This is a tough one to write. Not only because of the magnitude of a young man’s death, but also because of how this tragedy has affected me personally. I didn’t know Terry Dieterman, but after his death I am learning about this father and husband from Falmouth, a small mid-Michigan community — and admiring how much he meant to the many people in his life and to the many who didn’t know him, yet are willing to help.

Terry was 32 years old when his life tragically ended on April 24 at a worksite where he was installing dairy equipment. He left behind his wife Sandi, sons Isaac and Andrew, and daughter Rebecca. Sandi is pregnant with the couple’s fourth child, due in late June. The children are all under the age of nine.

Being the father of two young children, I am always saddened when I learn that a young child has lost a parent. I can’t imagine my children growing up without me, and I pray that they never have to — until I die at a ripe old age. What makes the Dieterman story even more tragic is the unborn child who will never know his or her father.

Yet despite the grief and sad reflection, this is also a story of hope.

Thanks to a close friend, Steve Ebels, the Dieterman family has been given a generous gift from members of the hvacr and plumbing trades. Ebels, who runs a heating and cooling service company in the Falmouth area, recently posted a call for help on “The Wall,” a website message board at

Ebels told fellow members of the trade about the family’s need to pay off a new home mortgage, which Terry had taken out in order to build an addition for his growing family. Ebels didn’t ask for help with materials to complete the remodeling work, but he got that help anyway. And he got offers to help with the installation work. He also got offers of money, which flowed freely through The Wall.

Dan Holohan, founder and owner of, opened up his heart to the cause, offering to auction off some of his collection of rare plumbing-related textbooks. All proceeds from the auction would be donated to the Dieterman family. Holohan asked the bidding to begin at $100. Along the way, Holohan kept adding items to the list, encouraging more bidders. By the time the auction ended, the final figure had reached $1,000.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

The winning bidder, Joe Waskiewicz Jr. of JV Mechanical Contractors Inc., Webster, MA, opted to send a $1,000 check to the Dieterman’s church (address below). He asked another bidder,, to donate its bid of $750 to the fund and auction off the books during its live webcast May 29 on Proceeds from that auction will go directly to the Dieterman fund. Talk about generosity.

Big Hearts

Amidst heartbreak comes the spirit of giving. People in our trades opened up their wallets and purses to help the young family. One bidder at the auction said he couldn’t afford to go higher than $200, so he said he’d just send a check for $200 to the fund.

Gary Stuart, from Great Britain, offered to donate a rare set of books to help the cause. Cash donation offers of $50 and $100 came in during the auction. Manufacturers and suppliers offered to donate equipment for the remodeling job. An hvacr contractor, who lived 2 1/2 hours away from the Dietermans by car, offered to donate his time to complete the remodeling work.

Ebels was very succinct in his praise of fellow “Wallies.”

“This is quite simply the most caring and helpful bunch of guys (and gals) I have ever encountered on the Net,” he said. “It just never ceases to amaze me. I am truly humbled by your responses.”

I couldn’t have summed it up any better. This tragedy reveals the true picture of those in our trade. There is no negativity, no criticism, and no big egos to overcome in a story like this. It is simply a story about caring and compassion.

I’d like the world to know about this story, and I intend to do my best to relate it to as many people as possible, whether it is through word of mouth or the power of the pen. I’ll see to it that the Dieterman story is kept alive as the money comes in to pay off the mortgage and establish an education trust fund for the children.

Those in the Falmouth community also opened up their hearts and checkbooks recently, raising almost $50,000 at an auction featuring items donated by the local townsfolk — a remarkable feat considering the town’s population is less than 300 people. That just shows how much the Dietermans mean to the community and how much the people care.

I think special thanks should go to Steve Ebels, Dan Holohan, Joe Waskiewicz Jr., the many “Wallie” bidders and contributors,, and the manufacturers who donated equipment. I will acknowledge all in a future story.

I guess it is only fitting that this column appears on Memorial Day. God Bless you Sandi, and your wonderful children. Tell them Terry is smiling down on them and lighting the way for their future. We’ll be in touch.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail).

If you would like to make a donation to the Dieterman fund, please send a check to: Prosper Church, 1975 East Prosper Road, Falmouth, MI 49632. Please note that the check is for the Dieterman family. Your donation is tax-deductible.

Publication date: 05/28/2001