On Friday, November 15, 2019, Al Dunkelberger, 72, skidded broadside into the afterlife: thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a ride!” He embarked on what he called, “The Last Great Adventure,” and he did it the way he did everything else – on his terms.
Alvin George “Al” Dunkelberger was born on May 6, 1947, in Waterloo, Iowa, the son of George Henry and Beatrice Evelyn Elliott Dunkelberger. He graduated from La Porte City High School by the skin of his teeth in 1965, and rather than be drafted, he went to the local Air Force recruiter and said, “Sign me up!” He attended basic training and tech school in Texas, and then it was off to Vietnam, where he served as an airplane and helicopter mechanic near Da Nang. He was also stationed in Florida and Dover, but since Dover is the reason he felt no need to ever travel east of the Mississippi, that’s all we’ll say about it here. He was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant, in spite of telling captains to park their own planes; destroying government property by passing out on a beach and receiving a sunburn so severe it landed him in the infirmary; and, inciting a riot in a Florida bar (he’s since been removed from an FBI watch list)
Al (and his family) was proud of his service, and he was a lifetime member of Emil H. Dutler American Legion Post 77 in Mt. Auburn. He drank a lot of beer and grilled a lot of steaks at that Legion. He was also a member of the La Porte City VFW.
On December 6, 1969, Al was united in marriage with Wendy Sue Ferguson at First Christian Church in Vinton. Despite all of Al’s shenanigans (and there were many) during their 49 years together, he and Wendy had a long and happy marriage.
Al held jobs at Benton County Secondary Roads and Perfex before joining his Dad and becoming a 4th generation farmer in Benton County. Although spring planting and fall harvest were stressful for Al (and everyone around him), the rest of the year afforded him the luxury of watching Days of Our Lives and enjoying an afternoon nap. He took great pride in Rock Creek Cattle Company, especially his longhorns, and Stony Hill Farms, where he practiced “recreational agriculture.”
Al was quite the sportsmen in his younger years. He owned and operated a buy/sell/trade gun business, which came in very handy when his daughters started dating. Most dates only came to the house once, where Al could be found cleaning and oiling a firearm or sharpening the largest hunting knife in his collection. He loved hunting, and family photos show Dawn standing over a pile of dead fox and coyote at the precious age of 3. He was known to trudge through snow for deer, or just shoot at them out of a bedroom window when it was too cold to venture out. In later years, he and his buddies headed west to South Dakota or the sand hills of Nebraska to hunt prairie dogs to help out the local ranchers. He also enjoyed fishing, both stateside and in Canada.
Left to carry on Al’s memory are his wife, Wendy, of La Porte City; three daughters: Dena Dunkelberger of La Porte City; Dawn (Heath) Markland of Mt. Auburn; and Gail (Scott) Wood of Vinton; one sister, Sharon (Jim) Grams of Hudson; four grandchildren: Lyndsay Dunkelberger of Marion; Ripley Markland of Mt. Auburn; Josef (Cait) Slocum of Columbus, GA; and Marcus Slocum of Cedar Rapids; and six great-grandchildren: Sandra Peyton of Cedar Rapids; Eldon and Aiden Slocum of Galesburg, IL; and Josef, Bennett and Aspen Slocum of Columbus, GA; and a special niece and her husband, Angie and Jeff Hutton of Mt. Auburn, who provided help to Al and Wendy in numerous times of need.
Al has been reunited in Heaven (we’re hoping – even he thought it was a crapshoot) with his parents; brother, Jack Shatzer; numerous aunts and uncles; and his beloved Border Collie, Babe.
Memorials may be directed to the Mt. Auburn American Legion; the Cedar-Mt. Auburn Volunteer Fire Department, for which he was a volunteer for several years; or the family.
Al’s wish was to be cremated. Memorial visitation will be held 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Monday, November 18, 2019, at First Christian Church in Vinton. A Celebration of Al’s life will be held 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, November 19, 2019, also at the church. Full military rites will be performed by the Mt. Auburn American Legion and the United States Air Force Honor Guard. Al’s remains will be scattered in Rock Creek by his family at a later date.
Van Steenhuyse-Russell Funeral Home of Vinton assisted in getting this cantankerous man where he needed to be for services. Condolences may be left at vsrfh.com.