Irv Sather passed away on Thursday, May 4. I personally did not know Irv very well so I asked a few of his friends and family members to share their thoughts below.
What I do know about the legacy of Irv, and really his wife Mary as well, she passed away in 2020, is that their impact on the community of New Richmond, a community they very much loved, will be generational. It might also be one many people will not fully appreciate because it is everywhere and it is woven so thoroughly and thoughtfully into the parks, trails and rivers, and the spirit and conscience of The City Beautiful.
But if you live here, you will inevitably walk in it, paddle in it, bargain in it, read or research in it, skateboard and bike in it, and fellowship in it just as they intended.
Irv started out rooted in the land, in agriculture.
Even A. Sather, Irv’s great-grandfather homesteaded the family farm in 1874 near Deer Park. Today it is a registered Century Farm and remains in the family. Irv and Mary maintained a small herd of Angus cattle there for about 30 years.
Irv graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1950 with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture.
He joined the army and married Mary Arnet in Hokah, Minnesota, the same day he received his orders to ship out to Korea.
After his service, Irv joined his father, Ervin H. Sather and together they opened the Blue Ribbon Feed Company providing feed and other products for farm animals and poultry. An old cheese factory north of Blue Ribbon Feed was renovated into New Richmond’s first garden center and, after a very successful run over several decades, sold by Irv to his employee Steve Campbell in 2000.
Irv belonged to the Wisconsin Feed, Seed & Farm Supply Association, the Agriculture Research Council for the University of Wisconsin, and for many years the New Richmond Future Farmers of America association.
Irv and Mary were named Citizens of the Year by the New Richmond Chamber of Commerce in 1994.
Together they were largely responsible for the founding of the New Richmond Heritage Center and Farmstead Flea Market, Sather Nature Center and The Irv and Mary Sather Skylark Skate Park.
Irv also helped found the New Richmond Area Community Foundation, was a member of the New Richmond Park Board and a working member of the New Richmond Pathways Committee.
I like to think Lily, our black lab, appreciates the insight, dedication and devotion Irv and Mary demonstrated in this community everytime she runs with her pack at the dog park. Her joy is undeniable and is living proof that Irv and Mary’s care, compassion and vision bring this community closer together every single day.
A Memorial Service remembering Irvin and Mary Sather will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 28, at Bakken-Young Funeral & Cremation Services, 728 S Knowles Avenue New Richmond, and streamed live here. Visitation will follow the service until 5:30 p.m.
“When I think of Irv Sather the words ‘tireless public servant’ come to my mind. He was deeply connected to the city of New Richmond since a child. He and his wife Mary, a resident since 1954, teamed up early on and became two ‘tireless public servants’ who had distinct and different talents but together they did more for the community than any other couple that I can think of. They both wanted to live their lives ‘to make a difference.’ Irv brought his agricultural knowledge and along with his love and respect for the outdoors, served in many ways to improve the outdoor experience for the town’s residents. His fingerprints, along with Mary’s, can be found throughout town whenever one is walking on a trail, visiting the Heritage Center, or just sitting in a quiet spot taking in the scenery. He was a modest man and wasn’t looking for accolades and he had a deep desire to make New Richmond a better place to live; and that he did. His smile, work ethic and sense of humor will be remembered by many.” - Jim Reppe.
“In 2012, a group advocating for a dog park in New Richmond made a presentation to the Pathway Committee. The city of New Richmond had given them permission to use the site of an old landfill, but little in funding. After the meeting, Irv wanted to check things out and asked me to join him. The 11 acre parcel needed a lot of work. The perimeter fence of rusted wire was down in many places and overgrown with brambles and vines. I was ready to walk away, but Irv loved a challenge and thought ‘we’ could repair and/or replace the fence to allow the project to move forward. Over the next several months, we would meet two or more days during the week to work on the fence line. It was hard work for two old guys, but Irv, powered by Mountain Dew, pushed through fatigue and discomfort. One morning, I said to Irv, ‘We've got two choices. We can call it a day, or we can break for lunch and hit it again this afternoon.’ Irv said there was a ‘third choice.’ I looked puzzled and said, ‘what's the third choice?’ With a smile he said, ‘we keep working!’ And so we did for another three hours, no break. I'll always remember Irv and his ‘third choice.’” - Jim Heebink.
