The Ottumwa Courier


October 7, 2011

Harry Sterling, 99, Farson

FARSON — Harry Robert Sterling, 99, of 18532 Farson Road, passed away peacefully at 7:54 p.m. Oct. 4, 2011, at his home.  

He was born May 23, 1912, on a farm south of Farson to Arthur David and Belva Ann Shank Sterling. He grew up the middle of five children. His first job was drying dishes for his mother for one-half cent a day. He attended Farson grade school and graduated in 1929 from Martinsburg High School. He met Lillian Hanna Hadley their senior year, and they were married Feb. 18, 1932, at Wesley United Methodist Church in Ottumwa, having ridden the train from Pekin.

Harry and Lillian began their married life on a farm in Highland Township, moving back to the Farson area in 1934; they later purchased the farm, and in 1946, they bought the Farson Lumber & Grain Co., where they worked side by side until poor health forced Lillian to retire in 1965. Harry continued to manage the lumberyard until he retired in 1978. hw was known around the community for his excellent math skills.

Harry had a love for cattle and the land; he fed out cattle for 80 years, starting when he was 19 years old and selling his last cattle this spring at 99 years of age. When they went on vacation, it was to look at cattle, buy cattle or attend a cattle auction, and he especially loved to visit his good friends, the Petersons, on their cattle ranch in Alliance, Neb. When he was 97 he was still actively going to the cattle sales when his cattle were sold. He sold corn for as little as 10 cents a bushel in 1932 to $7 a bushel in 2011, and he was the first farmer in this area to plant soybeans. He lived an amazing farm life, beginning with horse farming days to the present GPS-guided tractors.

Harry served many years on the Board of Directors of the Competine Township Country Schools and the Farson School. Then in 1960, he was one of the area men who helped organize the Pekin Community School District and was the first president of that Board of Directors.

He attended Farson Baptist Church. He was a member of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and the Wapello County Farm Bureau.

Surviving are a son, Gary A. Sterling of Martinsburg; a daughter, Karen (Jerry) Gooden of Farson; a daughter-in-law, Joanne Sterling of Farson; seven grandchildren, Debra (Gerry) Wordehoff, Kate (John) Elsey, Jim (Joan) Sterling, Travis (Jennifer) Sterling, Megan Reed, Ryan (Lana) Reed, Shane (Brooke) Sterling; four stepgrandchildren, Todd (Marsha) Gooden, Tony (Dana) Gooden, Trent Gooden, Tricia Eastwood; 12 great-grandchildren; and 10 stepgreat-grandchildren. He is also survived by “Harry’s girls” (home caregivers) Joan White, Kelli Gregory, Christina Leach, Alisha Marks, Brandi Erue, Stephanie Conger and Sherry O’Laughlin, who gave him exceptional loving care.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Lillian; his son, Harry Robert “Bob” Sterling Jr.; two infant grandsons, Robert Cleo Sterling and Shannon Patrick Sterling; three brothers, Dwight, Verle and Virgil Sterling and his sister, Marjorie Huffman.

Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Reece Funeral Home; Pastor Dave Peterson officiating. Burial will be in Deuser Cemetery near Farson.

Visitation will begin at 11 a.m. today with the family present from 5-7 p.m. this evening, as well as one hour prior to the service on Saturday.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Hospice, 927 E. Pennsylvania Ave., Ottumwa, Iowa 52501; Pekin Child Care Center, 1062 Birch Ave., Packwood, Iowa 52580; or American Home Finding Association, P.O. Box 656, Ottumwa, Iowa 52501.

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