The 1958 death of Det. Sgt. William H. Jurgens; Pray for police, their families and their friends

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, was a dreary day in Iowa. Cloudy and rainy. That was appropriate. The weather matched the mood of law-abiding Iowans who were filled with shock and sadness after learning that two police officers, one from Des Moines and one from Urbandale, had been shot to death overnight in their squad cars.

The shock and sadness I felt that day reminded me of similar feelings I experienced in the summer of 1958 when a Davenport police detective was shot and killed in his squad car.

I was only 9 at the time, but to this day I remember many of the details. Some research of news accounts has provided more information.

It happened Wednesday, July 16, 1958. Witnesses said Marilyn Sullivan, 27, of Cedar Rapids, an organist at the Fort Armstrong Hotel’s cocktail lounge in Rock Island, had been forced into a car as she left the hotel. Police broadcast word of Sullivan’s abduction shortly after 2 a.m.

Davenport Patrolman Ernest Lester later spotted a car on West Locust Street that answered the description of the one being sought. He gave chase, stopped the motorist for questioning and returned to his squad car to radio for help.

The motorist, Laverne Lewis Zaehringer, 29, Davenport, then got out of his car and walked to the squad car.

As Lester sat in the front seat and reached for the microphone, Zaehringer slammed the door shut on Lester’s left leg and reached through the open car window.
Zaehringer began to choke Lester and, Lester said later, told the officer to “call the others off or I’ll cut you to pieces.”

Zaehringer grappled with the officer, then grabbed Lester’s pistol and fired a shot. But as he fired, the patrolman dropped to the seat, and the bullet struck the car door just above Lester’s head.

In the meantime, Lester had spotted another patrol car a block away and had turned on his siren to pinpoint his location. Lester said he was reaching for a shotgun when he heard two quick shots ring out.

As Detective William H. Jurgens, 47, a 17-year police veteran, drove up to assist Lester, two bullets Zaehringer had fired went through the windshield of Jurgen’s car. Both bullets hit Jurgens in the head, killing him outright.

As Zaehringer attempted to leave, two other patrolmen, Arthur Gatton and Carl Prevatril, arrived and took him to custody. Gatton said Zaehringer told him he didn’t know why he had fired the shots.

Sullivan, who was in the front seat of Zaehringer’s car, was in a state of shock after the ordeal but was otherwise unhurt. She later said she had been forced into Zaehringer’s car at knifepoint.

In October of 1958, District Judge M.L. Sutton sentenced Zaehringer to life imprisonment at hard labor on a charge of first-degree murder and 30 years on a count of assault with intent to commit murder.

July 16, 1958, was a sad day. And Nov. 2, 2016, was a sad day.

But police officers put their lives on the line every day, with no guarantee they’ll come home at night. Please pray for them, their families and their friends.

Copyright 2017 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises, Walcott, Iowa. It appeared as a column in November 2016 in the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 9, 2017 in Uncategorized


Coming soon: Walcott – The Early Years, 1854-1954

fred-tank-milk-delivery-copyMembers of the Walcott Historical Society recently turned the book they’ve been working on over to their printer. “Walcott – The Early Years, 1854-1954” is a spiral-bound pictorial book containing scores of historic Walcott photographs from the city’s first 100 years.

Sure to become a valued collectors’ item, the professionally printed book will sell for $25 and will be available in mid December, just in time for Christmas gift-giving. The book will be available for purchase at both Walcott Trust and Savings Bank and the Burt Clinic of Chiropractic.

It was my pleasure to volunteer my time “photo shopping” the many photographs and editing the many captions provided by Walcott Historical Society members, who worked many hours on the project.

This photo is from the Rudy Bluedorn collection. it shows Fred Tank, who delivered milk to his customers daily in this horse-drawn wagon. The building in the background was the home of the Scott County Tribune, published by Victor Bluedorn.

For more information on “Walcott – The Early Years, 1854-1954,” contact Karen Puck by phone at (563) 284-6438 or by email at

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 5, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tatoian: The good Lord has a plan. He just guides us.

mike-tatoian“The good Lord has a plan. He just guides us,” says Mike Tatoian.

