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Official Obituary 

Rolfe. Deane C. Gunderson, age 91, died on Thursday, July 1, 2010, at the Israel Family Hospice House in Ames.

Deane Charles Gunderson, son of John Christian Gunderson and DeElda (Lighter) Gunderson, was born on September 16, 1918, in Roosevelt Township, Pocahontas County, Iowa. He graduated from Rolfe High School in 1935 and received B.S. degrees in Agricultural Engineering (1939) and Mechanical Engineering (1940) from Iowa State College.

On July 23, 1941, Deane Gunderson and Marion Abbott were married in Ogden, Utah. They resided in Waterloo, Iowa, for nearly four years while Deane worked as an engineer for the John Deere Tractor Company. In 1945 Marion and Deane moved with their three children to the farm southwest of Rolfe where they had three more children and continued to live for six decades.

Deane was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, President his senior year and President of the House Corporation for 24 years. He was active in Republican Party, Community Chest and Lions Club, and a Life Master in the American Contract Bridge League.

Deane was a member of the Shared Ministry of Rolfe. He served on the Board of Directors of the Rolfe State Bank. He served on the Board of Directors of the Rolfe Community School District from 1966 to1981. He was a Director and Treasurer of the Iowa Association of School Boards from 1971-1991 and on the Board of Governors of the Iowa State University Foundation.

In 1980, Iowa State University awarded Alumni Recognition Medals to Marion and Deane. He was an avid Cyclone fan and in 1975 created an 11½ foot, welded sculpture of Cy that stood at north end of the ISU football stadium for 19 years. In 1981 Iowa State named Deane as Cy’s Favorite Alum.

During 1975-1977, Deane wrote weekly column, “Bubbles in the Wine,” for The Rolfe Arrow.
His interests included farming, education, mathematics, welding, land surveying and farm drainage systems. He specialized in creating larger combinations of farm machinery for increased production per farm worker.

He seemed to have friends wherever he went and enjoyed engaging them with his stories. He was proud of his children and delighted in his grandchildren and great-grandson. He was a generous person, encouraged others in their endeavors and was noted for pointing out life’s wonders, including Sputnik, the Pythagorean theorem, germinating bean seeds, a fox den in the side of a creek, and the West Bend Grotto.

Deane was preceded in death by his wife, Marion, his parents, and one son, Christian Gunderson. He is survived by his son Charles Gunderson and wife Gloria; daughters Clara Hoover and husband Harold, Helen Gunderson, Martha Carlson and husband Michael, Margaret Moore and husband Jeffrey, and Louise Shimon and husband William; seven grandchildren: Christina Gunderson, Timothy Gunderson, Kevin Carlson, Joshua Moore, Jonathan Moore, Abigail Shimon and Kathryn (Shimon) Moon; three great-grandchildrem: Michael Williams, Addison Vallett and Jackson Johnstone; and several cousins.

A memorial service will be held at the Shared Ministry of Rolfe at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 31.

In lieu of flowers, Deane requested contributions be made to the Rolfe Lions Club (P.O. Box 101, Rolfe, Iowa 50581).


Unofficial Obituary

Deane Gunderson, a 1935 graduate of Rolfe High School and a retired Rolfe area farmer, died peacefully at the Israel Family Hospice House in Ames on the morning of July 1, 2010.

It was an idyllic day with sunshine, blue skies, and billowy, white clouds. The temperatures were in the 80s, and after a month of many inches of rain, the day’s weather was perfect for growing corn and soybeans–the two crops on Deane’s land.

Deane’s family had him moved to the Hospice facility at four o’clock the previous afternoon from Mary Greeley Hospital in Ames where he had been a week after he fell on Father’s Day at Arlington Place. It is an assisted living center in Pocahontas.

At Mary Greeley, doctors monitored Deane, who had a sub-dural hemotoma (a collection of blood between the brain membrane and skull) that may have been related to the fall.

While at Arlington Place, Deane had anticipated regaining his strength and moving back to the farm southwest of Rolfe where he and his late wife Marion, who died in 2004, had moved in 1945.

In the early 1940s, the couple had lived in Waterloo where he worked for the John Deere Tractor Company. When they moved to the farm, Deane and Marion had three young children (Clara Hoover of Omaha, Charles Gunderson of Rolfe, and Helen Gunderson of Ames). Later, they had three more children who also graduated from Rolfe (Martha Carlson of Largo, Florida, Peggy Moore from near Detroit, Michigan, and Louise Shimon from Perry).

