Gerhard O. Hinrichs
Gerhard (“Gary”) Otto Hinrichs was born on October 22, 1924, to Christian and Eliese (“Lizzie”) (Wacker) Hinrichs in Lincoln Township, Iowa. He was among the third generation of the Hinrichs family to live in his childhood home.
Gary received his elementary education at St. John’s Lutheran School, Lincoln Township. He graduated from Guernsey High School in 1942, where he played baseball and basketball. After graduation, he continued playing on numerous teams and won a corn-picking (by hand) contest.
Shortly after graduating, he received his draft notice due to World War II. However, his older brother Christian felt that he should go to war before his younger brother and returned from college to take Gary’s place. Christian was killed in action in Germany in 1945. That same year, Gary enlisted in the U.S. Maritime Service, which was in dire need of able seamen. He received training at Sheepshead Bay, NY, and Norfolk, VA, and made numerous Atlantic crossings, mostly on Liberty Ships from New York, New Jersey, and Norfolk. At the end of the war, he marched in the V-J Day Parade in New York City. In 1946, on the night before Gary was due to depart on sailing orders that would take him on a five-to-six-month trip around the world, all orders were cancelled due to the Seaman’s Union strike. Gary then returned home, where he worked as a hired man for various area farmers until 1950.
In June 1946, while eating at Scotty's Cafe in Marengo, Gary proclaimed to his cousin Gordon, "who is that girl? I'm going to marry her!" After introducing himself to his future wife, Janis Paulson, he began a persistent campaign to secure a date using the repeated pick-up line: "It's my birthday and I am going to a dance, would you like to go?" In August 1947, she conceded, feeling she had to get to know this guy with so many birthdays. Their first date at the Brooklyn Carnival was followed by decades of dancing together, which continued into their 80s.
When the Korean War escalated in 1950, Gary was drafted into the US Army. He took basic training at Ft. Knox, KY, and advanced training in Anti-Aircraft Quad-50, and 90 MM guns at Ft. Bliss, TX. Gary and Janis had planned to be married during a 15-day Christmas furlough, but when all leaves were cancelled due to the situation in Korea, Gary’s father appealed to the Iowa National Guard General, who enabled Gary to have a special leave for a few days. Gary and Janis were then married on December 27, 1950, in Marengo, IA. When he returned to Ft. Bliss, TX, Gary was ordered to fill an emerging requirement and to report to Cooks School for training. He then served as an Army cook at Ft. Bliss. In February 1952, following the death of his father, Red Cross arranged a humanitarian discharge so Gary could return to run the family farm. As a farmer, Gary lived through an era of farming that transitioned from the use of horses to iron wheels to rubber tires.
Following the sale of the farm operation in 1966, Gary and Janis moved to Marengo. Gary began work with the Soil Conservation Service and assisted in the Paulson/Hinrichs Bookkeeping office. Soon after Gary began a postal career as a walking mailman in Marengo and then as a Postal Clerk in Cedar Rapids. He retired in 1992 as a Postmaster at Atkins, Iowa after serving in the position for 12 years. That same year he underwent quadruple bypass surgery. Although the doctor estimated ten more good years, his heart took him through thirty more. In 1993 he began his third career stocking shelves on Aisle #4 with the Big G grocery store in Marengo, until he retired, again, in 2017 at age 93.
A man of deep faith, Gary freely gave his time to the church serving as Elder, financial secretary and teacher of confirmation and Sunday School classes. Among his community involvements he served as a basketball referee, umpired baseball, Iowa Valley School Board member, census taker, and an American Field Service board member. He was also very involved in the Iowa County Museum Board, American Legion, Honour Guard, and Per Mar Security Services at University of Iowa basketball and football games.
During his long-life Gary travelled to all fifty states and visited four continents. He noticed and appreciated the emergence of modern conveniences – running water, on/off switches and yard lights – but through his hobbies he pointed others to the joy of the traditional and antiquated. Gary remained a lifelong collector of stamps and coins. He was steady bogey golfer who had the thrill of a hole-in-one. He played baseball, dart ball and bridge. He enjoyed antiquing and sang bass in the St John's Lutheran Marengo choir. As an enduring Cubs fan, he took great pleasure in seeing them win a World Series during his lifetime. He often said, with the token twinkle in his eye, that if a TV program did not have a ball or a horse in it, it was not worth watching. He mastered the skill of opening hickory nuts and developed a cottage business enterprise in harvesting and selling hickory nuts and walnuts. He also became a competitive horseshoe player, winning or placing in numerous tournaments at the local, state, national, and world levels. He generously shared his love of words in conversation, poetry, and written recollections as noted in his “This I Remember” memoir provided to his children. His articulations of gratitude for the things most take for granted was infectious.
Gary is known as “Dear Old Dad” (D.O.D) and survived by his four children: Pamela Olerich of Jefferson, IA., Stuart (Beverly) Hinrichs of San Clemente, CA., Kurt (Alice) Hinrichs of Gladstone, MO., and Heidi (Ron) McKay of Cedar Rapids, IA.; six grandchildren: Kyle (Dani) Orris of Ames, IA., Rachel (Daniel) Abate of Wylie, TX., Jamie Hinrichs of Oakhurst, CA., Rebekah (Carter) Price of Kansas City, MO., Christian Hinrichs and Caroline Hinrichs of Gladstone, MO., and Grandcats Alex and Casey and three great grandchildren: Aria and Kora Abate, Elsie Orris, and sister-in-law Ruth Hinrichs of Fairmont, MN.; and many nieces & nephews. He went to the Lord peacefully on January 12, 2022, at age 97.
Gary was predeceased by his parents, siblings & spouses Berniece (Herbert) Maas, Reinhold (Vivian) Hinrichs, Elizabeth (Ervin) Koehn, Christian, Edmund (Dorothy) Hinrichs, Bertrand (Janet) Hinrichs and Granddaughters Corrie Hinrichs and Sarah Hinrichs.
Memorials may be contributed to any Lutheran School or district fund, the Iowa County Heritage Museum, or the donor’s choice.