That may best explain how the twists and turns of his life have led this former Bettendorf (Iowa) man to not only become the president of Dover International Speedway in Delaware but also to volunteer his time as part of the solemn Dignified Transfer Program.

A dignified transfer is the process by which the remains of fallen military members are transferred from an aircraft to a waiting vehicle and then to a port mortuary.

“The dignified transfer is not a ceremony; rather, it is a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team of military personnel from the fallen member’s respective service.” according to “A dignified transfer is conducted for every U.S. military member who dies in the theater of operation while in the service of their country.”

“Dover is the only port mortuary for the Department of Defense,” Tatoian says. “So our fallen heroes come here first before they are sent to their final resting place.”

Tatoian says he first witnessed a transfer as a volunteer, and that experience was moving. As he drove home afterwards, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. Though he had not served in the military, he asked himself what he could do to help others who serve.

“My passion for men and women in uniform comes through my volunteer work with the USO, which is located on Dover Air Force Base, which has a role in the dignified transfer of our fallen heroes,” he says.

If you follow sports, the name Mike Tatoian may sound familiar to you.

“Sports was a big part of my life, both in high school and in college,” says Tatoian, who graduated from Bettendorf High School in 1979 and the University of Northern Iowa in 1983 with a degree in public relations and marketing. “In high school, I played football and wrestled. I played baseball and threw the shot and discus. At the University of Northern Iowa, I played football, and I wrestled for a couple years.

After college, Tatoian worked for the Quad-City Angels, the Class A affiliate of the California Angels. His proud father, Art, who served in the Marines during the Korean Conflict, says his son started as a groundskeeper and worked his way up to general manager. That’s the job Tatoian held in the 1990 season when the team won the Midwest League championship.

Later Tatoian’s employer owned and operated the Quad-City Mallards when the team came to town. “I was involved with them for about 10 years and won some championships with them,” he says. “It was great for me personally and professionally to be a part of sports and win some championships in my own hometown.”

Sports-related work later led Tatoian to Fort Wayne, Ind., then to St. Louis.

“When I was in St. Louis, while we were operating a hockey team (in St. Charles, a suburb) and some other teams around the country, I had heard there was an opportunity to run what then was called Gateway International Raceway. I’d never been in NASCAR before but was always intrigued with it.”

The speedway, located in Madison Ill., was owned and operated by the company for whom Tatoian now works.

“I came out to Dover to interview for the Gateway president’s position, and the CEO who hired me, and is still here, said he had an opportunity for me to oversee all the tracks that the company owned at the time, including the track near St. Louis,” Tatoian says.

Tatoian became the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Dover Motorsports Inc. In early 2015 he also assumed the duties of president of Dover International Speedway, which hosts two NASCAR racing weekends each year plus also some large music festivals.
Says Tatoian: “That’s how I got here 10 years ago. It’s been terrific.”

Neither Tatoian’s success in business nor his Dignified Transfer Program volunteer work surprise his friend, Bruce Fosdyck of Bettendorf, who has known him since middle school.

“We played Little League together,” Fosdyck says. “Then I went to high school with him. He was on my football team and my wrestling team all through high school.”

He says Tatoian is very modest, but “he’s always been one to bend over backwards for everybody. He always had a lot of potential growing up. In hindsight, I see that. He’s come a long way. He’s worked hard for it, though.”

It was shortly after moving to Dover that Tatoian says he met the executive director for USO Delaware.

Tatoian says he decided to become a volunteer for USO Delaware, and he also joined its Advisory Council, which he now chairs. USOs around the world are “all about being at the side of our military men and women and their families, providing the comforts of home,” says Tatoian. “Ours is special because we have the additional responsibility of the dignified transfer.

“We don’t do the entire dignified transfer process, but our USO volunteers are a major part of what takes place when we’re bringing the fallen hero home.”

A USO Delaware staff of four works with the air base and other agencies to make sure all of the elements regarding the fallen heroes and their families who are coming to Dover are taken care of.

“It’s tough to think that this particular young man or woman was somewhere in the world protecting all of us,” says Tatoian, who with his wife Tammy has twin sons and a daughter. “It’s just gut-wrenching. This a pretty compelling reason why all of us need to support all the men and women in uniform and their families.”

