December 21, 1926 - January 9, 2016
Heaven welcomed an educator this week. John F. Smeltzer, born December 21, 1926, in Redfield, Dallas County, Iowa, son of Paul Ora Smeltzer and Orpha May McGrew, passed away the evening of January 9, 2016, at the age of 89 years, 19 days following a life-time filled with great family times, a wonderful career, superb stories, the joys of a fisherman's life and some marvelous gardens. He was "Mr. Smeltzer" to many students and faculty over a career spanning nearly 40 years starting as a football coach in 1950 in Pella, Iowa, to serving as Superintendent of Schools from 1975 to 1987 in Bode, Iowa as part of the Twin Rivers School District, with stops at Essex, Napier, Madrid and Meriden-Cleghorn schools in various capacities in between. John was a World War II veteran. He joined the U.S. Navy with the permission of his father at the age of 17 in early 1944. He was a "Plank Owner", part of the first crew, of the U.S.S. Chevalier, DD-805 launched 29 October 1944 at Norfolk, Virginia. After a few months at sea in the North Atlantic, where he always said he only got seasick once ....on the first day....and then got over it 3 months later....he was assigned as a Supply Manager and gained some of his initial administrative and personnel skills at the Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he remained until his discharge in 1946. He was a member of Livermore American Legion Post 415. He was a 50 year member of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, Speculative Lodge No. 307, Cherokee, Iowa. Following his discharge from the U.S. Navy, he attended school on the G.I. Bill at Central College in Pella, where he played football until he injured his knee and then helped coach as a student assistant. He received his Master's Degree in Education from Drake University in Des Moines in late 1952. He was married May 25, 1952, in the Congregational Church in Stuart, Guthrie County, Iowa, to Patricia Anne Lyddon and they lived a wonderful life together raising two somewhat gregarious boys. His wife "Trish" passed in 2009. John made the transition to life after her passing with the help of family and friends in the Bode, Rutland, and Humboldt area. And to those communities the family is forever grateful. John and Trish decided to resided in Rutland during their retirement, which began in 1987, to be near some of the best catfishing Iowa has to offer at times. He was officially a teacher for 40 years but he was most definitely an angler all his life. They lived and fished in Humboldt County for over 30 years. But, John and Trish had resided and raised their family in the Meriden, Iowa area for almost 20 years prior to that and the banks of the Little Sioux River and Mill Creek hold many wonderful angling days, family tales, and times with friends as well. His was a life dedicated to listening and assisting with the education of others no matter the venue, age, gender or national origin. In 1955, he took a girls basketball team from Napier, Iowa, to the Iowa State Girls High School Tournament in the opening year of the, then new, Veteran's Auditorium in Des Moines. Those were the "six on six" days and he was hard pressed to pull together a full team of high school girls at Napier and resorted to working into the team a very talented group of junior-high girls to compete against the best Iowa girls basketball had to offer. They came up just a little short in that first round against Goldfield, a team that went on to win that coveted crown in 1955. But his ability to build teams seldom wavered in the years that followed. John was inducted into the Iowa Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1994 for his long-term, strong support for Iowa High School Athletics. He retired a Superintendent, but he always had a teacher and coach's flame in his heart. When questioned at the time of his retirement about what he would miss most he replied from his heart "I'll miss the kids the most. As an administrator there is a stigma attached and kids are reluctant to get close. As a former coach and teacher, it was difficult to get used to and I guess I have never gotten used to it." And through all of those years he was an agrarian as well. His gardens were always grand, seldom simple, and ranged in size from a "smallish" 900 square feet as he reached the 85 years mark to as much at 20,000 square feet in the early years. And, in most years, it was difficult to find a single healthy weed anywhere. Tomatoes, watermelons and cantaloupe were his specialties, but he loved the "canned sunshine" of the green beans and frozen corn in the winter. He remained to the end a teacher in one way or another. He combined his love for students, teaching, and angling together as he brought his two sons, his two grandchildren and many interested Rutland area youth into the fishing fraternity, teaching them how to catch, clean and prepare Iowa channel catfish with his tricks to make them taste "as good as walleye". But he never did reveal his deepest held secrets on how to make that "perfect" catfish bait. And few knew that he held four U.S. patents on items to aid in both gardening efforts and to serve as aids in fishing. He did bemoan that they cost him more than he ever made however. He was a charter member of the Little Sioux Wildlife Association in Cherokee County and helped lead the early efforts of the West Fork of the Des Moines River Restoration "Three-Rivers" Committee in Humboldt County during his retirement. John was also the very first member, in 2005, of the Smelser - Smeltzer Family Y-DNA project, a genetic genealogy project for the family started by his son John Jr., now with over 100 participants across North America. His interest in his colonial 1600's, Revolutionary War era and deeper Native American ancestry intrigued him until his last days. His willingness to participate in these early genetic genealogical efforts makes him truly a pioneer in his own right. He and Trish were the parents of two sons, John F. (Marsha) Smeltzer of Fort Collins, Colorado and Spirit Lake, Iowa , and Michael S. (Carrie) Smeltzer of Cleghorn, Iowa, who survive him. He is also survived by two grandchildren, David Smeltzer of Fort Collins, and Katie O'Day (Kyle) of Davenport, his brother, Bob from West Des Moines, many nieces and nephews, and a host of friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, Trish, brothers, James and Richard and sisters, Dorothy Rummans (Chuck) and Betty Chance (Harvey), several nieces and nephews, and very recently his sister-in-law, Sandra Christensen Smeltzer, wife of brother Bob. The Schuchert-Lentz Funeral Home of Spirit Lake is in charge of arrangements. A visitation will be held Friday, January 15, 2016 from 4 to 6 pm at the Schuchert-Lentz Funeral Home in Spirit Lake, Iowa. A weather shortened grave-side service will be held at 1:00 Saturday, January 16, 2016 at the Liberty Township Cemetery, about 4 miles north of the town of Meriden, Cherokee County, Iowa. A reception will immediately follow at the Evangelical Free Church in Meriden.
Heaven welcomed an educator this week. John F. Smeltzer, born December 21, 1926, in Redfield, Dallas County, Iowa, son of Paul Ora Smeltzer and Orpha May McGrew, passed away the evening of January 9, 2016, at the age of 89 years, 19 days following... View Obituary & Service Information
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Heaven welcomed an educator this week. John F. Smeltzer, born...View More
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