Gerald Graeber

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Gerald “Jerry” Raymond Graeber, 97, of Spencer, formerly of West Bend and Rolfe, passed away on July 10, 2017, at St. Luke’s Lutheran Home in Spencer. Graveside Services will be held at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, July 22, 2017, at the Clinton-Garfield Cemetery near Rolfe.

A reception and time of fellowship will be held at the Rolfe Community Center immediately following the graveside services.

Memorials are suggested to the Spencer Public Library in memory of Jerry.

Powers Funeral Home of Rolfe is handling the arrangements. For online condolences and obituaries, visit www.powersfh.net.

Gerald Raymond Graeber, son of Arnold Victor (A.V.) Graeber and Elnora Frances (Ringenberg) Graeber, was born at their home on 907 Elm St., Rolfe, Iowa. His favorite childhood game was marbles. He attended school at Rolfe, graduating in 1938 after lettering all four years in football, singing in glee club and playing trombone. He furthered his education at Drake University, majoring in Liberal Arts, and while he was there, was named one of the best-dressed men on campus. During this time, he received his first car, a 1937 Plymouth with a radio and earned his private pilot’s license.

His love of flying had begun, so he joined the U.S. Army Air Corp on Dec. 18, 1941, training to be a fighter pilot. Jerry received his pilot’s wings and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on Aug. 5, 1942. Following that ceremony, he had been scheduled for leave, with his marriage to take place at home during the leave, however, due to WWII, the leaves were cancelled and he married his high school sweetheart, Islea Lucile (Ricklefs) Graeber later that same day at Foster Field Army Air Base Chapel in Victoria, Texas. This was the beginning of 71 years of a loving, caring and happy marriage. During World War II, Jerry was assigned to a variety of flight squadrons and flew various airplanes in the U.S. They lived on air bases in Meridian, Mississippi, Tampa, Florida, Woodward, Oklahoma, Abilene, Texas and Ajo, Arizona.

It was in Abilene on Feb. 20, 1943 that Jerry was commissioned a First Lieutenant and flight instructor for training fighter pilots. On Aug. 11, 1944, Jerry was commissioned a Captain at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. He trained on the P-51, his favorite plane, and in November 1944, he volunteered for duty in the Pacific and was deployed in January 1945. Flying a P-47, he served in battles associated with the islands of Saipan, Ie Shima, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He was trained to fly bomber fighter escort missions to the islands off Japan. He returned home Dec. 23, 1945, on the USS Independence. He enlisted for additional time and served until January 1947. In 1947, he pursed his love for farming by partnering with his dad at farms in Rolfe and West Bend, using mules and horse drawn equipment. His first tractor, a 1939 F20 Farmall, was purchased later that year. He endured long hard days of labor as he cleared the rocks and sloughs to create tillable farmland. In 1959, he built a new home on the farm, “Graeber’s Acres” and moved with his wife and two children to rural West Bend. Jerry had a passion for farming the rich dark soil of Palo Alto County and took great pride in having clean fields and a nice looking farmstead, and won the local corn growers yield contest several times. For eight years in the 1970s and during the off-season of crop farming, he also enjoyed delivering Winnebago motor homes to dealers all across the United States. Later, he and Islea purchased their own motor home and experienced many enjoyable trips. They retired to Spencer in 1982. One of his greatest joys in retirement was being asked by his son-in-law if he’d like to come to the farm to assist with planting and harvest seasons. Jerry and Islea enjoyed much happiness in the three Iowa communities they called home — Rolfe, West Bend and Spencer. They celebrated their 71st anniversary before Islea passed away on July 21, 2014.

Jerry enjoyed fishing trips, reading, playing bridge, couples dancing, traveling, attending Okoboji Summer Theater and morning coffee group with his buddies. His greatest love was his family, being together and sharing time with them. Watching his granddaughter grow and be successful was his pride and joy.

Left to cherish his memory is his son, Steven Graeber of Evergreen, Colorado; daughter and her husband, Marsha and Dick Swanson of Spirit Lake, Iowa; granddaughter, Heather Swanson of Kirkland, Washington; brother, Burdette Graeber, of New York City, New York; and several nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Islea; parents, A.V. and Elnora Graeber; brothers: Clifford Graeber and Theron Graeber; and an unnamed infant sibling.

The memories of Jerry will include his easy going manner and his love of humor, beautiful cars and Iowa farming. His example as a devoted husband, father and grandfather are cherished by the family.