To his final day, Jon Soderberg was a man who thought of others before himself.
If you had a problem at your farm or house, he was there. If you mentioned your lawn mower wasn't working, Soderberg might show up at your house with his lawn mower to help out, said Eric Roberson, who worked with Soderberg through the Caledonia Conservancy.
"If you want to look at the definition of a good neighbor, Jon was it," Roberson said. "He was just, in my estimation, what makes a community."
Even in his last weeks, when many others would have been fulfilling their bucket list, Soderberg was tending to the needs of his family to ensure they were taken care of after he passed.
Now, those who knew him best are hoping the community can return the favor.
A benefit for the family of Soderberg, who died Dec. 20 after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer, is set for 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Roundabout Restaurant, in the North Star Banquet Hall at 5844 Douglas Ave.
The event features silent auction baskets, raffles, a live auction, live music, dancing and a cash bar. Tickets are $15, which includes food, beverage and dessert. Donations are also accepted at Educator's Credit Union in Soderberg's name.
Soderberg was a homicide investigator in Racine for 31 years. After retirement, he was active in Caledonia village government and served on the board for the Caledonia Conservancy Land Trust.
Despite three-plus decades dealing with the worst side of society, Soderberg never let that affect him, Roberson said. He wasn't cynical. He still saw the good in people.
He showed Roberson, himself a former officer with the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, how to live as a retired cop. Sometimes retired officers can be withdrawn and guarded, but Soderberg was never like that, Roberson said.
He was also a key asset to the Caledonia Conservancy Board, Roberson said. He listened to all sides of an issue, often played devil's advocate and commanded the attention of the room whenever he spoke.
"He had the respect of everyone," Roberson said.
"He was really great people."
Joe Weinzatl met Soderberg around 2000. They worked together on the Caledonia Conservancy cleaning trails and building jumps.
"Every time we did a set of jumps, we did a good job on them. We believed that it was going to be our legacy," Weinzatl said.
Soderberg said a lot in a few words, Weinzatl said. He was quiet most of the time, but when he would say something people listened.
"I can see why the police department regarded him so highly," Weinzatl said.
Soderberg's wife, Sue, called Weinzatl two days before Soderberg passed away. Sue told Weinzatl she thought he should come and talk to Jon.
"When I went there, he was pretty well out of it. He did open his eyes. I told him I'd help Sue with the farms. He was really a man of his word—when he said something, he'd do it… I believed in doing the same," Weinzatl said.
"He liked the boarding stable. It was his relaxation—he'd sit in his porch swing and he'd sit out and watch the horses grazes, loved working with them … He got a lot of peace there."
Roberson saw no greater gauge of Soderberg's life than when his granddaughter sang "Amazing Grace" in front of a big crowd at the memorial service.
"She couldn't have been much more than 9 years old," Roberson said. "I thought to myself ... you can tell how much he inspired his grandkids."
For more information on Saturday's benefit, call (262) 412-1556 or (262) 705-3715 and check out the event's Facebook page.