Deane was born to John and DeElda (Lighter) Gunderson on a farm in Roosevelt Township between Rolfe and Pocahontas, then grew up on the nearby Gunderson homeplace that John’s parents and uncle had founded in 1878. It is three miles south of the farm where Deane lived all of his adult years until going to Arlington Place.

Deane and Marion met at Iowa State College where he earned degrees in both agricultural and mechanical engineering. She earned a degree in applied art.

Deane applied his engineering skills to his farming operation which consisted of nearly 3000 acres. In the 1950s, there was a short mention of him in Time magazine, telling about his inventing an eight-row cornplanter that he made by connecting two, four-row planters and was still able to crosscheck the corn.

In 1975, Deane retired from active farming at the age of 57 but oversaw the tenants who farmed the Gunderson land.

He devoted much of his career to surveying the family’s land to install or repair drainage tile lines that he felt were essential for successful, row crop agriculture in an area that had consisted of many marshes after glaciers moved across the upper Midwest centuries ago. Many, if not all, of Deane’s children recall times of standing on one side of a parcel of property, holding the 15-foot tall measuring stick perfectly vertical while he stood on the other end of the parcel, looking through his surveying instrument to determine the slope for installing a new tile line.

Deane’s children also recall his inquisitive nature and how he encouraged them to see unusual things. There were the times on the way home from church when he would drive the car full of family members to the center of a field and have them get out–in their church clothes, no less–to peer down into a newly dug trench for tile.

There was also the time after supper (at dusk) when he drove the children to a knoll in a field, set up his surveying instrument and focused the lenses so the family could look through it and see a den of cub foxes playing on the far bank of Lizard Creek. And there were the times when he got the children out of bed in the middle of the night and had them go out into the farm yard to look into the sky to see the likes of the nose cone of the Russian satellite, Sputnik, travel across the heavens.

Deane was comfortable using a slide rule but never had nor used a computer, although his wife Marion, as director of the Rolfe Public Library in the early 1980s, was probably the first member of the family to have a computer.

Deane grew up in the Rolfe Methodist Church. As an adult, he was a member of the Rolfe Presbyterian Church where he served as a trustee. As part of his active role in politics, he was the campaign manager for Republican governor Leo Hoegh in 1956 and for decades was the Pocahontas County Republican finance chairman.

He served on the Rolfe school board and the Iowa Association of School Boards, wrote a series of columns called “Bubbles in the Wine” for the Rolfe Arrow, was loyal to Iowa State University, loved Cyclone football and basketball, designed and welded the huge, red and gold, metal statue of a cardinal bird—the Iowa State mascot named Cy—that stood in the Iowa State stadium for 19 years and now stands in Rolfe, was a member of the Rolfe Lions Club, rode the RAGBRAI route from Sibley to Estherville in 1996, played duplicate bridge with Marion and became a Life Master in the ACBL, was fascinated with the Jumble word game in the newspaper, liked watching Lawrence Welk re-runs on TV, ate often at ROPA’s Cafe in Rolfe, played an occasional practical joke, kept up to date on his classmates from the class of 1935 and sent them a newsletter each year, and attended most of the Rolfe High School all-class reunions.

His two favorite books from decades ago were Lost Horizon and The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant. In his active farming years, he read few books but many magazines. On many evenings he read the likes of Time magazine before he fell asleep. In the last decade or so, he has read many books about such things as President Lincoln’s cabinet of rivals and the construction of Hoover Dam.

Deane’s grandfather, Charles L. Gunderson of Rolfe, had been a state representative, and Deane may have had an inkling of a desire to follow in his footsteps. But Deane’s legislative district was re-mapped in a way that made him think it impossible to be elected. So he often joked that the one political position that he would be good at was that of “dog catcher.” After all, his initials are D.C. Gunderson as in “Dog Catcher Gunderson.” Chuck Anderson, former manager of the Rolfe coop and a close friend of Deane, sent the first contribution of funds (in play money) toward that unrealized campaign.

Deane loved driving. As a youth, he used the three-horsepower engine from his mother’s Maytag washing machine to build a small vehicle akin to the go-carts of later generations. And even when he lived at Arlington Place at the age of 91, he held his driving ability in high esteem but with responses of befuddlement and raised eyebrows from his children.

