After battling cancer, former city councilman, retired steel-maker and local philanthropist Phil Seidenberger died on Thursday.
Seidenberger stepped down from his position on the council earlier this year after being diagnosed.
“It is always tough seeing these kinds of things happen, especially to someone your own age,” long-time friend and Seguin Mayor Don Keil said. “It really strikes home. He was an amazing guy and we will really miss him.”
Keil said he’s known Seidenberger since they grew up together as children.
“We were from the same neighborhood over on the West Side,” he said. “We — me, Phil and his brother Greg — went to St. Joseph’s School for 8 years.”
Phil graduated from St. Anthony’s Catholic High School in 1968, began attending Southwest Texas State University (now known as Texas State University) and in 1970 began his lifelong career in the steel-making industry at Seguin Metal Incorporated (SMI), now known as Commercial Metals Company (CMC).
“Phil’s leadership at CMC reflected the best of what we believe to be the core values of our company. He led numerous improvements in safety and production, but what he will be most remembered for is the level of love and respect he had for his fellow steelmakers,” a statement from CMC said. “No one ever walked away from a conversation with Phil where they didn’t feel better about themselves. He set the bar high, not only in how to make steel but also how to shape steelmakers.”
During his 42 years at CMC, he worked his way up the ranks into supervisory positions, transferring to the plants in Birmingham, Alabama and Magnolia, Arkansas and eventually earned the title of Director of Mill Operations for the Central Region until he retired on Aug. 30, 2012, according to the statement.
“He went off and worked for CMC and did so many great things there, all over the country, came back here and was able to run the plant that he started out in shoveling slag,” Keil said. “It is a real success story.”
Clyde Selig, who started SMI with brother Marvin Selig, said he was saddened to hear the news of Phil’s death.
“He was an outstanding individual and very detail oriented. He was a great steelmaker and a fine individual,” he said. “He always finished what he started, and he was the kind of guy who set high standards for him. He was a fine guy who was always interested in helping the other guy.”
While Phil spent a majority of his life working at the steel mill, he also worked toward the betterment of his community, Keil said.
“His life is just amazing from being city councilman to before that he was chairman of the SEDC, before that he was very active in the Chamber of Commerce, he was on the board of First Commercial Bank and the hospital foundation,” he said. “There are so very few things that he hasn’t been involved in. When he came back to town with CMC, he really took the efforts of that company and made them even more involved and supportive of local events and local charities and local initiatives. I know he contributed to all of those communities just as heartily as he did to his hometown.”
When he wasn’t serving on a board, Phil found some way to help out, Keil said.
“I doubt there was an event that he didn’t attend or a cause he didn’t support or contribute to,” he said. “He was there and it is a real tribute to him and the way he treated people was even better. I think he was that everyman kind of personality. He would always grab you by the shoulder, pull you in closer and wave that cigar around while he was talking to you. That was his trademark.”
Most notably, Phil was known as a friend to all, family friend State Rep. John Kuempel said.
“What a great guy,” he said. “He was just a good person, with a heart of gold and a friend to everybody. When you were around Phil, you knew you were with a friend. We lost a tremendous person and those people don’t come around very often.”
Ken Kiel echoed Kuempel’s sentiment, adding the community as a whole is suffering a big loss with Phil’s death.
“One thing that was really unique about Phil was his popularity — age, race, gender, it didn’t matter — everyone like him,” he said. “It was always just a pleasure to see him. He was always so warm and so caring. He would give you his full attention whenever we would get together. When I think of Phil, I think of one of the truly great people who are a blessing to this community. He was one of the truly special people in the world that Seguin was lucky to have around.”
The mayor described Phil as the go-to guy when someone needed a friend.
“He was one of those guys who could talk to anybody,” Keil said. “He had so many friends all across the community who are all very sad and are just very touched by his life. He was a great friend and a great public servant.”
Kiel, who really got to know Phil through their wives — Nancy Seidenberger and Teresa Kiel — association with the Sterling Silver Dancers, said Phil’s death leaves a void that will be hard to fill.
“You hope somebody steps up to fill his shoes, but I don’t know if that is possible. He was just a really, really special person. He only wanted to do what he thought was best for Seguin and make it a better place, and he did make it a better place.”
As Phil leaves behind a whole host of family members, Keil, Kuempel and Kiel offered up their thoughts and prayers to all who knew and loved him.
“I just wish everybody can make sure Nancy is loved and comforted, because she has been an incredible steadfast force over the past few months, caring for him,” Keil said. “I ask you keep Nancy in your prayers, she is a great lady, also their daughter Bree and her family, and all of the other people that are part of his circle.”