Robert Wiegand

by Sandra Livingston

Sunday September 28, 2008, 5:02 PM

RUSSELL TOWNSHIP -- Robert "Bucky" Wiegand, who created decades of memories for customers and teenage workers alike at Wiegand's Lake Park in Russell Township, died Sept. 9 at Hillcrest Hospital. He was 86 and had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

Wiegand grew up in the business -- a 104-acre park launched by his parents. Families and corporate clients still can rent the park for a day of picnicking, swimming, boating, and sports games.

He and his wife, Bianca, cultivated the kind of atmosphere that regularly drew back adults who first visited the park as children. And they mentored legions of teenage workers who returned year after year to help cook the food, maintain the grounds, and plant the thousands of trees and plants that Wiegand bought over the years.

For many teenagers, this was their first real job and Wiegand relished teaching them about the value of working hard.

"A lot of what I learned from him was leadership, commitment to what you believe in, having a tremendous work ethic, a passion for things outdoors, a passion for physical labor, and not always taking the easy way," said Jack Heino, now a 47-year-old Lutheran pastor, who began working at the park at the age of 15. He still returns year after year to help on construction and landscaping projects and says the Wiegands were like second parents to him.

Diane Schneider said she and her seven siblings all worked at the park as did several cousins and friends. Now the owner of a cake-decorating business, Schneider said Wiegand "deserves to be remembered and respected for his love of nature and his love of taking care of a customer."

Robert G. Wiegand was born in Cleveland in 1922. He served in the U.S. Navy as an ensign on an escort carrier during World War II.

After the war he earned an accounting degree at Western Reserve University, where he met his future wife Bianca Zaffarano, a fellow student.

The Wiegands took ownership of the family recreation park in 1962. Over time, all three of their children worked there as well.

Daughter Wendy Wiegand Pliml was running her own refreshment stand by age 11. Now she co-owns the park.

She said her father could be tough, but still enjoyed a good squirt gun fight with his staff after the work day.

And he was an avid landscaper who brought home truckloads of trees and shrubs each spring from nursery auctions. "That is really his legacy," said Pliml, who can see the red maple trees her father planted when he was 10 from her office window.

"The bad part is I look around, everywhere I look I see him," she said. "But the good part is everywhere I look I see him."

A memorial picnic to celebrate Wiegand's life will be held at Wiegand's Lake Park on Oct. 11.

Pliml said her father liked to say, "leave the place a little better than what you found it." She said anyone who comes to the picnic -- "a blue-jean affair" -- will see exactly how her father left the place.


Robert Wiegand

Survivors: wife, Bianca; daughter, Wendy Wiegand Pliml of Russell Township; sons, Roger of Wayland, Mass. and Garry of Alameda, Calif.; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Memorial: 1 p.m. Oct. 11, Wiegand's Lake Park, 9390 Kinsman Road, Russell Township

Arrangements: Stroud-Lawrence Funeral Home, Chagrin Falls