a Rotary Benefactor, winner of the Rotarian of the Year Award, and was the club's secretary for 33 years. He was also past president of the Princeton Chamber of Commerce, vice chairman of the Bureau County Housing Authority, past president of the Matson Public Library Board and a board member of the Bureau County Historical Society, the Bureau Valley Community Concert Association and the Bureau Valley Country Club. He was a past commander and namesake of the Roger L. Eickmeier American Legion Post 125.

Princeton resident and fellow Rotarian Jim Smith said he met Eickmeier in 1978, and his respect for Eickmeier continued to grow throughout the years.

"I met Roger in 1978 when I joined Rotary," Smith said. "He and Duncan Bryant were secretary and treasurer. Both men were highly-respected men, not only in Rotary but in our community. When Duncan passed away, I became treasurer and worked closely with Roger. He helped me from Day 1. He knew everything, and if he didn't know, he would work with me until we had it solved. I don't know what I would have done without Roger. For many, many years he was the steering wheel for Princeton Rotary. Each incoming president looked to him for help, and he was always there. At board meetings Roger rarely spoke up, but when asked, his comments were right on."

Smith said Eickmeier was well liked and a highly-respected individual.

"He was a quiet leader, who took pride in what he did. He was the type of man we all hope to be," Smith said. "I am proud to have worked with him; our club and community will miss him."

Current Princeton Rotary President Phil Kaufmann called Eickmeier an inspiration to the Princeton Rotary Club.

"Still regular in attendance and generous in support, he lived the Rotary motto: 'Service above self.' A member for over 50 years, he served in many ways, including his long-term role as secretary," Kaufmann said. "He was one of the pillars of integrity in the club. His quick smile and warm handshake will certainly be missed."

Princeton resident/Rotarian Roger Swan said he got to know Eickmeier best through their roles in the Rotary Club. He described Eickmeier as humble, a quiet individual and a good friend.

"He was the most honest man, the most gentleman I've ever known," Swan said. "They talk about a gentleman in the olden times; well, he was the spittin' image of a gentleman."

Eickmeier's friend and fellow Rotarian John Weborg of Princeton said Eickmeier's life was one of integrity.

"Roger was our neighbor from 1970 through 1975 when we lived on Park Avenue East, the then-parsonage of the Evangelical Covenant Church," Weborg said. "We had many across-the-street chats, and he and Carolyn were 'surrogate' parents for our daughter during church, as my wife was the organist/choir director and I was the pastor ... (Eickmeier) served as my sponsor to rejoin Rotary upon my return to Princeton in retirement.

"When Roger said yes to a responsibility, you knew it would be accomplished with complete integrity," Weborg added. "Integrity and competence were the marks of his life and work. Joy was an accomplishment of these virtues, making it a pleasure to be in his company."

Services for Eickmeier are at 10:30 a.m. today, Saturday, at the Evangelical Covenant Church, Princeton. Pastors Derek Boggs and John Weborg will officiate. Military rites will be conducted by the Roger L. Eickmeier American Legion Post 125.

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