Mower remembers former Sheriff Doyle LindahlPublished 10:00am Thursday, September 19, 2013
He wasn’t a longtime sheriff, but he was a favorite. Whoever worked for him was going to follow two simple principles: use common sense, and treat criminals as human beings. It was decades ago, but many people say Doyle Lindahl was the best sheriff Mower County ever had. He died Sunday, Sept. 15 at the hospital in Austin. He was 82.
Doyle was born March 15, 1931, in Carroll County, Iowa, to Barney and Fern (Cuthbertson) Lindahl. He was in the Korean War twice — once as a volunteer and the second time as a draftee — and was even captured and shot, his son recalled.
As Doyle’s family gathered around a table and looked at pictures on Tuesday, they remembered the stories, even ones that had been nearly forgotten. Bernice Weber, Doyle’s first wife, remembered when Doyle scolded a thief for stealing tires, but Doyle then offered to give the man tires in the future if he simply asked. Another time, Doyle gave a troubled man $100 to move to California. That man moved, and changed his ways.
“He never wanted anybody to give him any recognition for that,” Bernice said.
A simpler time
It was the 1960s, and people had a different approach to law enforcement. Deputies solved problems themselves before resorting to the handcuffs. Doyle, who had already served eight years as a deputy, was sheriff from 1963 to 1967. He was elected at just 32 years old and was the last Mower County Sheriff to work and live at the jail. His father was his jailer, and his wife the cook.
He was so caring for people,” said Gene Domino, one of Doyle’s deputies. “He told me, ‘I don’t care if you ever write out a ticket. I don’t care if you ever arrest anybody. That’s not what you’re out there for.’”
Doyle was a real-life version of Andy Griffith — whom he met during a sheriffs convention. Mower’s role model had a huge soft spot for children, empathy for the troubled and unparalleled dedication to his work. He had charm, a firm grip, a perpetual good mood and good looks to boot. Even his deputies could admit that.
“Yeah, he was a good-looking dude; he was,” Domino said, an imposing figure who fully supported his all-time favorite boss.
Domino oversaw a home for troubled youth in Dexter called Born Free. Doyle helped start that program as he loved guiding youngsters in the right direction, a characteristic that didn’t change after he retired. He had what it took to solve people’s problems, or at least improve their lives. Sometimes the system fails people, and Doyle knew that well.
“His thing was to take that child, that young individual, and guide him after the system,” said daughter Pam Lindahl. She remembers her father’s demeanor as always jolly — or calm during moments of chaos. The man didn’t get flustered, and believed people could accomplish anything if they worked for it.
Before Born Free, Doyle had an idea to start a program for juvenile delinquents, and he could do it right in Austin. With help and input from other county sheriffs, Doyle launched what some say was the second sheriff’s boys ranch in the nation. Among his required duties at his office, Doyle spent an inordinate amount of time at the ranch, helping the boys, bringing them gifts and keeping a close eye. He was the right person to set juveniles back on the right path. He didn’t want to see them fail.
“He was very good one-on-one,” Domino said. “And they listened. He was so charismatic. He just had that gift. I don’t really know how to explain it.”
Domino routinely showed up two hours early because he wanted to see what he missed while off duty. Deputy was Domino’s favorite job. On an evening shift — just his second day on the job — Domino responded to what was initially reported as a minor accident between Austin and Lyle. He arrived, and five people lay dead. He could hardly drive home after seeing the tragedy. But Doyle was calm. Another time, a young girl’s coat got snagged in the school bus doors on an icy, winter day. She was dragged to her death. Of course, Doyle responded. He responded to almost all the calls, Domino said.
Yet the likeable sheriff was stern when necessary. Doyle’s children remember “the look” — the kind of stare that cuts through lies. He pried the truth out of juveniles and adults, his children remembered.
“He had a way of interrogation,” said Deb Thorson, one of Doyle’s daughters.
Before law enforcement, Doyle worked in sales and for Hormel Foods. He even modeled clothes before he met Bernice.
After the badge, he owned the Alcove Supper Club in Austin, managed a bowling alley in Iowa, was a draftsman for Nordaas-American Homes in Minnesota Lake and worked for Walters Building Company.
He married Linda Hansen in 1975, and from 1984 until this year the couple were foster parents for children and mentally and physically disabled, including two who lived with them for more than 30 years. It was a passion that stemmed from his sheriff days.
“We answered an ad in the paper, and that was all it took,” Linda said.
Fostering became everything to them.
“The more they need you, the more you need them,” Linda added. “It was our life.”
However, Linda learned Doyle was never short of stories, a trait that has rubbed off on family. It was a reason Domino so eagerly showed up to work every day. Doyle had to talk to everybody every time he went out. But they wanted to talk to him, too.
Doyle’s funeral will be held at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at the Worlein Funeral Home Chapel in Austin.