It was great to be an American during the 1920s. Innovation led the way to cars mass produced on assembly lines, motion pictures in both color and sound, and conveniences such as the refrigerator and the washing machine. It was also during this time that Gustav and Clara (Schuchard) Ihrke were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named Delmer on October 3, 1924.
Growing up, Del was a typical young man of his generation in many ways. He was raised on the family farm in "Little Valley," Quincy Township of Olmsted County. Del was one of fifteen children, and he grew up alongside his siblings, Shirley, Lorry, Gene, Gus, Beryl, George, Ellsworth, Melvin, Robert, Vernon, Arley, Leola, Elaine, and Joy. As a young child he wasn't allowed to follow his older brothers to the fields and instead helped his mother with the chores and meals until he was old enough to work outside. From that point on, Del worked hard around the farm and walked behind the horse and plow. He was always naturally curious, and he often got into mischief around the farm. On one occasion, Del ended up climbing the windmill to see what his brothers were doing and wouldn't come down. It was quite a sight when his mother had to climb up to get him!
Throughout his childhood, Del attended country school at Olmsted County rural school #130 until the eighth grade. He then went on to start working for the neighbors, beginning to build the foundation for the strong work ethic that would serve him well for his entire life. Though Del always regretted not completing high school and believed he wasn't very smart, he was an intelligent person who was constantly learning.
When he was of age, Del was drafted into the Army near the end of WWII. He went through testing and the physical at Ft. Snelling, but he was turned away since he was extremely sick all three days of testing. The war ended a short time later.
New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Del as he met the love of his life. Her name was Mary Jane Dilworth, and the two met while Mary Jane was attending college and spent weekends with her roommates at a nearby farm. The couple's relationship continued to deepen, and it didn't take them long to realize that they were made for each other. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Del and Mary Jane were married in Rochester on January 24, 1953. For the rest of his life, he always remembered his wedding day as the best day of his life. The newlyweds settled down on the family farm, ready to begin their future together.
Of all the things Del loved in life, he treasured his family above all else. He and Mary Jane welcomed eight beloved children into their hearts and home, including Lynn, Lee, Kevin, Jean, Ray, Alan, Curt, and Pat. Del dedicated himself to raising his children into kind and hardworking individuals. He enjoyed spending time with them, and he was a very caring and loving father. Later in life, Del was overjoyed to become a grandfather and even a great-grandfather, and he showered these younger generations with unconditional love and devotion.
In order to support his family, Del and his brother, Beryl, formed a farming partnership. The two worked on the family farm in Quincy Township. Del enjoyed the labor and continued working into his eighties. At that point, the equipment became too advanced for him to handle, and his sons eventually told him it was time to quit driving the tractor. Del always tried new ways and ideas for successful gardening, and over the years he raised many potatoes. The family loved his potatoes so much they would have them at three meals a day.
Del was never one who liked to sit still for long, and he pursued many hobbies throughout his life. He always enjoyed farming, and even when he no longer tended the farm himself he still took his motorized chair out to check on the crops. Del took trips to Michigan, Virginia, Hawaii, and Canada, and he especially loved visiting the Caribbean. He began woodworking in his retirement years and became very skilled at making furniture for his family. Del played fastpitch softball for Dover, and he took pride in beating St. Charles. He enjoyed watching sports on television, especially girls softball. Del also liked watching westerns and movies such as Bonanza, John Wayne, and The Virginian. He read westerns as well. Del was always proud of his garden and was constantly trying out new ideas for successful gardening. When bending over to weed became a problem later in life, he made his cane into a tool that he could use to hoe the weeds instead. As his family and friends can attest, Del's faith was an important element in his life. He was a member of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in St. Charles, he served as director and president of Twin Valley Ag. Association for 22 years.
When reflecting on the life of Delmer Ihrke, it is easy to see his unwavering strength and his unconditional love for his family. He truly understood the value of hard work and responsibility. Nothing brought Del greater joy than spending time with his loved ones, and he treasured every moment he could spend with his family. He was a shining example of kindness and service to others. Though he will be deeply missed, Del leaves behind a priceless legacy that his loved ones will carry on proudly in his footsteps.
Delmer "Del" Lester Ihrke, 96, of rural St. Charles died Tuesday, September 7, 2021, at Chosen Valley Care Center in Chatfield. Del is survived by his wife, Mary Jane, children; Lynn (Larry) Offerdahl, Lee (Donna) Ihrke, Kevin Ihrke, Jean (Dave) Lundquist, Ray Ihrke, Alan (Jayne) Ihrke, Curt (Mary Beth) Ihrke and Pat (Jackie) Ihrke, 22 grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, two sisters, Shirley (Bill) Loppnow, Lorry (Irvin) Hohmann ad two brothers, Gene (Fern) Ihrke and Gus (Marilyn) Ihrke. He was preceded in death by brothers, Beryl, George, Ellsworth, Melvin, Robert, Vernon and Arley, sisters, Leola, Elaine, and Joy. Farming and family were his life and passion.
A funeral mass for Del will be 11 a.m. Monday at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in St. Charles with the Reverend Tim Biren officiating. Burial will follow in Calvary Cemetery. A visitation will be from 3-6 p.m. Sunday and 10 - 11 a.m. Monday at the church. Del's six sons will serve as pallbearers. Please share a memory of Del and view his online video, when it becomes available, at www.hofffuneral.com.
Del's family prefers memorials to St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church and the St. Charles Foundation for Academic Excellence.