Tatoian also serves on the Chief of Staff United States Air Force Civic Leader Program. The unpaid advisors provide unfiltered feedback from their communities and invaluable insight on local public opinion on Air Force issues.

“There are 25 of us around the country who have been nominated by their local bases to serve,” he says.

Fosdyck, who spent nearly eight years in the Marines, is proud of his friend, Mike Tatoian. “With me being a service member and him not being a service member, I think that’s neat that he donates his time off to the military. I think that’s pretty awesome.”

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece appeared as a column in the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 19, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , ,

A fish boil like none other

Lakeside seating at the fish boil.

Lakeside seating at the fish boil.

The restaurant entrance.

The restaurant entrance.

The storyteller.

The storyteller.

Fish ready for boiling.

Fish ready for boiling.

The boilover.

The boilover.

I’ve been to several of Door County, Wisconsin’s trademark fish boils, but my favorite one is at Rowleys Bay Resort Restaurant, 1041 County Road ZZ, Ellison Bay.

What I like about this place, which is open from Memorial Day weekend through mid October, is their verbal presentation about the rich history of the area and their huge buffet and salad bar. There is also a dessert bar, which includes Swedish bakery items baked on-site.

Breakfast and dinner are served daily, and there’s a Sunday Brunch. But my wife and I attended what Rowleys says is the only all-you-can-eat fish boil in Door County, which takes place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night and costs $19.99.

The fish boil starts with customers seated lakeside around a large cauldron of water on a wood fire as a master storyteller, an elderly man dressed in pioneer attire and portraying the bay’s namesake, Peter Rowley, relates the history of the area, throwing in some humor along the way.

As the boiling water cooks the fresh whitefish netted from Lake Michigan, some sweet onions and red potatoes, “Mr. Rowley” pauses to educate the audience about the fish boil tradition.

Then, when the time is right and the boiling fish, onions and potatoes are ready to be served, he has everyone move safely back as kerosene is thrown on the fire and the water in the pot boils over, taking the oils of the fish with it.

Everyone moves inside then to enjoy the buffet. For those who don’t care for fish, there’s chicken and many other dishes to satisfy their hunger.

Before and after dinner, we found time to admire Rowleys Bay Resort’s view of Lake Michigan and have a drink or two in the place’s small pub.

Rowleys also offers lodging but we were staying elsewhere. Next time we may give them a try. I’m ready to go back!

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 29, 2016 in Uncategorized


A first-time visit to Sam’s Diner in Davenport was very enjoyable

A first-time visit to Sam’s Diner, 3839 N. Brady St., in Davenport was very enjoyable. The service, food and prices were great.

I ordered a daily special, barbecue ribs, for $9.99. The meal included soup or salad and a side dish. I was pleasantly surprised. I received a full rack of ribs — eight bones surrounded by lots of meat — and the French onion soup I ordered was second to none. My side dish was French fries, which also were good.

There are booths and tables that seat from two people on up. A plus for me was a spoon among the table service. Have you noticed that many restaurants don’t offer that anymore? They expect customers to make do with just a knife and fork. (A soup spoon also came with my soup.)

Sam’s is closed on Monday but open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 6 a.m to 9 p.m. the other days of the week. I was there on a Sunday. Phone (563) 888-1439.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 28, 2016 in Uncategorized


A large honor for an old racing announcer

The 2016 inductees. this appeared in a QCS program and on a banner that hangs at the speedway.

The 2016 inductees. This appeared in a QCS program and on a banner that hangs at the speedway.

Sherry took this photo of me at the podium. I love being a racing announcer but don't particularly care to be in the spotlight myself.

Sherry took this photo of me at the podium. I loved being a racing announcer but don’t particularly care to be in the spotlight myself.

I received a large honor Sunday night, Aug. 21, 2016, at Quad City Speedway in East Moline, Ill. I was one of seven people inducted into the track’s Racing Hall of Fame for contributions made to auto racing. Following is a paragraph from an article that later appeared in the Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus:

2016 Hall of Fame: Jesse “Tuffy” Morehouse (driver, track official), Bob Stogdell (driver), Rick and Randy Wages (drivers), Jake Willert (driver), Phil Roberts (announcer), Randy Swanson (current track promoter, car owner) and Mike Bardoel (driver) were celebrated and inducted into the Quad City Speedway Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class on Sunday. Bardoel, who passed away in 2013, was represented by his daughter, Angie Bardoel.

