Family, friends remember Traeger as quiet civic leader

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 22, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; When William H. Traeger Jr., 79, died April 18, the city lost a native son, a man who focused his time and effort on helping others and working toward a common good.

More than 350 people crowded into Trinity Episcopal Church Tuesday morning to pay their final respects to a man who tried to help his community, but never sought the spotlight. The congregation overflowed the church where Traeger worshipped while he was alive &8212; a testament to the lives he touched, a tribute to the good that a single man can accomplish for his community.

But for those closest to him, Tuesday&8217;s services were a time to reflect on a friend, a father, a mentor.

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Westbrook can remember playing baseball with Traeger when the two were children, and the love of the game never left his friend.

Traeger owned Traeger&8217;s Bakery in Demopolis, which was a fixture in the city for two generations. He was famous for his turtle-back cookies, a secret recipe that his family said can&8217;t be repeated.

For Treager the younger, he will remember the companionship of his father.

Frank Rutledge, 91, remembers Traeger as a close friend.

Like Westbrook, Rutledge said his family was close with the Traegers.

Traeger was a longstanding member of the city utilities board, where he worked to ensure quality water and sewer service for city residents. He also served part of a term on the city council when he was appointed to fill a vacated position.

Instead, Traeger had other ways he could serve the community.

Traeger helped generations of Demopolis youth go to college by heading up the Jake Koch Scholarship Fund, sponsored by the Rotary Club.

Traeger loved his hometown, penning a memoir of the city, &8220;Once Upon a Time in Demopolis&8221; in 2000 with John Caldwell.

The Rev. Richard Cobbs IV preached Traeger&8217;s funeral.

A man of great responsibility and character has passed &8212; and his friends and family mourn.

Traeger is survived by his wife, Amelia. He was buried at Demopolis Memorial Gardens.