“Almost 50 years ago, the New Richmond Heritage Center began with a farmhouse. This farmhouse, since named the Bell-Tierney Farmhouse, was located where the AmericInn Hotel is located. It was part of a farmstead that included a barn and a granary. The plan by the hotel developers was to burn down the house to make way for the new construction. A group, including Irv and Mary Sather, saved the farmhouse, and moved it to the current location. This was just the beginning. They, along with others, decided to save other buildings and provide a campus of old historic buildings that could be used for education. While many began the process, Irv and Mary continued the project. They were generous with their time and with monetary donations. Mary was the volunteer curator, gardener, cleaner, flea market manager and everything else that needed to be done. Irv was the volunteer director, board member and officer, planner, maintenance person and anything else that came along. They made a team that stayed with the Heritage Center up until their respective passing. Both Mary and Irv believed that people of all ages should learn from the past. They lead many of the tours of adults and schoolchildren over the years. They started many of the events that we still have such as Heritage Days and the Christmas luncheon in the Bell-Tierney Farmhouse. We are thankful that they made the New Richmond Heritage Center a great place to learn and visit. In their honor the pavilion was renamed the ‘Sather Pavilion’ and our largest garden is ‘Mary’s Garden.’ The Heritage Center and the city of New Richmond owe a debt of gratitude to Irv and Mary.” – Paul Mayer and Bev Peirson (Paul says mostly Bev).
“‘It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.’ These words by Harry Truman were lived by Irv Sather. Whether founding the New Richmond Area Community Foundation, planning walking and biking paths with its trail committee, or building the village that is now known as the Heritage Center, Irv deliberately and purposefully took community actions for which he wanted no credit. He worked behind the scenes to ‘get ‘er done’ as effectively and expediently as possible, often circumventing burdensome bureaucratic red tape and always avoiding the spotlight. Meetings at the Bell-Tierney Farmhouse were set up and attended by Irv, garbed in his askew stocking cap and vest, with a rubber-banded notebook and stubby pencil to update his never-ending to-do list. Irv was a doer, a conservator and a story-teller. Irv and Mary Sather together have salvaged precious history of our area, honoring the past and building the future of the community. So, Sather family, please accept the credit that is irrevocably and posthumously yours.” - Marilyn Peplau.
“My memory of dad is his love of storms, which he passed down to me. We would sit on the back porch watching the storms rolling over. The thunder and lightning, the heavy rain and wind, it was exciting being on the porch so exposed to the elements. Dad would have the radio on listening to the storm warnings watching it roll in. It had to get really, really bad before he would make us go into the house.” - Laura Lemunyete.
“Dad enjoyed the outdoor life. Back in the day, dad and I canoed the thundering northern Wisconsin rivers. We conquered the grade 4 Flambeau River rapids that had crushed his friend’s canoe like a tin can years earlier. We marveled as the Brule River and rapids faded and opened up to the vastness of Lake Superior. In addition, we spent many hours driving the gravel roads in the Chequamegon Forest looking for grouse and of course listening to the Packers lose in the days before Brett Favre.” - Craig Sather.
“My uncle, 90 now, is four years younger than my dad. He was in middle school when my dad was in highschool. Arvid laughed a lot about how Irv was out doing all these wild highschool things, getting in trouble a lot. One memory was of the Cozy Nook (owned by Chuck Jerard), a soda bar downtown, the most popular place for highschool kids to sit at. Arvid got a job when he was in junior high school cleaning the windows of the shop a couple times a week. Irv was in high school and he would come in a lot with the ‘cool’ city group of kids (Janet Larson, the Coxes, Tom (tuda) Heffron, etc.) to drink soda and Arvid would be outside cleaning windows looking in. Arvid says he still remembers in his mind's eye, his brother Irv sitting there with his friends laughing and having fun while he was outside working hard. My uncle's stories of my dad in highschool and university were of a carefree, fun loving young man.” – Arvid Sather as relayed by Laura Lemunyete.
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