Following is the acceptance speech I read:

I grew up near Davenport Speedway.
I don’t think a young man in the 1950s and early 1960s could grow up near a speedway and not be drawn by the sound of those racing engines.
My buddies and I didn’t have access to smart phones or computers or color television sets that picked up scores of channels.
For fun, we rode our bicycles, built AMT model cars and, when we were old enough, sat together at the speedway on race nights to cheer for our favorite drivers – our heroes.
Some of my buddies wanted to grow up to become race drivers. You may recognize the name of one of them who succeeded in doing so – Gary Webb.
I, on the other hand, wanted to be a racing announcer.
And thanks to determination and some lucky breaks, I was able to achieve that. I did it for 40 years before deciding to hang up the microphone.
I also was the host of an auto racing news program on radio, an auto racing publicist and a freelance writer of racing articles.
Being involved in racing has been a wonderful experience. I met some wonderful people – drivers, crew members, promoters, officials, sponsors and spectators. That included many of the racing heroes I had cheered for as a youngster.
What I miss most about not being actively involved in racing now is seeing these people on a regular basis.
I am honored and appreciative of being included in the Hall of Fame.
But I would like to dedicate this honor to my wife, Sherry, who has supported me in my racing-related endeavors.
For many years, when our family was young, she stayed home raising our four children while I announced races anywhere and everywhere two and three nights a week.
Thank you, Sherry. And thanks to all of you for supporting the best sport in the world, auto racing.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 23, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,

Cinnamon Ridge Store is one of Scott County’s great treasures

P1010609 P1010610 P1010612P1010615P1010616P1010617 I’d call it one of one of Scott County’s great treasures. It is Cinnamon Ridge Store, located north of Donahue at 10600 275th Ave. It’s across 275th Avenue from the lane leading to Cinnamon Ridge Farms (, another Scott County treasure.

Cinnamon Ridge Farms (Photos above were taken by Sherry Roberts) is a huge, state-of-the art farm owned and operated by the Joan and John Maxwell family. They milk Jersey dairy cows with robots and make cheese and cheese curds from the milk produced on the farm. They also raise beef cattle, pigs, goats and chickens, and they produce corn, soybeans and winter wheat.

In addition to farming activities, Cinnamon Ridge, which also has a Facebook page, is available for tours, meetings and parties. The tours are by reservation only and booked through their website.

As impressive as all of that is, my favorite part of the entire operation is that little store on 275th Avenue.

The rustic store of roughly 12-by-20 feet with a front porch and an American flag waving in the summer breeze, is easily recognized. It sits next to a giant carved yellow corncob.

The knotty pine-paneled interior gives the store the feel of a cabin in the woods.

Air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter, Cinnamon Ridge Store, which has been in operation for six years, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Joan.

For sale there are firewood, jellies and jams, cold drinks, baked goods, beef, pork, eggs, cheese and soap made from milk.

“We also have cutting boards made by John’s brother from native wood,” said Joan.

My wife, our granddaughter Marin and I visited Cinnamon Ridge Store recently and left with some frozen sirloin steaks, apple streusel bread, kalamata olive cheddar cheese, brown eggs, soap and beef jerky, all of which came from the farm.

What’s really amazing is, the store is run on the honor system. The price is clearly marked on each item and there’s a calculator on which to total your purchases. You then put your money through a slot on the back wall, and it drops into a small locked room.

Joan said most people are good about paying for their purchases. In fact, “many times they pay more than what their bill is.”

She said, “We have many people who watch our store. The community really embraces the store.”

A while back some farm boys were out during the early morning hours and saw someone in the store, Joan said, and “decided they’d better check it out because they weren’t so sure about it.”

The young men later told Joan the customers “were OK.”

The Maxwells have received phone calls or texts on rare occasions from people who have seen a customer who didn’t pay.

Joan Maxwell said Cinnamon Ridge Store is “not a huge moneymaker, but it is way for us to market our beef. We get more for the beef than we would if we sold it to a packer.”

Customers appreciate this Scott County treasure. A whiteboard on the back wall is full of positive messages from past patrons.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 30, 2016 in Uncategorized