Remembering a Thresherman, Historical Society Founder, Steam Truck Owner

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The late Marvin Brodbeck and his 24 HP Port Hurton steam engine.

Long time steam enthusiast John (Jack) Fritcher of Saratoga, Iowa, passed away Nov. 21, 2005, at the age of 88.

I had the pleasure of first meeting Jack in the early 1970s at Antique Acres, Cedar Falls, Iowa. We soon became good friends due to Jack’s great capacity for making one laugh. This God-given talent made Jack a welcome guest at the shows and get-togethers throughout the years.

Jack and his wife, Ruth, were longtime Howard County farmers as well as raising their family of four children – Butch, Joeie, Janet and Pete. Jack also did custom threshing in his younger days as well as keeping a sawmill in operating condition.

He was the proud owner of a 20 HP Minneapolis traction engine he had purchased in the early 1960s from Roy Harper of Cedar Falls. Some of my best steam engine memories came compliments of Jack and this Minneapolis engine. He had taken the Minnie to Harlen and Maggie Boes’ annual threshing bee in the early 1980s, and asked me to be his engineer, which I readily accepted. We annually threshed about 10 acres of oats during the one-day get together, usually not even stopping for lunch. Everybody pitched in, worked hard and got the oats threshed with anticipation of the evening entertainment. Barbeque chicken with all the trimmings was served up, a keg of beer was tapped and old time music was played. It was the closest thing I had ever experienced to a genuine old-fashioned threshing day.

Just this past summer Jack had passed the Minneapolis engine on to Jim Bodenham of Riceville, Iowa, knowing that Jim would give his old engine a good home and a new lease on its life.

It will sure be hard to drive along Highway 9 through Saratoga in northern Iowa and not think of my old friend Jack, all the steam shows we attended together and all the fun we shared. But I guess that’s not so bad after all, now is it.

Rest in peace old friend.

Submitted by Randy Schwerin, Sumner, Iowa.

Ivar Falkenberg, of Crown Point, passed away Dec. 12, 2005, at the age of 82. He was born in Northfield, Minn., on June 26, 1923. He was youngest of nine children of Ivar and Petra Falkenberg, who came to America in 1910 and farmed in Minnesota.

Roy enjoyed fishing and hunting when not farming with his family. He married Rita Flynn in 1946 and they moved to Gary, Ind. He worked as an ironworker in Local 395 for over 35 years, primarily for Hunter Construction. Roy was a founding member of the South Lake County Agricultural Historical Society. He was a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Crown Point. His main interests in life were his two sons and five grandchildren.

Roy is survived by: his loving wife, Rita Falkenberg, of Crown Point; two sons: Carsten (Georgia) Falkenberg and Stephen Falkenberg, both of Crown Point; five grandchildren: Eric (Nicole), Adam, Nathan, Kurt and Wendy.

Submitted by Mark Corson, Crown Point, Ind.

Marvin Brodbeck, 72, of Ottawa Lake, Mich., passed away on March 9, 2006, at his winter home in Palmetto, Fla.

Marvin was a lifelong farmer who expanded his operation with excavating, land improvement and trucking. He became involved in the steam hobby when asked in 1968 to haul a Baker steam engine to the National Threshers Assn. in Wauseon, Ohio. Since then, he purchased a 24 HP Port Huron, a 32-120 HP cross-compound Reeves Canadian Special, and a 20 HP Nichols & Shepard double. Marvin was elected in 1976 to be the third president of NTA. He was a 38-year member of NTA, serving as its president for 27 years.

The purchase of the Port Huron from LeRoy Blaker’s estate auction in 1975 has been well documented by Marvin’s wife, Shirley, of almost 50 years. Shirley was not too happy with the purchase until later when she saw how much fun the family had together as they showed the engines throughout Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.

In addition to steam traction engines, Marvin had the pleasure of caring for and operating a 1924 Foden steam truck. The truck was owned by Domino’s Pizza in Ann Arbor, Mich. The family had great fun taking people up to the pizza locations at the various shows. The truck has since been repatriated to England. He also enjoyed antique trucks including his 1925 Gramm stake truck and 1956 International brush truck. He was a member of the Black Swamp Chapter of the American Historical Truck Society.

Marvin was a life member of the Monroe County Fair Assn. and a former board member. He participated in the procurement and operation of the 1/2-scale Crown steam locomotive, “Little Smokey,” at the Monroe County Fair. His son, Roland, continues to operate it during the weeklong fair every year.

Marvin is survived by his wife, Shirley; sons Ken (Sally) and Roland (Raeann); daughters Barb Brodbeck and Beth (Barney) Vanarsdall; and six grandchildren. All who knew him will miss his guidance and wisdom.

Submitted by Beth Brodbeck Vanarsdall, Ottawa Lake, Mich.

Farm Collector Magazine
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