Vermillion mourns: William J. Radigan 1925-2001

Vermillion mourns: William J. Radigan 1925-2001 The flags of the Clay County Veterans Memorial, which became a reality largely through the efforts of Mayor William Radigan, fluttered at half-staff Wednesday to honor him. by David Lias and M. Jill Karolevitz The flags of the Clay County Veterans Memorial, which became a reality largely through the efforts of Mayor William Radigan, fluttered at half-staff Wednesday to honor him.

Radigan, 75, was found dead in his home by family members Tuesday at about 5:30 p.m., according to Clay County Sheriff Dusty Passick. The time of death was estimated at sometime between midnight and 6 a.m. Tuesday. Passick said Radigan appeared to have died of natural causes.

Word of Radigan's death spread slowly through the Vermillion community early Wednesday morning, leaving shocked and saddened citizens in its wake.

"It is quite a blow to the community," said City Manager Jeff Pederson, who even after several hours of reflection, had difficulty putting into words the sense of loss he was experiencing Wednesday morning.

"I think that he brought to the office of mayor such a legitimacy in terms of someone in the office who really embodies the community," Pederson said. "He was obviously Vermillion inside and out, and had such a strong attachment to the community that he always wanted to see things go forward."

The city manager describes Radigan as a great champion of civic improvements. "He was a very strong believer in the worth and quite frankly the responsibility of the city to re-invest in the community and take a leadership role in that.

"I think that some of the projects that he was involved with helped this community to gain greater confidence in its future by virtue of the fact that through Bill's leadership," Pederson added, "the city made some statements about the positive future of the community."

John Paulson, administrator of the Sioux Valley Vermillion Campus, has lived in the community for only a year. That's all he needed to get well acquainted with Radigan.

"I felt he was a real champion for what was good for Vermillion. That's something you could always depend on," said Paulson, who is also president of the Vermillion Development Company's board of directors. "He was a very effective community leader. He had the ability to bring people together and had great vision. He was always working for what was best for Vermillion, for its growth, for its quality of life, for its economic development program, and we really benefited from that."

Alderman Barbara Yelverton said Radigan was a visionary.

"On any city project or any city issue, he always had enough mind to have what he thought was the best for Vermillion in looking for the the long term," she said. Radigan, a Vermillion native, knew what the community was like 60 years ago, Yelverton added, and had witnessed its change over the decades.

"He knew the potential of the community, and he wanted to be a part of that," she said. Yelverton especially appreciated the way the mayor conducted each council meeting.

"He was always fair, even if I was on the opposite side of an issue than he," she said. "That's just the way he was. Even if you didn't agree with him, he gave you an opportunity to speak on an issue. He was honest, he had great integrity, he was just a really great guy."

Pederson said Radigan never forgot the roles played by all city employees.

"He never hesitated to say nice things and reassuring things when they were deserved, and that's a quality that was and is very much appreciated in this environment," he said. "The feedback tends to be little, and the nature of it tends to be negative when it does happen, and Bill understood city operations throughout.

"I think he had a great empathy with the work of city employees," Pederson added. "He was very supportive of what he did and we're all going to miss that."

District 17 Rep. Judy Clark of Vermillion said she first met Radigan after inviting him to an organizational meeting of Vermillion Beautiful, Inc.

"He was ready to jump in right away and do whatever he could to help because he thought it would help Vermillion," she said. "He was interested in seeing Vermillion being made a better place to live. I guess I've never met anyone who was so dedicated to doing good for his community."

Alderman Roger Kozak was first elected to the city council in 1994, the same year that Radigan was elected mayor.

"My first impression in working with Bill was he was such a remarkably honest individual, very sincere about what he was doing, and he approached everything with a level of fairness that was second to none," he said. "I was surprised by the tremendous amount of energy, and the tremendous amount of devotion he had for the city of Vermillion. Literally, all of his energy went toward looking to the future and looking toward ways to improve and enhance the city in which we reside."

Radigan's involvement in city government began in May 1988 when he was elected to the city council from the central ward.

Approximately a year later, Mike Carlson was hired as the city's finance officer.

"One of his greatest attributes was his love for the community of Vermillion and to do what he thought was the best thing for the community," Carlson said. "He was always looking for something to better the city, and he was an easy person to work with. It's a hard thing to do, because there's always two sides to each issue. But I know Bill did a good job, in my mind, of always doing what he thought was the best for the community."

