Lawrence Frederick Oelkers
Lawrence Frederick Oelkers, 93, Hays, passed away peacefully at his home on October 24, 2018 with his loving wife, Bernadette, by his side.
Lawrence was born February 6, 1925, to John B. and Ethel Rose (Carmen) Oelkers in their home in Fairview Township, Rush County Kansas. He attended rural school in the community of Cordia and graduated from LaCrosse High School in 1942. After graduation, he attended Fort Hays State University. During that time he started his work as a Farmer and Stockman.
A member of the “Greatest Generation”, Lawrence was a WWII Veteran. In July of 1944 he joined the U.S. Navy to be part of the call to defend America. He began his training at Great Lakes, Illinois and took his amphibious training in Florida. He was assigned to the SS Haines as a Boatswain’s Mate 2C. Following basic and seamanship training his assignments took him to Pearl Harbor, the Marshall Islands, Panama Canal, and Guam. His final duties included transporting the Bomb Survey Group to different ports in Japan so they could assess the damage done by the bombings. Most importantly, he walked among the unforgettable ruins of the Atomic Bomb at Hiroshima. Later in life, physicians and members of the medical community were always astonished at his good health and long life after having done such a feat. Lawrence was awarded the distinguished Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the Victory Medal, and the Point System Medal.
When his tour of duty was over he returned home to his greatest passion…raising cattle and farming.
In 1957 Dad met and began dating Brown Country School teacher, Bernadette Legleiter. They were married on February 12, 1960. In the absence of a mother, Bernadette bonded with the children and took on the title of Mom. They blended as a family and Dad and Mom began the task of raising the children together.
Memories of our Father: Dad was a strong man, tall in stature, with sky blue eyes, and an endearing smile. He was easily noticed when entering a room. To his children he was a gentle giant.
Dad led by example, with the time held tradition that, “Actions speak louder than words.” We understood that “Yes” meant whatever was asked of him it would be accomplished. Whereas, “No” meant do not ask again. Dad did not yield and could not be persuaded. Now as adults we realize how important a quality that probably was. Although a Farmer by trade he was a Gentleman in conduct and looked striking in a suit whenever an occasion called for it. Lawrence was patient, tolerant, and a man of his word. He was gifted with the ability to maintain the values of integrity, and strong character. He believed in loyalty, love of family, hard work, faith in God, trustworthiness and respect. That’s how he lived his life. Aside from his family his greatest joy was working the land that had been held by his family for generations.
Although no framed “degree” hung behind his desk, he was a very capable and knowledgeable man. Farming requires an extraordinary amount of planning, math, politics and economics. He enjoyed reading and expanding his understanding of the ever changing world. One could always see a group of magazines, newspapers, books, articles, and a Bible near his easy chair.
Other than his work as a farmer and rancher, Lawrence built and remodeled several homes. They showcased his ability as a carpenter, plumber, electrician and woodworker. He was also a skilled mechanic who rebuilt and repaired many vehicles. He had worked for a time as a mechanic in both Hays and LaCrosse to supplement his farm income. Whether it be a car, truck, tractor, combine, or any manner of farm machinery, Dad could fix it.
As years went by, his garden became a source of pride and joy and he enjoyed sharing what he grew. Dad looked forward to it every year. With Mom’s help he always had a good variety of vegetables.
Mom and Dad had a love of discovering the world. They traveled extensively during their years of marriage, including most States of the Continental U.S., including three trips overseas to areas of Europe. During our growing years we were taken along on many of those exciting adventures.
This was our father; a quiet and yet confident man. To his children he gave the greatest gift on earth: a feeling we were loved, and a sense of our own self-worth!
Lawrence was a longtime member of St. Joseph Catholic Church, and the Hays VFW and American Legion.
Lawrence is survived by his wife of the home, Bernadette; Son, Lee and wife Debbie (Reynolds) Oelkers; their family: Granddaughter, Carolyn L., J.D., ESQ. and husband, Scott Payne, MAJ (Ret); their children: Katherine (Katie), Anna Marie, and Stella; Granddaughter, Michelle L. Quigley and husband, Dylan; their children: Aubrey, and Kobie; Daughter, Vicki Herrman and husband, Dr. Leo Herrman; their family: Grandson, Colonel John Herrman and wife, Angela; their children: Jacob, Hunter, Madelyn, and Allison; Grandson, Sgt. 1st Class Leonard Herrman; his family: Emily, Britton, Kaden; Grandson, Bernard Herrman and wife, Marita; their son Conrad, Daughter, Connie Kisner and husband, Kenneth; their family: Grandson, Trevor Kisner; Grandson, Tyler Kisner and wife, Liberty: their children Lawson Kisner, Geordy Deatherage, and Logan Deatherage.
Lawrence is also survived by: Sister-in-law, Jean Oelkers (Erman.); Sister-in-law, Margaret Hamilton; Sister-in-law, Maureen Legleiter (Greg); Sister-in-law, Marietta Walker and husband, Richard; Brother-in-law, Rudy Legleiter and wife, Maralyn; Sister-in-law, Mary Ann Legleiter (Francis); and many nieces and nephews who were important in his life.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Erman Oelkers; sister, Fern Zimmerman; Brothers-in law: Connie Zimmerman, Gilbert Legleiter, Francis Legleiter, Julie Legleiter, Greg Legleiter, and Gene Legleiter; Mother & Father-in law, Frank and Ludwina Legleiter; and life-long friend Wilber Albers.
Private family services will be held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Hays with Fr. Fred Gatschet officiating. Burial with military honors by the Hays American Legion and VFW honor guard will be in the St. Joseph Cemetery. Memorial donations are suggested to family wishes for a memorial to be determined at a later date and checks may be made out to the Lawrence Oelkers family. These may be mailed to Hays Memorial Chapel Funeral Home, 1906 Pine Street, Hays. Condolences and memories of Lawrence may be left for the family at www.haysmemorial.com