Obituary – Richard (Rich) Kay Krafka, Dysart, Iowa
Richard Kay (Rich) Krafka, 85, of rural Dysart, passed away January 25, 2024, at Sunrise Hill Care Center in Traer, Iowa. Funeral services will be held at the Dysart, Iowa, United Methodist Church, on Wednesday, January 31, at 10:30 a.m., with Pastor Mechille Boldt officiating. Visitation will be at the church on Tuesday, January 30, from 3-6 p.m., and again before the services January 31, from 9:30-10:30 a.m., with family members present.
Rich was a lifelong farmer who survived many seasons in life. He loved his family, his farm and working with his crops and livestock. He was born on the family farm South of Dysart, Iowa, June 5, 1938, to Charles and Albena (Chudlic) Krafka. The youngest in his family, he attended Dysart Community Schools, and then entered into farming full-time.
In May of 1950, while in fifth grade, Rich witnessed and survived the heartbreaking loss of his best friend, Tom Bayse, who was struck by the Dysart school bell tower as it was blown off during a tornado-like wind storm which struck during recess.
Rich served in the U.S. Army Reserves in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, where the Commanding General chose Rich as his personal Jeep driver. During and after his service to the country, Rich returned to the family farm where he proudly raised Pioneer seed corn, soybeans, oats, and alfalfa, purebred Suffolk sheep, cattle and hogs over the years. Rich was true patriot and a proud member of the Myers-Gordy-Pippert Post of the American Legion in Dysart.
In his younger years, Rich loved competing as a stock car driver, earning the season championship at Tunis Speedway in Waterloo in 1957 at only age 19, where he loved racing on Sunday nights. He also enjoyed racing at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids on Friday nights, competing in his popular car #24. He raced across the state and country, including racing a midget car in Wisconsin and a super modified at the famed Knoxville Raceway as a teenager where he recalled seeing two competitors get killed, helping to remove them from the wreckage.
Rich retired from racing in his early thirties to focus on guiding his daughters as they began their 4-H and FFA years showing sheep, cattle and hogs at the junior and open shows and sales across the country. The family raised and showed the National Champion Suffolk Ewe, exhibited at the National Junior Suffolk Show in Detroit, Michigan, in 1987, and has continued to dominate Suffolk slick-shorn sheep divisions at the Iowa State Fair ever since their inception.
When Rich’s daughters were grown, he returned to racing in his fifties, commanding an IMCA modified to wins at Benton County Speedway in Vinton on Sunday nights. He resumed racing under his nickname, “Speedo Shepherd”, with an enthusiastic fan club.
Rich was a longtime caregiver for his late wife, Caroline Wehrman Krafka, who passed away from complications of Type 1 diabetes in 2003. They were married 45 years, having wed June 21, 1958, in Queen City, Missouri, after meeting at the Benton County Fair, where they both showed dairy cattle in Benton County 4-H. Rich also exhibited champion hogs as a 4-Her.
Rich was an accomplished, competitive, hard-working crop and livestock farmer, skilled welder and creative inventor. He won state and national invention contests for the livestock equipment he designed. In 1988, Wallaces Farmer Magazine described his farm as the neatest farm in Iowa, and calling his inventions clever.
He also operated a custom chemical application business for many years, in addition to crop and livestock farming. Rich enjoyed traveling to and competing in stock car races and sheep shows and sales and connecting with friends across the state and the country.
Rich was a past Director of the Iowa Suffolk Sheep Association and the Iowa Ram Test Association. His family’s Suffolk sheep consistently earned championships and topped sales for decades. He was a member of the United Suffolk Sheep Association, formerly known as the National Suffolk Sheep Association, the Iowa Suffolk Sheep Association, the Iowa Sheep Industry Association (ISIA), the National FFA Alumni Association, and the Dysart, Iowa, United Methodist Church.
The Dysart-Geneseo FFA named Rich and his late wife, Caroline, Honorary Chapter Farmers in 1979.
He also supported the Dysart Historical Society, where memorials to his late wife enabled the old country schoolhouse renovation. He was proud that proceeds from the family’s popular Krafka Family Cookbook, funded creation of a Krafka Family Courtyard dedicated in 2016 at the museum.
A talented bowler, lifelong Iowa Hawkeye and Chicago Cubs fan, Rich also was an accomplished baseball player who helped establish an adult slow-pitch softball league in Dysart, including his team the “Southern Farmers” comprised of farmers South of Dysart.
Rich is survived by his three daughters and their families: Kathy Krafka Harkema and Ed Harkema of rural Montezuma, Kristi Krafka, Marty, Dana and Carla Edleman of rural Cambridge, and Kerri, Lance, Ellie and Sophie Bell of rural Washington, Iowa.
He is survived by nieces and nephews, including Jan Messer and his wife, Corene, of Manchester, Iowa, Craig Messer and his wife, Jennifer of Gilbert, Arizona, Capi (Messer) Lewis and Bob of Montezuma, Iowa, Cara (Messer) Johnson and Dean of Hudson, Iowa, Craig Krafka and Andrea of Dysart, Dann Krafka of Solon, Joan (Krafka) Meany and Joe of Waterloo, Pam (Palmer) Mitchell and Ken of Waterloo, Becky (Palmer) Ripperger of Urbandale, Susan (Palmer) Delfs of Dysart, brother-in-law Hank (Cathy) Wehrman of Luzerne, sisters-in-law Jackie Vandivier and Christine Wehrman of Ankeny, longtime employee Ron Parizek, of Waterloo, as well as other nieces and nephews and great nieces and great nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Caroline, his parents, Charles and Albena, sister Vivian, brother, Robert Krafka and his wife, Arlene Mae, sisters Janet Messer Sawyer and husbands Warren Messer and Warren Sawyer, and Arlene Palmer and husband, Dale, his nephew and racing crew chief David Krafka, in-laws, Harold and Leone Wehrman, brothers-in-law Don Miller and Curt Vandivier, niece Peggy McKenna Krafka and great nieces Lori (Lewis) Hardin and Sara Messer.
Memorials may be made to the Rich Krafka Memorial Fund, c/o Dysart State Bank, PO Box 369, Dysart, IA 52224, to be designated to tributes to honor Rich’s life. As his life drew to a close, Rich said he’s had a good season and ran a good race on earth.