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Mechling left his mark on Sturgis

October 4, 2018

STURGIS — Chris “Bob” Mechling was a respected leader, an amazing husband and father who loved and served his country and community.

Mechling (brigadier general, U.S. Army, Ret.) and mayor of Sturgis from 1991 to 1997, died Friday. He was 86.

He was born in Faith and moved to Sturgis with his family. He began high school at St. Martin’s Academy in Sturgis, but was “encouraged” to attend Sturgis High School because of his athletic prowess in both football and basketball.

“He was such a good athlete that Sturgis really wanted him,” said Mechling’s daughter, Shawn, a standout athlete herself for the Scoopers in the 1980s.

After graduating from Sturgis High School, Mechling served in the Korean War from 1950-1952.

He married Ruth Thompson in 1953. They would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in November.

Mechling went on to attend Black Hills State College where he played full back and linebacker. Following his service in Korea, Mechling returned with gray hair. He soon earned the nickname the “gray ghost.”

His family recalls one instance when the Yellow Jackets faced Huron College and scouts from the Baltimore Colts came to watch a standout Huron player. Mechling performed so well against the player that the Colts offered him a tryout with the team.

Ruth Mechling was pregnant with their first child and Bob had secured a teaching job. Money was tight, so Mechling passed on the opportunity, his daughter said.

“My brothers always wished he would have tried out,” she said.

The Mechlings settled in Sturgis where they raised their five children, Mark, Kelly, Todd, Kris, and Shawn.

Shawn Mechling, said her dad was loving and caring, and even though he spent most of his life serving as a military leader, he didn’t much like disciplining his own children.

“When he would have to spank us, he couldn’t stand to hear us cry in our rooms,” she said. “He felt really bad about having to do that to us, so he would come tell us he was sorry, but explained why he did what he did.”

Shawn recalls classmates in college learning that her dad was a general and believing that she and her siblings must have had a pretty strict upbringing.

“He was pretty much a teddy bear with us,” Mechling said.

Her dad had a heart for community service, Shawn Mechling said.

“I’m not sure where that came from,” she said of his civic mindedness. “He was a good leader, known as someone who was fair and was never in it for some personal gain. He really did love this community,” she said.

In addition to serving six years as mayor, Mechling sat on many boards including: Park, Library, School, Water and Economic Development.

Chris taught school and coached both at Buffalo and Sturgis for several years prior to accepting a full-time position with the South Dakota National Guard. He spent 45 years in the army uniform working his way to the ultimate rank of brigadier general.

South Dakota National Guard Historian “Duke” Doering worked for Mechling in the 1960s.

Doering recalls his former boss as sharp and quick witted, compassionate and a great mentor.

“You couldn’t have found a better guy to work for,” he said.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m., Thursday, Oct, 4, at Grace Lutheran Church in Sturgis with Pastor Kris Garlick officiating. Burial, with military honors, will take place at Black Hills National Cemetery at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

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