Robert D. White

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Robert Duane White passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, with his wife and daughters lovingly by his bedside. 

 

Bob was 95 years old and blessed with remarkably good health well into his 90s and maintained a keen mind throughout his final days. He faced his diagnosis of prostate cancer and then esophageal cancer with the same poise, courage and grace with which he lived his entire life. Throughout it all, he never once complained. 

 

Bob was born on March 6, 1927, on the White family farm near Volga. He was the fourth of five children to Sidney and Grace (Jennings) White. Bob’s formal education went through the eighth grade in the Crain Country School in Sperry Township.

 

Bob operated a repair and welding shop, managed family farm operations, milked cows, raised hogs and chickens and harvested crops with a John Deere model A tractor. This began his lifelong love of tractors. He enjoyed collecting gasoline engines, Farmall and two-cylinder John Deere tractors and spending countless hours restoring them. He proudly displayed his collections in local parades.

 

Bob had the aptitude, ingenuity and persistence to make, operate and/or fix almost everything mechanical or electrical—oftentimes much better than those who received formal training. He would humbly say, “The difficult, I can do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.”

 

Bob was drafted in 1954 and went through basic training at U.S. Army Fort Leonard Wood, in St. Robert, Mo. He was required to complete crane and shovel operator courses. Bob’s superiors praised his level of expertise and said he should have taught the classes. Because he was highly skilled in operating heavy equipment, he was transferred to Elmendorf Air Force Base, in Anchorage, Alaska, to build runways for the Air Force. He had sharpshooter badges in rifle, as well as expert qualifications in crane and shovel. Bob went on the Honor Flight in 2014 and received a Quilt of Valor in 2019. 

 

In 1965, when the family farm was sold, Bob started working as a mechanic at the Joe A. Rhomberg Implement, Elkader. He worked with Alice Collins, who was the office bookkeeper. We will never know if it was a coincidence or divine intervention why Bob’s car mysteriously broke down in front of Alice’s residence. Their friendship sparked a courtship and then grew into a loving and lifelong partnership. On June 10, 1967, Bob and Alice were married at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Elkader. Together, they raised their two daughters, Arleen and Amanda. 

 

Bob worked at C.J. Moyna and Sons as a heavy equipment operator and was one of two mechanics until 1969, when he started his own earth moving/land improvement business. Bob moved a lot of dirt, graded countless roads and built many terraces and ponds, including the Osborne Pond with Harry Hubbard. He was a skilled operator with natural talent. He took great pride in his work. Bob’s work is forever imprinted on northeast Iowa’s landscape.

 

In 2002, at 75 years old, Bob decided to ease into retirement. He sold his dozer to Paul Keppler, and then worked part-time for Keppler Custom Hire, LLC.

 

He also rekindled a beekeeping hobby that he enjoyed during his younger years on the farm. With his dry sense of humor and perfect delivery, Bob would tell friends he was the president of a company with several thousand workers who worked seven days a week. 

 

Bob had a kind and gentle heart. Bob had a special love and compassion toward animals, especially cats. Before leaving for a fishing trip to Canada with friends, he teased his family that he was going to bring home a bear cub. During the trip, he found an abandoned tomcat on the island. Bob rescued the cat who then became a beloved pet.

 

Bob showed love by kind and simple gestures. Bob’s lunch pail always had something sweet, and he always packed extra so he could share. The kids in the neighborhood knew there was an open invitation to help themselves to his well-stocked candy drawer. During the winter season, Bob drove his girls to school each morning, so they didn’t have to walk in the cold. He often reminded his daughters to “wear your light shoes,” to make sure they stayed within the speed limits when driving, and to “watch for deer.”

 

Profanity was not in Bob’s vocabulary, and he wasn’t one to engage in idle talk. Surrounded by chatty girls, Bob even developed a unique way to communicate at the dinner table. He would give a gentle nod or quickly wiggle his index and middle fingers. 

 

Bob had an uncanny sense of direction and ability to accurately remember the smallest details. He was a wealth of valuable information, and his memory was sharp as a tack.

 

Every year, Bob and Alice planted a large vegetable garden with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Together, they enjoyed gardening, canning, making preserve and sharing produce with friends. Bob made the best “never fail fudge” and chocolate sauce for ice cream.

 

Bob enjoyed fishing and boating. He liked taking leisurely drives looking for eagles, deer and turkeys, and enjoying the beautiful countryside. He enjoyed spending time in his shop and machine shed and taking cat naps on his cot in the porch. Bob mowed the lawn the entire 2022 season.

 

Bob had striking light blue eyes and when he smiled, you knew it was genuine because he rarely smiled when in front of a camera. Bob smiled easily when spending time with his granddaughter, Allison, and great-granddaughters, Rose and Lily.

 

Bob will be lovingly remembered and deeply missed by his wife, Alice, of 55 years; two daughters, Arleen (Bruce) Wentworth of Dubuque, and Amanda White (Dr. Joe Spennetta) of Madison, Wis.; one granddaughter, Allison (Lyle “Trey”) Weber of Johnston; great-granddaughters, Virginia Rose, Madonna Lily and one on the way (expected arrival in February 2023); siblings-in-law, Paul Taylor of Clive, Bruce (Ellen) Collins of Elkader, Dave (Connie) Collins of Fayette and Diane Collins of Elkader; a special niece who grew up as a sister, Carol Reynolds Harrington of Cedar Rapids; and many other nephews and nieces. 

 

Bob was honored to be Godfather to nephew Curt Collins and great-granddaughters Virginia Rose and Madonna Lily Weber. 

 

Bob was welcomed into heaven and reunited with his family members who preceded him in death: parents, Sidney (Sept. 26, 1971) and Grace White (Aug. 19, 1968); parents-in-law, Joseph (Dec. 25, 1981) and Madonna Collins (Nov. 18, 1997); siblings and their spouses, Wayne (Dec. 13, 1991) and Edna White (June 24, 1993), Evelyn (March 14, 1986) and Carl Ohm (April 29, 1971), Marilyn (May 11, 2021) and Robert “Mick” Ohm (June 9, 1991) and Shirley Taylor (June 14, 2016); brother-in-law, Owen Daniel Collins (July 21, 2022); nephews, Robert Keith Ohm (Jan. 25, 1954), Johnny Taylor (July 11, 1971) and Jim Ohm (May 24, 2006); nieces, Pamela and Patricia Ohm (Sept. 29, 1950), Linda White Kime (Feb. 20, 2005) and Sandra Ohm Schmitz (Nov. 27, 2017); and great-nephew, Joshua Collins (Feb. 27, 2022). 

 

Bob’s paternal family tree can be traced back to America’s earliest immigrants. He was an 11th-generation descendant of William and Suzanna White and their son Peregrine, who was born on the Mayflower. 

 

Visitation with scripture service was held Nov. 3, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Elkader. Mass of Christian Burial was Nov. 4, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Elkader, with Rev. John Haugen as the celebrant. Burial with military rites followed at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery in Elkader.

 

Leonard-Grau Funeral Home and Cremation Service is assisting the family with arrangements.

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