Robert William Ziegler
May 12, 1952 to
Nov. 6, 2011
Robert Ziegler was born on May 12, 1952 on the wedding anniversary of his parents Ellwood and Bonnie Ziegler. Red-headed, left-handed and ornery, Rob entered school in 1957 and quickly began what would become a life-long habit of challenging teachers. Years later, he went on to earn his Bachelor in Education from Concordia University in Seward, NE, his Master of Arts from the University of Northern Colorado and his Doctorate in Education from the University of Nebraska.
After college, Rob met his soon-to-be wife, Susan Fisher of Sidney, NE while student teaching in Omaha. The couple married on December 28, 1974 and moved to the Rosebud Indian Reservation where they taught for 3 years. The experience shaped Rob and he continued to work in education for the next 37 years. Known as a fierce advocate for kids, Rob touched the lives of countless families through his work at University Hills Lutheran School in Denver, CO, his service to underprivileged youth at Roosevelt Elementary in Scottsbluff, NE and his work as the superintendent of schools in Madison, NE. He was honored with the Milken Award in Education in 1998. He began creation of the Educator's Virtual Mentor in 2004 alongside his brother and close friend Woody Ziegler and worked until just months before his death to help teachers improve instruction.
During his 59 years, Rob celebrated the births of 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren. He enjoyed his 10 nieces and nephews and delighted in spending time with his son-in-law's family in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
Rob is preceded in death by his parents Ellwood Ziegler and Bonnie (Shields) Ziegler of Denver, CO. He is survived by his siblings and their spouses Woody and Amy Ziegler of York, NE; Karen Anderson of Phoenix, AZ; Tim and Margaret Ziegler of Denver, CO; Tina and Michael Schettler of Denver, CO; mother-in-law Lucile Fisher of Sidney, NE; daughter Kelly Varguez, son-in-law Ricardo and grandchildren Eli and Jade of Omaha; daughter Jessie Ziegler and special friend Jay Kaffai of San Diego, CA; and the love of his life, wife Susan Ziegler of Omaha.
Memorials may be sent to Haiti Lutheran Mission Society USA at P.O. Box 22544 Lincoln, NE 68542; St. Paul Lutheran Church and School at 5020 Grand Ave Omaha, NE 68104; or donor's choice.
These are the closing remarks following the funeral service about Rob the Christian:
A short while ago Rob asked if I would speak at his funeral not about Rob the man but Rob the Christian and husband who was charged to share the Lord. We'd talk each day, multiple times a day and sometimes for hours, he asked again. I consented because he was my partner, my friend, and my brother and he and Larry Vogel wrote this.
Each of us is on an earthly journey birth to death many years or few. Regardless of the length we seem to want the person that died to have been around a little longer.
On the journey God has the same goal for all of us, He wants us to be saved and join Him in Heaven. He put his plan into motion six thousand years ago and about 2,000 years ago He had His Son killed and raised him from the dead so we could be saved and spend eternity with Him. We all start out as sinners oppositional to God. Sinners that reject the forgiveness Christ provided for us. Baptism and the work of the Holy Spirit using the words in the Bible bring us to faith thus opening the door to forgiveness and undeserved Grace.