Deane was a philanthropist and–along with Marion–was one of the early donors to the Israel Family Hospice House.

Deane is survived by his six adult children, seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, some cousins and the cat who made itself at home on Deane’s farm and that Deane fondly called Mouser.

His memorial service will be at the Shared Ministry of Rolfe on Saturday, July 31. The church is a merger of the former Methodist and Presbyterian congregations.



A few memories from Anita and Wayne Beal, Ames:

Deane Gunderson, from Rolfe, always seemed to say ROLFE just a bit louder than his own name because in many ways he seemed to be a bit shy about himself. He was very proud of the education that was being provided by the teachers and the school board he served on in Rolfe.

Anita and I met him when he became a district director of the Iowa Association of School Boards. When he first took his seat with the board, the president asked the directors to introduce themselves. When Deane’s turn came, he simply said his name and that he served on the Rolfe board and that he was a farmer. He may have said he was a Pocahontas County farmer because he was proud of Rolfe and the county. It took questions to learn more about him.

That was 1971, and at that time the board met on Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings. They all had dinner together Wednesday evening. It was much like a family that included the directors’ spouses. I was on the staff; there were four of us. I would catch a ride to Des Moines on the first day of the board meeting and Anita would drive in for dinner. That is how she met Deane.

Deane represented IASB District 2 from 1971 to 1979. He was Vice President the next year and then served as Treasurer from 1981 to 1990. He took his job very seriously. He attended the national school boards conventions in late March and early April learning how to be better at his board member job. It was on those occasions that Anita and I got to know him better. We soon learned that Deane had adopted us and we saw it as an honor and loved it.

Nearly everyone probably knows that in his farm shop he welded (I could say sculpted) together pieces of steel from his collection of old iron and steel, a likeness, though skinnier perhaps, of Cy the cardinal mascot of Iowa State athletic teams. Deane had told us about his project while we were seated with him at one of the board dinners. He came to the next meeting with photos of the almost-completed bird.

One morning soon thereafter, we were awakened by a loud noise on the driveway of our house in the country. I looked out the window and there was Cy, tied to the deck of a trailer. Deane just had to show it to us. I think he had already been named ISU’s Cy’s Favorite Alum by then. Cy was beginning to rust and we thought Cy looked quite nice in his rust-colored feathers. Feathers made from sheets of steel. This was a cardinal that could take on any Husker, Sooner or Hawkeye. The Athletic Department wanted the school colors, so Deane was going to take Cy to an auto body shop to get a suit of red feathers before he headed back to Rolfe. Anita, no sports fan, would gladly have kept the original unpainted bird in our yard.

Due to his staunch support of Iowa State and Iowa State athletics, Deane sometimes had extra tickets to upcoming big games. I had my own football seat for many years. At half-time I stayed in my seat to see the band. Deane would arrive at my seat soon after the band took the field. Later, I sat with Deane at a Texas A&M game. The only basketball game I saw during that era was with Kansas – Deane certainly must have given me a ticket. Many times after a game, Deane would pull into our driveway soon after the game was over to chat for a bit. He sometimes stopped in his diesel Oldsmobile on his way to Ames.

We were very pleased a few years ago when Helen called to say that Deane was in town and we would find him at the Perkins restaurant. We had another joyous meal with Deane. He turned up everywhere. As I was walking in the passageway between Mary Greeley Hospital and the McFarland Clinic here in Ames one day, I turned the corner and there was Deane – another pleasant surprise.

I spent 21 years lobbying the Iowa General Assembly. There is a section in the Iowa Code that I call Deane’s Section. Deane knew rural Iowa like the back of his busy hand. He knew that small rural school districts might be neighbor to two or more larger districts and that the people on the west might want to merge with the district’s west neighbor and the people on the east might want to merge with the district to the east. He also knew that it wouldn’t happen very often, but he thought that school districts ought to have the option to dissolve, and he had thought out a way that the eastsiders and the westsiders could get their wishes fulfilled. I suspect he worked harder on that concept than I did. It became law.

Deane brightened our lives in many ways, as you can see. To us, Deane was a unique, colorful and somewhat unpredictable person. We loved talking to him. We will miss him.

Wayne and Anita Beal


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