EDDIE SIEBLER REMEMBERED AS HARD WORKING, HUMOROUS MAN
written by Marvin Case
Ed Siebler served his family, friends, community and country with his talent and hard work, including selfless and tireless effort, almost until the day he died - Jan. 8, 2001.
Referred to as "Eddie" by friends and family, Siebler served as mayor of La Center and as a member of the La Center city council, chief of Fire District 14, and as a city employee in the public works department.
Siebler retained his sense of humor throughout his life, enjoying and repeating jokes and engaging in humorous activities. He never wanted to retire.
Born in Nebraska
Edward Gilbert Siebler was born Sept. 2, 1922 in Newman Grove, Nebraska, to Gilbert and Olive Siebler. The family moved to Inglewood, California about 1937.
Siebler endured a difficult childhood from what he described as an alcoholic father. At age 19, Siebler said he had had enough, and he and his brother, Jerome, left home and joined the Navy.
Eddie Siebler, an aviation machinist's mate, was shot down on a routine flight and floated on a life raft for two days. He ended up on an island where he ate coconuts until a Navy patrol plane picked him up days later.
Siebler survived the Pearl Harbor attack and was a continuing member of the Pearl Harbor Survivor Association.
In June 1942, Siebler participated in the Battle of Midway, and then was sent on to Guadalcanal in Oct. 1942, and later to the Aluetian Island chain.
Siebler was also a member of the Black Cats, a group of Navy planes that harassed Japanese positions for six months by flying only at night and dropping bombs, flares, grenades, and even empty beer bottles which whined weirdly as they hurtled through the sky.
Jerome Siebler was killed in action about a year after enlisting. He received the Purple Heart which Ed Siebler retained years later.
Eddie Siebler was discharged from the Navy in March 1947, having earned medals for service in American Defense, Asiatic-Pacific, American Theater, Victory Medal and Good Conduct.
Navy comrades nicknamed Siebler "Squirly," and remembered him for his "nickel jokes." His service records also records that Siebler was the best rat catcher in the squadron. "All he needs is an ammunition box and some string."
Six months after his discharge from the Navy, Siebler married Flora Simmons Woolheater and adopted her son, Edward, 5. The couple met while Flora was a cook and Eddie a bartender in a California establishment.
While in California, the Sieblers lived next door to Pat and Jane Paulsen. Pat Paulsen was a comedian on the Smothers Brothers show and other television programs. Paulsen often claimed to be running for President. The Sieblers and Paulsens corresponded for years.
Siebler worked as a die caster in Hawthorne and Culver City, CA, and then was employed with Blue Rock Concrete in Orange County.
In 1967, the Siebler family moved to La Center. Siebler went to work for Blue Rock Concrete in Hazel Dell, retiring in 1985. Flora's cousin, Bob Pye, lived with the couple for 29 years, both in California and in La Center, and considered Eddie a brother.
Siebler was elected to the La Center city council in 1969, and then was elected mayor in 1972, serving until 1976. He returned to the city council 1982-85, then was again elected mayor, serving 1986-89. He was reelected as mayor, serving until 1991.
Siebler then started work for the city as assistant to public works manager Travis Martin. When Martin left city employment in Nov. 1992, Siebler took over as head of public works. He retired in 1997.
Martin remembered how hard Siebler worked. "It was all I could do to keep him out of a ditch," said Martin, recalling how the two men worked to repair water leaks. "He had to be busy all the time."
Siebler was also a volunteer with Fire District 14 and had served as chief.
Siebler enjoyed tinkering in his 5-car garage, and regularly hauled home scrap materials from which he made various items. He once built an outhouse for a friend who put the cedar structure in her living room.
Siebler helped friends at all hours of the day and night, sometimes answering the phone at 6 a.m. and helping people with their needs.
Family members say Siebler always answered the phone with a cheery "Howdy," and hung up with a consistent "Will do."
Flora died in 1982.
Sharell Rahoi came to La Center in 1987 and, looking for a place to stay, rented the back rooms of Siebler' s home. She never left and the couple was married in 1991.
Sharell said the couple always had projects they were working on such as landscaping work. The couple bred parrots for seven years. Eddie built an aviary for the project. The Siebler residence was often home to 50 baby parrots at a time. In fact, Siebler loved babies of all kinds, animal and human, and doted over them.
Siebler was known for his hats--always wearing a Greek-style fisherman's style hat. He had hats of many colors.
Siebler was an early riser, usually up by 5:30-6 a.m. He would tiptoe around the house to avoid waking others. "He had a distinctive footstep," recalled step-daughter Lynne Rahoi.
Siebler collected miniature electric trains. He loved candy of all kinds and ate constantly. Sharell kept jars of jelly beans and dinner mints on hand. As he neared death, Siebler asked for Walnettos.
But he disliked most vegetables, often concealing vegetables under bread on his dinner plate and announcing that he was finished. Family members would discover the hidden vegetables later. He especially disliked spinach. But Siebler loved bread, especially two-day old bread dunked in coffee. And he had a preference for corn meal mush. Siebler grew a garden for the few vegetables he liked and for his family.
Siebler grew old with his dog, Buddy, now13. Buddy would follow Siebler to the garage and lie there while Siebler worked. The cocker/black lab mix never left home but appeared in the parking lot of the La Center Evangelical Free Church during Siebler's Jan. 13 memorial services.
In earlier years, Buddy would find a rock and place it in the path of Siebler's rototiller, forcing Siebler to stop and toss the rock aside. Minutes later, Buddy would place the rock in the next row.
Siebler took to reading the obituaries in newspapers, taking special note of how long people lived after retirement. "You retire, you die," Siebler had said, calculating the life expectancy of a retired person at two years. Sharell recalls Siebler saying that he wanted to die with a shovel in his hand, meaning he was on the job - working.
Although not a regular church attendee, Siebler believed in God. He was baptized in 1983 at age 60. Siebler was not large in stature at 5-ft. 7-in. tall and about 125 pounds. But he was a big man in the eyes of friends, family members and his community. He declined treatment when diagnosed with lung cancer on Nov. 7, 2000 and remained active until weakening the last few days of his life.
Survivors include widow Sharell Rahoi-Siebler, at home, step-daughters Leanna Freeman of Nevada and Lynne Rahoi of Vancouver, step-son Leon Campagna of Oregon, one half-brother and three half-sisters, four grandchildren and two great-granddaughters. His ashes will be placed with a marker in the La Center Cemetery.