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On September 28, 2018, Jerry Laffey, age 82, passed from this life. His body will be cremated in accordance with his wishes, and a joint celebration of life ceremony for Jerry and his beloved departed wife, Marilyn, will be held on Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 3:00 P.M. at West Monona High School in Onawa, Iowa with Pastor Todd Schlitter officiating. A family graveside service for Jerry and Marilyn will be held in Armstrong, Iowa, at a later date. Those so inclined are invited to attend a regular service at the church of their choice, where they might offer a prayer on behalf of Jerry, Marilyn and their family.
Jerry Lee, the youngest of Joseph Franklin and Nellie Mae (Verbrugge) Laffeys’ seven sons, was born on his parents’ anniversary -- July 6, 1936 – in Armstrong, Iowa, where he lived the first twenty years of his life. He attended Armstrong Consolidated Schools from kindergarten through twelfth grades, graduating in 1954. Two years later he received his Associate of Arts degree from Estherville Junior College. The next semester he attended the State University of South Dakota in Vermillion, but interrupted his formal education in January of 1957 to serve in the United States Air Force Security Service the following four and one-half years.
At the age of eleven, Jerry began his first job, delivering papers. Other employment in Armstrong included the local drug store, café, newspaper, men’s clothing store, and VFW. While attending Estherville Junior College, he started Armstrong’s first garbage collection service – a “business” that was passed on to other Armstrong young men pursuing college credits at E.J.C.
On December 29, 1957, he and Marilyn Elizabeth Haworth were united in marriage at the First Methodist Church in Armstrong; and in 2007, for their 50th Anniversary, they renewed their vows in the same church with all but two of the original wedding party present. They were richly blessed with the birth of one daughter and two sons: Rebecca Rae, Brian David, and Greg Matthew. Collectively the children and their spouses presented their parents six beautiful Laffey grandchildren.
After joining the Air Force in 1957, he was sent to the Army (foreign) Language School at the Presidio of Monterey, California, where he studied the Russian language to prepare him for his job as a Russian Voice Intercept Processing Specialist, serving at two different bases in Germany from 1958-1961.
In September, 1961, Jerry returned to S.U.S.D., where, in 1963, he received his B.A. degree, with teaching majors in English and Russian, and certification to teach all levels of math, chemistry, physics, zoology, and history. During his teaching career he completed courses in a variety of subjects from the State University of Iowa, as well as several area colleges.
In September, 1963, Jerry began his thirty-five-year career in education at West Monona High School in Onawa, teaching English, Russian, speech, and special education (a self-contained classroom). He was a member of the West Monona Education Association, the Iowa State Education Association, and a lifetime member of the National Education Association. After retiring in 1998, he continued employment for the West Monona Schools as a substitute teacher until 2016, for a combined total of 53 ½ years of service to the young people of the District. For fifteen years he was in charge of the G.E.D. classes, and for four years he taught a variety of classes for Sioux Empire College of Hawarden. Thirty summers during his years of teaching he managed the municipal pool. It was there that he first became Mr. Ha-Ha, which later at the pool, at school, and throughout the community evolved into Mr. Funny, Mr. Chuckles, Mr. Giggles, and Mr. Laffey-Taffy.
Laffey received numerous honors throughout his lifetime. While a Junior College student, Jerry was inducted into the National Honor Society. At graduation ceremonies at the Army Language School in December of 1957, he was presented the General Maxwell D. Taylor Award, given to the Outstanding Graduate of the six classes being honored that day (Russian, German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese). He was recognized as an Honors Curriculum Graduate, as the Outstanding Foreign Language Graduate in Russian, and as an Outstanding Prospective Teacher in ceremonies at the University of South Dakota in 1963. Jerry was distinguished as a Runner-Up for Iowa Teacher of the Year in 1976, and in 1985 the Onawa Kiwanis Club selected him as West Monona’s first Secondary Teacher of the Year. During his years as Director of West Monona’s Speech and Drama program, his students earned a total of 161 “Outstanding Performance Awards” (West Monona was one of only five schools in the state of Iowa to earn at least one “Outstanding” every year from 1969, the first year the honor was presented, through his retirement in 1998), plus 738 Division I Awards at State Contests. In the spring of 1998 he was presented the State of Iowa Outstanding Speech Coach Award by the National Federation of Interscholastic Speech and Debate, and in October he was the 1998 inductee into the Iowa High School Speech Association’s Hall of Fame, the 31st person to be so honored.
Having been born a Methodist, Jerry was an active member of three Methodist Churches during his lifetime. He held various offices and served on numerous committees in these churches. He also belonged to several civic/social organizations over the years and tried to fulfill his obligations to each.
Jerry was most proud of his wife, his children and their families. Besides being with his family, in his leisure time Jerry enjoyed spending time with young people, walking (with or without his dog), riding bicycle, reading, attending plays, baking, visiting, telling or listening to good jokes, and his “jobs.” He once heard an entertainer say, “If you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Throughout the years he spent MANY hours at school and the pool, but his jobs were truly “labors of love,” not work.
Family members left with cherished memories include his daughter Becky (Barry) Phipps; sons Brian (Lindsey) and Greg ; grandchildren Maddie, Nicky, Ben, Max, Connor, and Viola; one brother Bob (Dixie); one sister-in-law (Ruth Laffey); many nieces, nephews, friends and relatives. He was preceded in death by his parents (Joe and Nellie Laffey), his parents-in-law (Henry and Grace Haworth), his wife, Marilyn, five brothers (Warren, Duane, Don, Jim, and Ray), five sisters-in-law (Dorothy Laffey, Dolores Laffey, Marge Sparrowgrove Carlen, Leona Haworth, and Irene Haworth), and three brothers-in-law (Carl Haworth, Clyde Haworth, and Ralph Sparrowgrove).
Memorials received will be directed to the Wesley United Methodist Church or may be directed to the church in his name and sent to 3700 Indian Hills Drive, Sioux City IA 51104.
Condolences may be left online for the family at www.rushfamilycareservice.com
Cards may be sent to the family in care of Becky Phipps P.O. Box 321, Bennington, Nebraska 68007