Obituary of Richard Hunter Zimmermann
Rick died at home, Monday, July 3, 2023, with his wife, Nicole, their children, and extended family by his side. He was born January 1, 1944, in Kew Gardens, New York to Doris Jaeger and Albert Zimmermann. He distinguished himself as a student and athlete at Sea Cliff Elementary and North Shore High Schools. He graduated from Colby College in 1966, majoring in political science and serving as captain of both the intercollegiate soccer and sailing teams.
It was there he met Stephanie Burton whom he married in 1967. Rick and Stephanie moved to Washington, D.C. where Rick enrolled in American University, receiving his Master’s degree in Government in 1970. While at American University, he worked as a teacher and coach at St. Albans Academy.
The family soon moved to Mahwah, N.J., where Rick accepted a job with the Bergen County Record reporting on politics and crime. The work was perfect for someone intrinsically inquisitive with endless energy for creative problem-solving and getting to the truth. The grueling 14-hour days and nights, away from his growing family, led him to look for other opportunities. Rick, Stephanie and now their two sons, Brendan and Seth, moved to Iowa City to be close to one of Rick’s brothers and to enroll in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and the University of Iowa College of Law. After graduating with his Juris Doctorate in 1977, he opened his first law practice in Solon, IA and for the next 40 years practiced law in Solon, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and across the State.
He was a fierce advocate, well respected by most of his adversaries. They knew Rick’s energy and passion were driven by his desire to get the justice he believed his clients deserved. He was committed to representing people in need without concern for their station in life or their ability to pay. Two of his cases of which he was the most proud reflect his commitment. In his earliest Iowa Supreme Court Appearance, Rick volunteered to represent an indigent client who was imprisoned and sentenced to 232 days in the county jail for nonpayment of child support. Rick argued that the sentence must be vacated because the district court which sentenced Mr. McNabb failed to appoint an attorney for his defense. The Court held, for the first time, that defendants in a civil contempt action that could lead to incarceration were entitled by the Iowa and U.S. constitutions to a court-appointed attorney.
Over 25 years before the George Floyd debacle and the Black Lives Matter movement, Rick represented Daryl Thompson, a black truck driver from Texas who was stopped for speeding by the Iowa Highway Patrol. After being stopped, but before he was ticketed, he felt threatened and feared he was going to be injured by the officers. He left the scene in his truck, leading to a low-speed chase in which a Highway patrol car was damaged. As he was being handcuffed, Thompson claimed the arresting officer broke several of his teeth with his baton. During testimony, another truck driver heard an officer call Thompson “boy.” If convicted of the charges against him, Thompson could have been sentenced to years in prison. Thompson refused a plea deal which required no jail time. Rick represented him in a much-watched trial following which the headlines stated, ”All-white jury acquits driver”. Rick was very pleased.
Rick was a magnet for people. One of his oldest friends described him as “a presence whose conversation, laughter and intensity filled any room he was in, whether it be at home, out visiting, engaged in sport, or in court. Rick was always a force to be reckoned with.” He loved people and they loved him. Rick will be missed by his family, colleagues, clients and many, many friends.
Rick was passionate about more than work. He was an avid sailor, skier, hunter, golfer and cyclist. Most of all, he loved to cook for and with his family who were always his central focus. His family grew when he met Nicole Sheldon whom he married on October 9, 2005. He is survived by his two sons, Brendan (Kathy) and Seth (Wendy), Nicole and her three daughters, Jessica (Alex), Sarah and Havana and three grandchildren- Sam, Tage, and Ada. He is also survived by his three brothers, Jerry (Carolyn), Andrew (Lesley) and David (Patricia) and many nieces and nephews. His children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will always remember the lessons and their time together with Dad, Grandpa or Uncle Ricky in the kitchen, on the ski slopes, golf courses and biking trails. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Rick’s honor to a charity of your choice or to the ACLU or Iowa City Hospice.
A celebration of Rick’s life will be held from 2:00-4:00 pm, Saturday, September 23, 2023 at Maggie's Farm (2521 Black Hawk Avenue NW, Oxford, IA).
2720 Muscatine Ave.
Iowa City, Iowa
319-338-1132 or 1-866-338-1132
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