More to ‘Corn Man’ than many people realized


This country road in the middle of a beautiful field of sweet corn would be a familiar scene for our friend, William D. Eidelbach, or “The Corn Man,” as he was affectionately referred to by so many people who purchased produce from him for years on end at the corner of Fillmore and St. Paul streets in downtown Preston. He farmed for several years raising all kinds of vegetables and selling them all over southeastern Minnesota from 1948 through the summer of 2018 when he developed health problems.
By : 
DIANNE RUUD

When we reach the end of the year and a new one lies before us, it is natural to reflect on many events of the past year.

These reflections may include a myriad of things: milestones reached in our own life and in the lives of family members and friends, as well as important events that occurred around the world.

Sadly, some of us have somber memories too, especially if we lost a loved one during the past year.

On that note, we must take time to pay homage to a most deserving soul, a “part-time, summer citizen of Preston,” is how I would describe this gentleman.

Without many of us even being aware of his passing, the kind, soft-spoken gentleman who faithfully sold produce at the corner of Fillmore and St. Anthony Streets in downtown Preston for over several decades, William D. Eidelbach, quietly passed away on Nov. 21, surrounded by his loving family.

F & M Community Bank is located on that same corner. It’s a very busy intersection in Preston. If you happened to visit our town in the summer months, you quickly became very aware of Bill’s small enterprise that took up residence there decades ago!

When summer finally arrived a large, hand-made sign appeared, and it would be placed on that corner and in big, bold, red letters, it spelled out, “SWEET CORN.”

The sign didn’t need to say anything more! Those two words said it all and people were ready to buy whatever Bill or “The Corn Man” (as he was affectionately known by so many) had for sale!

I’ve worked at the bank for many years, and one of the things that my co-workers and I noticed each year was as summer grew closer, the frequency of phone calls we received steadily increased, as people realized that sweet corn would soon be ready to enjoy for another year!

“Can you tell me, has the ‘Corn Man,’ arrived yet out in front of the bank?,” a caller would ask. Or another favorite was, “Is the red Eidelbach Produce truck parked on the corner yet?” And of course there were the very serious callers who asked for Bill’s schedule, “What days of the week does Eidelbach’s Produce sell garden produce and what time does he arrive, please?”

Yes, we are, “a full-service-bank,” ha!

But we noticed things began to change last summer. June came and went and there was no sighting of that familiar, old, red pickup, with the kindly gentleman sitting on the end gate waiting for his first customer of the day after he placed that big handmade, “Sweet Corn” sign in place. We were all wondering the same thing, “Where is Bill?”

I know that some of Bill’s customers called the city offices of various towns where Eidelbach Produce was sold, but each effort came up short. Nobody seemed to have any answers.

It wasn’t until late in the year that I received a call from a friend of Bill’s telling me that he had been very ill for several months and that he had passed away.

Sad, unexpected news such as this stops a person in their tracks! Sometimes in life, it becomes very easy to take for granted things that we think will be, “never-ending.” That is silly human nature, because it doesn’t work that way at all, as we all find out, sooner or later!

Bill Eidelbach was so much more than “that kindly gentleman,” who faithfully sold exceptional garden produce on the corner of Fillmore and St. Anthony Streets for decades!

He was kind, pleasant, interesting, and extremely knowledgeable about everything he raised and about life, in general.

The following paragraphs were shared by one of Bill’s beloved nieces:

“Bill was a frugal man using older pickups and farm equipment and was able to fix them all himself. He plowed his long drive and building site without a cab on his tractor on the coldest of winter days up until this last winter.

“Bill was a man of strong faith. He always kept the Sabbath commandment and stopped his work at sunset on Friday, even if it meant a loss of business income. He always stated the rewards he received by doing this far outweighed his losses. Bill donated many, many hours of work to maintain and care for the Winona Seventh Day Adventist Church and school.

“Bill’s daily routine always included time spent reading and study of the Bible.”

All you had to do is visit with Bill one time, and you just knew, you had found a good friend, and that he was a very nice person!

We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Bill’s family, may he rest in peace.

There is so much more to share with all of you about William D. Eidelbach, so please, stay tuned.