One month ago, Zearing lost a leader.
Even though she hadn’t been mayor of the northeast Story County town for awhile, Luci Reed had, at one time, served as the town’s mayor, and had, for a lifetime, cared about the community where she was born and raised.
“She was the type of person,” said her son Rick, of Zearing, “that if she was walking down the sidewalk to get the mail, she might pull some weeds on the other side of the street, too.” His sister, Roxanne Mehlisch, nods in agreement.
Roxanne and Rick are the children of Luci and Duane Reed. Duane, also a Zearing native, preceded his wife in death. He passed away in May of 2016.
Zearing’s former mayor, Luci, had served the town in that role for about 17 years, her children say. She had first been on the City Council, and she became mayor when she stepped in to complete the unfinished term of Kent Stensland. After that, she ran for election eight times and was always victorious.
It isn’t that she didn’t face opposition. There was one year that she faced pretty intense opposition. “We did yard signs and T-shirts…all of it,” said Roxanne about that race. Rick said she still won handily, though.
Longtime family friend, Lynn Neuendorf, said Reed had people’s support in Zearing because of her character. “She had character,” he said, noting that Luci was like a mother to him. “She stood up for everything that was right. She knew no enemies…just an all-around good person.”
Rick and Roxanne say Luci was the daughter of Everett and Laureen Wickham, a family that came to the Zearing area back in 1854. They built their home about a mile north and two miles east of the town, where Rick has lived since 1975. It’s the place where Luci grew up. She moved away with Duane for a while when he was in the Marine Corps, then the couple came back to Zearing, living in town.
Luci worked at the telephone office for a short time, the kids remember. Roxanne said she found a little telephone company booklet from the early ’60s with her mother’s picture in it. But most of her life was spent working with her husband in the family livestock-buying business. The kids remember their mother, quite often, being behind the wheel of a big truck.
When she wasn’t working, Luci was busy with all kinds of service groups and activities, including things at her church — Bethel United Methodist, a church her family was instrumental in starting. She even became involved with the town’s first responders, taking classes to become certified. “She always wanted to help people and felt that was part of the community, and she wanted to contribute to that,” Rick said about the first responders.
“She just loved this town and worked so hard for this town,” Rick said.
One of her biggest fights in town was to get a medical clinic in Zearing. She and her husband were both very supportive of that and worked on this mission. And after Zearing got the clinic, she worked to help get them into a newer, bigger building. If she were alive today, her kids believe she’d tell you it’s her biggest accomplishment as a community leader and something she was most proud of.
Luci also was active in supporting a Zearing Yard of the Month recognition. She loved anything to do with town beautification and promotion, her kids say. She also was a huge advocate of the town’s library. Her children say she put a lot of miles on her car as mayor, traveling to meetings in other towns and with the county to fight for any funding she could get to help the Zearing community.
In addition to the support for her community and its people, Luci was supportive and active with her family, which includes six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. “She was really involved with the grandkids and going to all their school activities and sports,” Roxanne said.
Over the last several years of her life, Luci struggled with a syndrome called progressive supranuclear palsy. “She went from being super active to having this,” Rick said. She spent her nearly her last three years in the local care center.
Her kids hope that in remembering her, people will think of her not only as a former mayor, but as a person who cared very much for her town and taking care of the people living in it.
“I think she made the town better, or sure worked hard trying,” Rick said.