Bauman remembered by community members
Friends of the late Jeffrey Bauman knew him as somebody who was filled with a wealth of knowledge and the will to always lend a helping hand.
And just as willing as he was to help a friend out, he was just as quick to tell somebody he cared about if he thought he or she was out of line.
“Jeff was really the type of guy that always sought out people for who they really were, not who they thought they ought to be,” said Richard Hoppe, nearly a lifelong friend of Bauman. “If you were somebody who was trying to be something you weren’t, he wasn’t into that at all … But he had a great sense of humor, was loyal to his friends and wasn’t scared to chew them (friends) out a little bit to straighten them out.”
This week, the Richland and greater Schuyler communities continue mourning Bauman, who was in the midst of his term after taking over the District 1 Colfax County Commissioners seat that encompasses a portion of Schuyler, Leigh and Richland when he unexpectedly passed away. On Tuesday, Nov. 13, Bauman was found deceased in the 300 block of Tilden Street in Richland, his hometown. Denise Kracl, Colfax County attorney and coroner, said that foul play isn’t suspected, though she didn’t comment on the cause of death as it remains under investigation as of this report.
Prior to his passing, Bauman on Nov. 2 had been formally charged with eight criminal misdemeanor offenses relating to alleged violations regarding road work completed along Country Roads C and 4. Elizabeth Lay, Platte County deputy attorney, was serving as special prosecutor on the case so that there would be no conflict of interest with Kracl handing it because of Bauman’s role within county government.
“He was elected to the position of county commissioner and that was something that was very important to him,” Richard’s wife, Carmen Hoppe, said of Bauman. “And as you can tell, I think he had some unfortunate depression and things like that at the time. And when they came and charged him with those charges, he felt really bad I’m sure.”
Richard Hoppe added though every I may not have been dotted and every T may not have been crossed in regard to the roads projects, Bauman’s heart was in the right place.
“What he did was sit on a county board and fix a county road that needed to be fixed,” he said. “He had a goal of getting (County) Road C done with … And it might not have been the perfect letter of the law, but nothing went in his pockets and what he did was try to better the county.”
During a previous interview with the Sun, Commissioner Jerry Heard said that the County Road C project was carried out without the knowledge of two commissioners, including himself, though at the time he didn’t specifically say who else didn’t know.
Bauman in a later interview with the Sun said that he commissioned the project because the road needed immediate repairs due to safety concerns and that he didn’t consider the overall cost exceeding the limits on the County Purchasing Act. When he realized the infringement issue, Bauman said he didn’t think it made sense to abruptly stop the project.
Colfax County Clerk Rita M. Mundil said as part of their roles, she, Kracl and Colfax County Treasurer Janis Kasik will be responsible for finding someone to finish Bauman’s term.
In the wake of receiving the tragic news, community members spent some time talking with the Sun about the loss of a prominent figure in the community.
Josette Kluck, of Richland, remembered how much Bauman loved animals. It was common, she said, for him to be surrounded by quite the group of felines and canines. He always had at least a few black labs and numerous cats. One of Bauman’s favorites, she said, was a dog he once had named Louie.
Louie was so important to Bauman that the dog had his own credit card, Kluck said.
“He would charge things on Louie’s credit card and then, of course, he would pay that off,” she said, with a laugh. “That’s how famous Louie was. He could do about everything but vote.”
Bauman, she said, was also an avid gardener who grew some of the best tomatoes anybody in the Richland community ever saw.
Richard Hoppe became friends with Bauman in fifth grade, and that relationship continued through high school all the way up to the altar when he served as the best man in Richard and Carmen’s wedding 32 years ago.
He was a friend who never failed to come through when he was needed most, Richard said. From helping people with all of their mechanical needs – he could fix darn near anything – to taking a portion of the Hoppe family into his home for several days during a severe ice storm years ago.
Richard said he he is still struggling with Bauman’s passing. The week before his death, Bauman was on his land grating a stretch of road. It was really business as usual, Richard noted.
“Just not having my friend anymore,” he said of what’s most difficult, fighting through tears. “We’ve done just about everything together through the years, and Jeff had such a wide array of friends – doctors, attorneys, roads people … And if anyone ever had a problem, mechanical or really anything, he was always on the call list because he could literally fix about anything …
“He will be missed by many, many people in this community a whole lot.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of the Columbus Telegram. Managing Editor Matt Lindberg contributed to this article. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.