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Thomas Toepfer, 1950-2012

The Hays community has lost one of its more compassionate leaders and humble servants. The Honorable Thomas L. Toepfer, 61, died Monday and was laid to rest Thursday. The gentleman lawyer and 23rd Judicial District judge passed on less than two months after his retirement.

Toepfer leaves behind a legacy of accomplishment stretching back to his childhood in Hays, when he was a self-employed paperboy. He graduated from Hays High School, Fort Hays State University and Washburn University Law School before starting his legal career at the law firm of Dreiling, Bieker and Kelly. He later started his own practice, and also was the Hays city prosecutor for 23 years. He was first elected district judge in 2000, presiding over numerous high-profile cases in nearly 12 years on the bench.

Judge Toepfer approached his work with fairness and integrity. His solid reputation resulted in appointments to the executive committee of the Kansas District Judges' Association as well as the Commission on Judicial Qualifications for the state of Kansas.

Fellow attorney and friend Bill Jeter said Toepfer was an "excellent lawyer and an excellent judge," an opinion widely shared in the legal community.

The wider community benefited from Toepfer's presence as well. As he said a number of years ago: "I think lawyers have a special obligation to serve their communities."

And so he did. He was a member and chairman of the Board of Trustees of St. Anthony Hospital, a founding member and chairman of the board of directors at Hays Medical Center, and recently was asked to be director emeritus at HaysMed. He served as a member and president of Hays USD 489 Board of Education, president and member of St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church Parish Council, member of the building committee for Comeau Catholic Campus Center, and member of the Cancer Council of Ellis County. He taught schoolchildren about law and citizenship. When not actively involved with his own family, he still found time to read, write and play golf.

While only pictures and memories of his wry smile will remain, Tom Toepfer will live on in the minds and hearts of all he met. We wish his family nothing but comfort and support in their time of grief.

Rest in peace, Thomas L. Toepfer. Your grandson, Luke, knows you're in a good place.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net