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Roger Wiltz's final outdoors column, written by his daughters: A tribute to the man

He cherished this relationship with you and it filled his tank every week.

LuAnn, Laurie, Lisa and Roger with their Catch.jpeg
Roger fishing with his daughters on Mother’s Day 1977.
Submitted photo
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This will be the last column in print of Rog’s Rod & Nimrod and it is written with love and gratitude by his three daughters. In last week’s column Dad mentioned a recent diagnosis of brain cancer. When all of this started, Dad was adamant about his desire to not pursue treatment if his ability to maintain a good quality of life was not probable. Over the past week his health has taken a turn for the worse and he is now in palliative care.

He is peaceful and comfortable and we are diligently trying to follow his wishes and maintain his dignity. It has been much easier to do this as Dad was very open with his desires and is surrounded by family and friends who love him fiercely. The support from our family, friends, community and readers has been humbling and we want his readers to know how much this means to our family as well as to Dad. Here is a peek at who Nimrod was to his three daughters.

Dad was born in Chicago and discovered an early passion for fishing at Cedar Lake, Illinois. He had many fond memories of fishing with his dad there. He later ended up at SDSU on a football and wrestling scholarship where he met our mom. It was in Brookings that Dad was introduced to hunting and it was love at first sight (for both!), especially when mom would clean his birds!

Although we all knew Dad secretly wished for a boy to hunt and fish with, that didn’t stop him from dragging us girls out fishing (he wasn’t as successful with hunting, although we still all duck when we hear a shotgun blast!). We laugh today that there is a scarce photo from our childhood that doesn’t have a fish or dead animal in it. Although we didn’t really like fishing, we enjoyed one-on-one time with Dad (reading books or suntanning in the boat while he fished) and those memories are priceless. More importantly, he raised three girls that share his passion for life, people, community and helping others, especially those less fortunate. He understood that we had a narrow view of the world living in rural SD and he helped expand our world through hosting foreign exchange students and encouraging us to see the world via travel.

Dad was not perfect. He was as stubborn as he was empathetic. He had no problem spending $500+ on a gun but criticized how much toilet paper or gas we used. When us girls wanted to go to Sioux Falls to shop for clothes we often heard “if Bomgaars doesn’t have it, you don’t need it!” His expectations of our success were often unreasonably high. He loved to “poke the bear” just for the fun of it. Despite the conflict, we never once felt that we weren’t fully loved.

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As adults, his two sons-in-law, Tom Shay and Rodney Ladson, did their best to fill in the gaps where his daughters wouldn’t. In Dad’s very last days, Tom took his daughters fishing and was texting photos of their catches for Dad to see. Rodney, more of a novice in this scene, was quickly nicknamed “The Birdinator” for his enthusiasm in pheasant hunting. He was always the best dressed sportsman and was endlessly teased by the family for his rookie mistakes (bringing a banana on the fishing boat to name one!). Dad’s love of the outdoors was also passed down to the next generation with three of his grandchildren being avid fishermen, one hunter and two pursuing graduate degrees in marine fisheries. Following retirement Dad and Mom bought a second home in Wisconsin to be closer to us and his grandkids. He was a huge fan of his grandkids and supported them in their education, sports and other extracurricular activities.

For almost 50 years, Dad used this column as a way to connect with a larger audience and share his passion with others. It gave him great purpose, especially after retiring from education.

Although at times the fishing/hunting felt like dad’s “mistress”, we all understood that he needed the time and space to center himself in a stressful world. As a result, he taught us to take care of ourselves first and there will still be plenty of us left for others.

You, the readers, were his friends, his confidants, his pupils, his muse. He cherished this relationship with you and it filled his tank every week. For that, our family is eternally grateful for you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Laurie, Lisa & LuAnn

P.S. If you would like to share a story with us or learn more about Dad, feel free to visit his Caring Bridge Site: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/rogerwiltz

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