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Austin mourns Dr. Dick Schindler, 'backbone of community'

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Family and friends of Dr. Richard "Dick" Schindler, who died Saturday in a bicycling accident in his hometown of Austin, Minnesota, describe him as a man who was deeply committed to his patients and his community; and one whose presence will be sorely missed.

Schindler, 72, was riding on a mountain bike trail near Riverland Community College Saturday morning when he slipped off a bridge along the trail and fell head first onto the ground below.

According to Mower County Coroner David Strobel, the fall broke Schindler's neck and he was killed instantly, the Star Tribune reports. Schindler was wearing a helmet.

Schindler will be laid to rest Thursday, and his sudden death shocked many in the community.

“He was ... one of the most loved physicians I’ve known,” Co-worker and friend Dr. Fred Bogott said, according to the Austin Daily Herald.

Schindler practiced medicine in Austin and nearby Adams, for what is now the Mayo Clinic Health System, for nearly 40 years. He delivered some 4,000 babies in his career, before retiring at the end of 2011.

Schindler took a personal interest in his patients, and many people specifically requested Schindler to be their primary doctor.

"It’s just mind-boggling, the number of patients that he had," said Laura Helle, who worked with Schindler on various community projects for years, according to KIMT. "He wasn’t just your doctor, he was your friend."

Schindler served the Austin community in many capacities over the years. He was on the YMCA Board of Directors, the Vision 2020 Trails and Rec Center committees and the Police Civil Service Committee, according to his obituary in the Rochester Post Bulletin. He and his wife, Belita, were also strong supporters of the local arts community.

“He was such an amazing man who touched so many people,” said his oldest son Erik Schindler, according to the Daily Herald. “It wouldn’t surprise me if over 75 percent of the town knows who he is."

Biking was also one of Schindler's passions. In 2011 -- when he was 69 years old -- Schindler and four friends biked across country, from Oregon to Massachusetts. It was a 3,500-mile trek that took them 35 days.

He was instrumental in forming the Austin Cycle Team and the Southern Minnesota Cycling Club, according to his obituary. Schindler helped to build the bike trail he was riding on Saturday morning.

"He was the backbone of our community," Mayor Tom Stiehm said during the Austin City Council meeting Monday morning, according to the Daily Herald. “I don’t think there’s anyone whose loss could affect the community more.”

Schindler and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in July. He is also survived by their four children, nine grandchildren, and three siblings.

A memorial Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Austin. It will be followed by a gathering at the Austin YMCA, which is open to the public.

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