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Wilbur F. Ricks Creston

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 11:30 a.m. CDT

Wilbur Ricks, 91, of Creston, died Sunday, December 2, 2012 at his home in Creston.

Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday, December 8, 2012 at First United Methodist Church in Creston. Pastor Gideon Gallo and Rev. Jim Morris will officiate. Burial will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, at Greenlawn Cemetery in Afton, with graveside military rites by the Creston Theodore J. Martins V.F.W. Post #1797 and the Afton John B. Parks V.F.W. Post #8882. Open visitation will be from 2-8:00 p.m. Friday, December 7, 2012, at the Powers Funeral Home junction of highways 34 and 25 in Creston, with family receiving friends from 6-8:00 p.m. Friday. Memorials may be directed to the Afton United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church in Creston. Online condolences may be given at www.powersfh.com.

Wilbur Franklin Ricks was born to Arthur O. and Nellie R. (Hamilton) Ricks on December 8, 1920, and passed away in his home from natural causes on December 2, 2012, at the age of 91 years. He was raised in farming communities in Harrison and Montgomery Counties, experiencing the Great Depression during his teenage years. He helped his father operate a steam threshing crew. He graduated from high school in Stennett, Iowa, in 1939 as the Valedictorian of his class of 3. He enrolled in Simpson College, and later transferred to Iowa State University to major in engineering. His education was interrupted by World War II, and he answered the call to service by joining the U.S. Air Force. He served as a gunnery instructor for B-24 squadrons, from a base in Harlingen, Texas.

On March 9, 1945, he was united in marriage to Helen E. Brown at Afton. Following his discharge from the service, Wilbur and Helen began farming land that is now the south bank of Three Mile Lake. There they made their home until 1987. In 1954 Wilbur took employment with the Iowa State Highway Commission, working for 20 years as a construction inspector and bridge designer. He helped build Interstates 35 and 80, and he enjoyed traveling those roads years later, pointing out culverts and bridges that he had helped design and build. A crowning achievement was the Highway 92 bridge over Grand River, that has both a curve and an incline built into the structure.

Two children were born to Wilbur and Helen: a daughter, Deva (Vernon) Long of rural Afton, and a son, Allen (Donna) of Grinnell. In 1974 they welcomed an international son, Bahiru Egziabiher, from Ethiopia. Wilbur was especially proud of his grandchildren: William (Sarah) Long, Kristen (Craig) Moeckly, Darren Long, Sarah (Shane) VanWaardhuizen, and Siyoum Egziabiher. He is survived by nine great-grandchildren: Riley, Peyton, Emmet, and Maria Long; Lane, Morgan, and Henry Moeckly; and Ella and Tyce VanWaardhuizen.

In 1970 Wilbur retired from the Highway Commission and expanded the farming operation to include a Grade A dairy herd. He continued farming until retirement in 1985. He was the caregiver for his wife, Helen, during her extended illness. Following her death, Wilbur married Edna (Weaver) Staggs on September 19, 1987. They made their home in Creston, where they were active in church and community affairs, and where they volunteered their time at Greater Community Hospital.

Wilbur and Edna enjoyed spending winters in Texas for a number of years, but they always were ready to be home in the spring to work in their garden, or to start a new project. Wilbur was an accomplished wood worker, building several pieces of furniture, in addition to a harp, a calliope, a dulcimer, a spinning wheel, a loom, and a pool table. He loved the challenge of designing and building things, with some of his designs including a four-wheeled, two-person bike, an exercise treadmill, and a 7 inch telescope.

Following Edna’s death in 2007, Wilbur chose to continue living in his own home, and was fiercely insistent that it was his wish to remain independent. He found great companionship in a dog, Minnie, the last in a long line of animals he cared for and loved.

Wilbur was a person of deep faith, affirming that at an early age. He taught youth and adult Sunday School classes for a number of years. He was in attendance at Sunday School and worship services the Sunday before his death. He was a member of the Afton and then the Creston United Methodist Churches, and served on a number of church committees through the years. Wilbur also understood the importance of service, and expressed that through membership in the Lions Club, American Legion, Gideons and United Methodist Men. Highest values to Wilbur were education, patriotism, and loyalty in friendship. He was a generous person who gave freely of time, talent, and treasure. Wilbur loved music, and in spite of not having the advantage of music lessons, was able to teach himself to play the harmonica and the button accordion.

Wilbur was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, Helen, on April 15, 1987, and by his wife, Edna, on October 22, 2007. He was also preceded in death by two sisters, Ruth Hultquist and Betty Carlson, and by brothers-in-law Everett Brown, Guy Weaver, and Glen Weaver.

He is also survived by a brother-in-law, Darl Carlson, by several nieces and nephews, and by many friends.

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