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Cornelius J. TerMaat, 80

Cornelius John "Connie" TerMaat, 80, of River Falls, died on Wednesday, June 10, 2009.

Connie was born in Arpin, to Henry and Bertha TerMaat, but grew up in Sheboygan, with sisters, Hattie, Margaret and Marion.

There he developed an abiding love of Lake Michigan lighthouses and tugboats and an interest in the history of the Dutch American community in Wisconsin.

Connie taught English at UW-River Falls from 1965 to 1989 including a stint as department chair. A voracious reader, he especially loved Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, John Updike, Peter DeVries, Patrick O'Brian, detective fiction, and Winnie-the-Pooh. Friends and family looked forward each year to his witty Christmas letters.

An avid vegetable gardener (at one time maintaining seven compost piles), he enjoyed puttering around with tools and scrap wood and converting his crops into wine. He was unfailingly loyal to the daily crossword, cookies, ice cream and the Chicago Cubs. He spent as much time as possible at the family cabin on Deer Lake in Burnett County fishing for crappies and watching for herons and loons.

As a young man, he won prizes for his poetry and continued to write both comic verse and meditations on nature. From his 1950 poem "Prayer:"

"We who must so soon depart the lake,

We ask for lights to lead us home.

To guide us to that port where seagulls cry

And circling, sing not loneliness, but love."

Connie is survived by his wife of 57 years, Grace TerMaat of River Falls, children: Chris (Nancy) of Naperville, IL, Martha of River Falls and Peter (Joan) of North Oaks, Minn., and sister Margaret Eggebeen of Sheboygan.

The accompanying photo was a favorite of his grandchildren: Sara, John, Eric, Jason, Morgan, Mary and Max.

Reading was Connie's passion. Contributions in his honor may be made to the River Falls Public Library. Send your thoughts to or post them to

Arrangements were with Bakken-Young Funeral & Cremation Services of River Falls