Iris Koppen

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Funeral services for Iris Koppen, 79, of Spirit Lake were held Monday, May 9, 2011, at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Spirit Lake. Burial was at Memory Gardens in Spirit Lake.

Iris June (Feddersen) Koppen was born on June 22, 1931, in an Ida County farmhouse, the daughter of Franklin and Georgia Feddersen. An only child, Iris moved with her parents when she was six years old to Ida Grove, Ia. where her dad ran a gas station. The family moved again to Spirit Lake when she was 15. The Feddersens bought and ran the Log Cabin Resort on the northeast side of Big Spirit Lake and Iris helped them in the family business during the summers. Iris graduated from Spirit Lake High School in 1949.

Following graduation, she worked for a time in the Social Welfare Office of the Spirit Lake Courthouse. It wasn't long before mutual friends introduced her to Clarence Koppen, whose family owned a farm near the edge of Hottes Lake. Clarence had returned home from Germany where he served at the end of World War II to manage the family farm. Iris and Clarence were married on December 8, 1952, when she was 21 and took up residence on the farm, also helping to look after Clarence's mother, Anna Koppen, who had moved to northwest Iowa as a young woman when her parents homesteaded there in the late 1800's.

There, as a farmer's wife in the late 50's and early 60's, she learned to make a little go a long way, often feeding hungry harvest crews from the fields in the fall as area farmers combined their efforts to bring in the corn and grain. On the farm, Iris perfected her skills of baking bread, making jams, pickles and jellies, churning butter from the milk provided by the family cows, caring for the hogs, chickens and ducks, dogs and cats, sewing clothes and tending garden. Her husband enjoyed fishing, hunting pheasants and trapping muskrats, so there was always meat in the freezer from the wild or from animals raised on the farm. Often in the winter, rows of muskrat skins shared space with the family laundry in the outside wash house while the Koppens waited for a good price at the furrier in town. The former homestead was located on land that is now called Koppen Prairie.

In 1965, following the death of their infant daughter, Clarence, Iris and their three children moved from the farm to Hwy 71 to begin their dream of owning their own farm-to-market family business. Together they opened Koppen's Gardens which operated successfully until her husband Clarence's death in 1979. Iris worked faithfully in the gardens and the store and also became active in the Lakes Region BPW (Business and Professional Women's Club) enjoying the friends she made there. The family attended Immanuel Lutheran Church just down the highway. During the winters, for many years, she worked at Berkley's making ski-rope to help make ends meet, with Clarence and a rotation of the children helping with the housework.

Following her husband's death from cancer in 1979, Iris went back to school briefly and also worked as a seamstress at Carpenter's Interiors. For a number of years following her retirement, Iris also ran a summer stall at the Lake's Area Farmer's Market at the Dickinson Co. Fairgrounds where she was well known for her quilting and delicious home baked breads. Her bread baking took "Pride of Place" at the Dickinson County Fair in 2006.

Iris was a cancer survivor and was always known for devotion to her immediate family. Despite the number of declining health issues, Iris was looking forward to celebrating her 80th birthday in June of 2011 when she passed away at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., on May 3, 2011.

Iris is survived by her three children and their families: daughter, Diane (Koppen) Rickard, husband, Pari and grandson, Aaron of Harpenden, England who serve in missions with the hospital ship charity Mercy Ships, son, Wayne Koppen, wife, Diana and grandson, Samuel of Spencer, Ia.; son, Brian Koppen and wife, Michella of Montgomery, Ia.; plus other relatives and friends.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Franklin and Georgia (Macklem) Feddersen; husband, Clarence Oscar Koppen; infant daughter, Karen Kay; and grandson, Andrew James Rickard.

Turner Jenness Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be submitted at