"I thought that Bill was a gentleman and a man of very high integrity. He had the ability to go into those council meetings, debate the issues from his point of view and other people's point of view, and when the meeting was over, shake hands and still be friends," said Frank Slagle, who will complete his second term as alderman next month.

Slagle said Radigan always put the city's interests first.

"In my experience here, I don't know of anybody that cared as much for Vermillion as Bill Radigan," he said. "He genuinely loved this city. Whatever position that he may have taken on any issue, he always put the city's interests first. There may have been differences of opinion as to what that may be, but Bill always put the city's interest above his own."

"As a mayor, I think the best way to describe Bill is that he wanted the community to change for the best," said Vermillion Fire Chief Doug Brunick. "And when he set out to do something, he dedicated himself to it and was going to get the job done."

Of all city departments, it is the fire department that perhaps is experiencing the deepest loss.

"He belonged to many groups � from the VFW to the fire department, which was probably his biggest love. That's best described with one word � dedication. He was a member for 55 years and served as our secretary-treasurer for over 40 years," Brunick said. "I've been involved with the fire department for 29 years and I can only recall him missing a meeting once, and that was when he was hospitalized, but he still called us that night to make sure we were doing things right."

Clark recalls the mayor's persistent drive last year to secure funding from Pierre that helped make construction of the new fire and rescue station possible.

He was very dedicated to getting that done, and to making it be an efficient and nice-looking addition to the community. I just think he was very tenacious when it came to anything that was good for Vermillion.

Clark said she'll always remember how Radigan kept in touch with her about issues of importance to the community.

"He wasn't hanging over my shoulder as a legislator, but certainly if anything came up that he felt might have an effect on Vermillion, he would let me know about it. I think that really was his first concern."

"He was a father figure to the fire fighters. After 50 some years, a lot of people looked to him as such," Brunick said. "And if there was a city council meeting at the same time as a fire fighters meeting, he would flip flop back and forth from the city council chambers to our meeting room. That showed his dedication to both. And others saw his dedication and it rubbed off on them."

Kozak said Radigan had the unique ability to find the time and energy to become involved in a wide range of endeavors in Vermillion.

"I don't think you could isolate and say that there was one activity or one project that was more important than the other because of the diversity of the projects that Bill gave his attention to," he said. "He was involved with youth baseball. He was involved with promoting and improving the senior citizens center, and he was involved with projects everywhere in between. He was always looking for opportunities to improve Vermillion."

Brunick said Radigan's style of doing the city's business included a unique, personal touch.

"He and I spent a lot of time together, with me as chief for 18-and-a-half years and he being secretary-treasurer of our association. We had a lot of discussions about what's best for a volunteer fire department such as ours, but we also took time to talk about our families," Brunick said. "He'd always ask 'how's life? How are things going, young man?' He was always really involved and caring. We had a thing that was built in � family first, fire department second. But there were times when Bill got them reversed. That again showed his dedication."

Paulson will always remember Radigan as a gracious gentleman.

"He was so appreciative of what people did, whether it was in education or health care or business or community life," he said. "He was a person I really looked up to for the fact that he had the community's best interests at heart, and that really was his only agenda.

"I don't think we'll find one man who can replace him. I think we'll all have to do our part to replace that," Paulson added. "I'm going to miss him. He was the kind of person who you thought was your friend, and maybe most importantly, Vermillion was his friend. That's the way he treated the community. You could depend on him."

"I had great respect for Bill Radigan," Yelverton said. "He gave a lot of his time, energy and efforts to this city because he felt it was something he needed to do, and I think Vermillion is better for Bill Radigan. It's a big loss. It's going to be tough. It was my privilege to be able to work alongside a man like Bill."

"It is a true loss to the community to lose somebody who cared as much for the city and enjoyed the stature and respect of Bill Radigan," Slagle said. "There's no question about that. It's going to be a loss that will be felt by everyone who lives here."

Kozak said Radigan's unique personality and sense of humor, which have graced the Vermillion City Council meetings for over a decade, will be greatly missed.

"Certainly his unique wit and wisdom was characteristic of Bill Radigan. That little piece of wit and humor that was brought to meetings simply won't be present anymore, and he will be missed," he said. "There will be no doubt about that."

"The city is going to miss him a lot," Clark said. "We're all going to miss him."

"We have some big shoes to fill," Brunick said. "We (the fire department) will have a special meeting tonight (Wednesday) and it will be a big change for all of us not to see Bill's face at that table. I just know I'm going to miss him."

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