Jerry Radke Obituary – Des Moines Register | Wonder Mind Kids

Jerry Keith Radke, 84, of Nevada, Iowa, passed away peacefully on November 1, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. due to complications from a recurring brain meningioma. He was surrounded by his loving family at Accura Healthcare, Ames, Iowa. Jerry was born on April 11, 1938 in Ripon, Wisconsin to Edward Ludwig and Vera Ione (Phillips) Radke, the eldest of four boys. Jerry grew up on the family farm, working with his grandparents’ dairy cows, beef cattle, pigs, chickens, ducks and geese. The family grew corn, alfalfa, oats, barley, peas, hay and swamp hay. His father put him on a tractor when he was three years old. Jerry talked about his feet touching the foot pedals while he leaned his head against the tractor seat! Jerry also talked about helping his grandmother quilt. He was indeed a Renaissance man. He attended Henderson School, a one-room schoolhouse, through the 8th grade. It was the boys’ job to go to the nearest farm to get a bucket of water from the farmer’s milk house and pour it into the schoolhouse tank for the drinking fountain. Jerry said one of the few times he was reprimanded by the teacher was when he dipped a young lady’s pigtail in the ink fountain. His grandfather and father also attended this school. He attended Ripon High School and spent the summers working for Green Giant as a crop inspection assessor, inspecting crops and moisture tests to determine if they were ready to harvest. He competed in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, soccer, track and field, 4-H and Future Farmers of America. Jerry kept his elementary and high school transcripts, which showed excellent academics and a strong work ethic. Jerry was an accomplished musician, playing the organ, piano and accordion. Jerry, 12, played the accordion and brother Mike, 10, played the drums at weekend and birthday parties in Ripon. At the age of 15 Jerry began giving accordion lessons. When Jerry was 16 and Mike was 14, their band, The Rhythmaires, consisted of Jerry on accordion, Mike on double bass, and a trumpeter and drummer. They played at parties, weddings, proms, proms and at the exclusive Green Lake Country Club. In college, he taught accordion and piano to help pay for his room and board. Later, Jerry’s accordion talent would always bring joy to his mother-in-law, Violet Charlson. Her father, Otto Book, had played the accordion at many family gatherings. Jerry’s music reminded her of those special family times. Jerry earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Soil Science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. During this time he participated in the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps Program. Upon entering service, First Lieutenant Radke served in the US Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey as an electronics instructor. Jerry earned his Masters of Science in Soil Physics from Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. He returned to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for a PhD in soil physics. During his 35-year career as a soil physicist, Jerry worked at the North Central Soil Conservation Research Lab in Morris, Minnesota. He was also Associate Associate/Associate Professor of Soils at the University of Minnesota, studying soil structure, soil temperature, and instrumentation automation. Jerry took a sabbatical at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute, University of Adelaide, Glen Osmond, South Australia. He was also an associate professor of soils at Pennsylvania State University while working at the central weather station, field studies, modeling and electronic communications at the Rodale Research Center (Rodale Institute) in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Jerry was retired from the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Soil Tilth Lab, Ames, Iowa. At that time he was also a Collaborative Associate Professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University, teaching meteorological instrumentation. He has published research articles on soil freezing and thawing, including the effects of water and nutrient movement within soil profiles, necessary for the development of improved management strategies. Further research trips led to Cali, Colombia, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Scientists from several countries have requested copies of his research publications over the years. Jerry was a member of the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil Science Society of America, the American Meteorological Society, and the Soil Conservation Society of America. He served as Commissioner of Soil and Water Conservation for Story County from 2000 to 2013 and as Assistant Commissioner from 2013 to 2022. Jerry joined the Morris Lions Club in 1965 and transferred to the Nevada Lions Club when he moved to Iowa. He has held several positions with this charity, most recently as webmaster for the Nevada Lions Club. On August 4, 1962, Jerry married Barbara Thorndike, also of Ripon, Wisconsin. They had three children, Greg, Earl and Katrina. They took their children on many camping trips around the United States and Canada to help them develop a love for adventure and the outdoors. A member of the Church since he was young, Jerry was baptized and confirmed at Grace Lutheran in Ripon. After moving to Nevada, he joined Memorial Lutheran Church and served on several committees. On June 4, 1994, Jerry married Susan (Charlson-McLain) at Memorial, where they met while serving on the Outreach and Fellowship Committee. Her blended family includes Greg and Anne Radke, their children Chloe and Phoebe; Earl and Monica Radke, their children: Mackenzie Machovec, Nolan and Heather Machovec, their children Levi and Elyanah, Mason Machovec and his children Ethan and Marshall and Kennadie Machovec; Katrina (Radke) and Ross Gerry and their children Brenner, Benjie, Shanti and Sanjay; Steve Pannkuk and Alicia Quella, their children Zach, Sam and Josh; Emily (McLain) and Sanjay Negi, their children Lenore and Imelda; Christina (McLain) and Joe Larson, their children Austin, Jenna and Tyler and Frank McLain, V. Jerry brought laughter, joy, love and many travel memories to his family. He had a great sense of humor and could be a bit mischievous. He served his church and community selflessly. Jerry is survived by his 28-year-old wife, Susan, and their blended family, brothers Michael (Linda), Rodney (Jeannie), and Brian (Pam) Radke, many nieces, nephews, and an extended family. A celebration of Jerry’s life will be held at 11:00 am on November 19 at the Memorial Lutheran Church, 701 11th Street, Nevada, Iowa. After the service there will be lunch and a time of remembrance. A private family celebration will be held at a later date at Madison Township Cemetery in Forest City, Iowa. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Memorial Lutheran Church, the Nevada Lions Club, or the Watersheds and Wildlife Program (Prairie Rivers of Iowa), prrcd.org.

Posted November 18, 2022

Published in the Des Moines Register

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