Rob's journey was no exception. Even as a five and six year old Rob was stubborn and oppositional. He was the one at our dinning room table sitting and looking at a plate with 15 peas while the rest of the kids were gone and playing in the back yard. On the outside people saw Rob as the life of the party, those of us that really knew him knew that inside Rob was different. He wrote "I had a fairly dismal opinion of himself through high school and college life until I met my wife Susie"
During Rob's journey God provided an example of faith, love and life. A living message of what life can be like by living with Christ in our heart and soul. He did this in the person of his wife, Susie. Living on the Rosebud Indian Reservation isolated from almost everyone Rob grew to understand love for his wife. Last week Rob told me that the Rosebud helped make their marriage. Had he move back home to Denver, he'd have fallen into his old ways and old haunts with his old friends. For us, our pet sins, our rejection of God by continuing in our old path keeps us doing what we always do. Rather we need to develop an understanding of our relationship with the Lord and live on a new path. Susie, you and Rob took time to isolate and shut out the distractions of the world by daily reading your Bibles. You grew in the word. Rob wrote, "I had always lived with the notion that I married up, way up and feared that the way I acted at times would drive you away from me in my life." Through a marriage encounter weekend it became clear to me what true unconditional love meant. He understood you would never leave him. He said, "I also came to the realization that God already knew I was a screw up and he loved me anyway. In fact God loved me the entire time I'd been demeaning and unfaithful to God. These realizations that truly came to me in the 80's changed my life forever and the reason is because the Lord provided a person who could truly reflect God's full love to me. Susie, you are one of God's saints. Rob said he understood that all of this love comes from God through His son and through the Holy Spirit. He stated, "Our life has been wonderful for the last 30 some years, beyond wonderful. There have been very difficult times in our lives but we never doubted our love for each other or God's love for us both." Last week as he held Susie's hand, Amy and I listened to Rob and Susie share they has been truly blessed here on earth with all they needed.
In early August Rob e-mailed Rev. Larry Vogel, a fellow Rosebud teacher, turned pastor. Rob wrote, "The cancer is spreading and growing at a fairly slow rate. The Doctors, as of July, are positive that that I have less than two years to live on the earth. However, as we've lived through this horrid summer I think the time may be much shorter. The heat increases the pain and drains the energy in my body much like turning on the hose and letting the water just run down the street. So, as you can imagine I've had a few minutes sittin' around to think about the future."
Susie, a part of Rob's journey was asking what will life be like in heaven. He had a dilemma; he struggled to believe that heaven could be better than his life without you. He wrote, "How can it be better than life is today. And this does frighten me a little. I know that time may be skewed as our souls are in heaven. I know Susie will be all right and that the Lord will care for her differently than I understand. I just don't know for me how heaven can be as beautiful as our life together has been. I know that I should focus on the Lord and I know that it will be the greatest day when I walk with our Lord face to face. It has truly proven out in our lives that we do love each other best when we love Him most."
His friend, Pastor Vogel, provided Rob with thoughts for consideration: He wrote, God has richly blessed you in such a way that you cannot imagine a greater good or happiness than you have with Susie. Think of that for a moment and realize what sheer grace it indicates. In a world with utter misery in it (remember the Reservation
) in which every honest person comes to see how real his sin is, God is also able to work in His beloved something that is nearly like Eden before the Fall. He does it, ironically, not so much in spite of our sin, but because of it. Because of the misery of sin, we get to see a greater goodness than Eden it's the utterly undeserved, gracious forgiveness of God in Christ. More beautiful than anything in Eden is the crucified Lord who is the very image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). So John does not say, "by the beauty of this world we know God's love," even though we do know that love in so many ways, including especially the love of the dear people he gives us. Rather, John says, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us" (1Jn 3:16).
St. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6 "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" Pastor Vogel continued, God has begun something in us here and now. It is rich and wonderful, and the best part is that it is gracious. Yet, it is only a beginning. Consider it simply: what lies ahead is greater and better than anything you have had. That is true for you and for Susie and for all who are in Christ. Even if you do not understand anything more now, that will not prevent its fulfillment, because God began this and He will see it to completion.
Always flee to the confidence of repentant faith in Christ! In Him we have a simple sure promise that Heaven will be a place without any sorrow "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).
Pastor Vogel concludes: The focus is the Lord. That we are together with all who are in Christ is a great gift, but the greatest good is that we are with the Lord. Think of it in terms of a great party where we are all rejoicing, but the Life of the Party, literally, is the Lord. He's the source of everyone's joy and love. We all rejoice together and are full of love entirely because of His infectious goodness. Every heart rejoices in Him.
Rob went to sleep and awoke at the party with the Lord and all the saints that have gone before him. Rob's desired message to you is place your faith in the forgiveness of Christ so you can join him at the party.
I close with Rob's words, "May God be with you until we meet sometime soon."
PS Always remember that you were gifted by the Lord to share His word and His love and you touch people with that gift daily. Blessings!