There are a few individuals in every community who seem, almost automatically, to assume the leadership roles. When those remarkable folks leave us, the loss is deeply felt. We, here in western Cherokee County, are experiencing just such a loss.
A few days ago, ninety-three-year-old Merle Treinen passed away. Member of a pioneer family, husband, father, farmer, leader and friend, he leaves an indelible imprint. Merle, known to most as "Mickey," was a warm, witty, guy, with scarcely an enemy in the world. If you couldn't warm up to Mick, it was you who had a problem.
His grandfather, Nicholas Treinen, born in Luxembourg, came to northwest Iowa, by way of Red Wing, MN, not long after the town of Marcus was platted. Merle's parents, Felix and Pearl, farmed only briefly before moving into town where Felix was first a carpenter and then operated the Marcus Oil filling station out at the mile corner. So Merle grew up in town and graduated from Marcus High School in 1932.
His deep roots drew him back to the original Treinen family farm and he and his wife, Wilma, cultivated that land for 69 years. That is where they raised their remarkable family of one son and seven daughters. One of their girls was a special needs child. To many of us it seemed the Almighty had a unique purpose in giving her to them.
Merle had been elected to the public school board at about the time this little one reached school age. With an outstanding superintendent and progressive fellow board members, the county's very first special education classes were offered in our little town. From that beginning, the entire Cherokee County system of special education developed.
Beyond that, working at the state level, Merle became involved in the establishment of Iowa's outstanding system of Group Homes and Sheltered Workshops. It's impossible to calculate the number of lives that were positively affected by those institutions, both directly and indirectly.
As we remember Merle, Rotarian, fair board member, avid conservationist, and community volunteer, it would take a great many Gray Matters to acknowledge all of his and Wilma's contributions. But in these brief lines, I hope I have been able to give you a bit of a feeling for the character of this remarkable man whose long life of service we are honoring.
Every community has its own such special leaders. Most of them probably won't be with you for ninety three years, but I urge you to acknowledge and appreciate those you have as long as they are around.
To many of you younger readers I'm sure ninety three years seems like forever, but I can assure you it is not. So I will leave you with the admonition to follow the example of Merle Treinen and make the most of every one of the years you have been allotted.
May God Rest His Immortal Soul!