Man who spearheaded humanitarian drive diesWhether it was local utility customers, engineering products or the world’s starving kids, Jim Dieck went after “value.”
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
Whether it was local utility customers, engineering products or the world’s starving kids, Jim Dieck went after “value.”
Dieck, 63, chief engineer at Foley United in River Falls, died at his home Saturday. He battled cancer for several years, even had it go in remission before it returned to claim his life.
Dieck served on the River Falls Utility Commission since 1998, the last seven years at as its president.
“Jim’s main concern with budget was always what was best for the rate payers and how it would affect them,” said Carl Gaulke, general manager of the River Falls Municipal Utilities. “He wasn’t an extremist, but he was an advocate of conservative spending.
“Jim’s engineering background helped him to ask good questions. He was knowledgeable about utility issues and put in a lot of time on the Commission.”
Dieck was also active on various Utility Commission subcommittees, including those related to development, and boundary and growth issues for the city and surrounding areas.
Dieck and his wife Penny moved to River Falls in 1992, the year Foley United relocated here from northeast Minneapolis. Foley United is a maker of sharpening machinery, especially for the golf and turf industry.
Dieck was hired in 1990 to be Foley’s chief product engineer.
His boss, Foley United President Jim Letourneau, said Dieck was dedicated and thorough about his job.
“It was Jim’s engineering leadership that accomplished the complete redesign and development of two product lines of sharpening equipment used on golf course for sharpening reel-type lawnmowers,” Letourneau said. “Being that Jim’s work was so important to him, unless he was at the Mayo Clinic or in the hospital, he was here every day, regardless of how he was feeling. Not only would he be at work, but he would display his typical positive attitude. We enjoyed his positive outlook on life and willingness to help whenever he could.”
Even though he was an engineer, Letourneau added that Dieck was all about value.
“He was a very frugal man, and that extended to his work and his concern from our customers,” Letourneau said. “From engineering designs to negotiating with vendors, he was always after the best value for the least money.”
But Dieck may be best remembered for his role in bringing Feed My Starving Children to River Falls. Communities can join the nonprofit Minnesota-based organization by buying and packing ingredients that are then sent around the world.
The 390-gram meal packs, created by food scientists, are made up of rice, textured soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, vitamins, minerals and more. Last year when the program first came to River Falls, each packaged meal cost just 15 cents.
“The cause is the world problem of child starvation and what we can do to put a big dent in it,” Dieck said in August 2007. “What’s compelling about this is that we’re packaging food — not raising money that will be sent somewhere and maybe instead end up in the hands of a governor or a mayor in Nicaragua.
“Administrative costs are minimal. To me, this program accomplished what it says it’ll do. That’s value. That’s extreme efficiency. That’s why I support it.”
Feed My Starving Children has been held twice in River Falls. Tens of thousands of dollars are donated to buy the ingredients.
Hundreds of volunteers work assembly-line fashion to package and box meals that are then placed on pallets for shipping. Volunteer teams work in various shifts at tables spread out at the St. Bridget Parish School gymnasium.
Brenda Derks, a key organizer with Dieck, said that in 2007 over 700 Feed My Starving Children volunteers packaged 156,000 meals, enough to feed 5,220 kids for a month; $24,500 was raised locally to buy the ingredients.
In 2008, the effort grew: More than 1,100 volunteers packaged 263,763 meals, enough to feed 8,664 kids for a month; $42,500 was raised.
“I really enjoyed working with Jim on the Feed My Starving Children project,” Derks said. “His dedication to it was infectious. You could not help but want to help out, however you were able.
“I truly hope we can continue to bring the event back to honor his hard work. We will think of him every meal we package in the future.”
The Rev. Jerry Harris of St. Bridget Catholic Church said Dieck lived with passion for his family, faith and for others.
“Jim was very instrumental in bringing Feed My Starving Children to our community,” Harris said. “He believed in it and thought it would be a perfect fit here, and it has. The initial idea as grown and gotten much support. What he did was bring the issue of world hunger and the necessity to care for each other to the local level.”
Dieck’s funeral is 11 a.m. this Saturday at St. Bridget Church. Visitation at the church begins one hour earlier at 10 a.m.
Please read Dieck’s obituary on page C6 of this week’s Journal.