Herbert Melvin Bathke, 82, of Ponca, Nebraska passed away Monday March 1, 2021, of congestive heart failure at the Tabitha Residence – Seagren House in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Funeral services will be 10:30 A.M. Saturday, March 6, 2021 at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Martinsburg, Nebraska with Pastor Michael Awe officiating (The family requests that everyone bring and wear masks.) Burial will be in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery, Martinsburg, Nebraska. Military Honors will be provided by the United States Army and American Legion Post 307 of South Sioux City, Nebraska. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service at the church. Arrangements are under the direction of Rush Family Care Service, Onawa, Iowa.
Born September 26, 1938, to Herbert Hugo Bathke and Elsie (Jentz) Bathke, he was the middle of three sons. Born just 11 months after his older brother Raymond, he never knew life without him. They were treated like twins growing up and often dressed alike. Their mom started them in kindergarten together at the nearby country school because they couldn’t bear to be apart. Four years younger, Leroy rounded out the trio of trouble makers. Herb never missed an opportunity to point out that he was the tallest of the three. He also had two half-sisters, Betty Lou and Bonnie.
Herb, and his brother Ray, attended country schools through the 8th grade, went to the 9th and 10th grades in Martinsburg, and finished high school in Ponca, graduating with the class of 1956. After graduation he briefly worked for a farmer before getting a job with the Sioux City Foundry. Drafted into the Army in 1961, he served in Germany during the Berlin Crisis.
After his discharge, he moved back to Sioux City and returned to work at the Sioux City Foundry. The first floor of the house that he rented was occupied by two fun-loving girls: Janice Wonder of Battle Creek, whom he married July 1, 1967, and Karen Goslar, whom his brother Ray married a year later. It didn’t end there, his younger brother Roy met and married Jan’s cousin Pat Vermeys and the Bathke boys’ neighbor Earl Johnson, whom they referred to as the 4th brother, married Karen’s sister Bonnie. The four couples and their kids stayed close throughout the years.
Herb and Jan had two children, Steven and Deborah. While the kids were young, Herb attended night school at ECPI to learn computers and moved to Des Moines, Iowa to work as a programmer at Bruce Motor Freight. After the company was sold, he worked at foundries in Des Moines and Fort Smith, Arkansas before moving his family to Ponca, Nebraska. He returned to work at the Sioux City Foundry and stayed until his retirement in 2005. Of the many jobs that he did as a foundry man, he most enjoyed making decorative iron pieces including boot pulls, animals, and bells that he gave to family members when they got married
After Jan died suddenly in 1986, Herb remained close with the Wonder family and never missed a chance to go there for holidays, family reunions, or to just play cards. He spent his time working on his house in Ponca (a never-ending job); hunting, fishing, talking, and restoring old John Deere tractors with his brothers. He was active in the American Legion Post 307 and loved to go dancing at the Eagle’s Club in South Sioux.
In 2008, he moved to Omaha to live with his son Steve. There, he enjoyed drinking coffee and playing cards with a group of guys at Hy-Vee and going to his favorite hangout, Legends, to watch football, particularly the Huskers and the Chiefs. In 2015, he moved to Lincoln and was able to spend time with his only grandchild Evan. He enjoyed listening to Evan play piano and the two would race up and down the hallways of his retirement community on his mobility scooter.
He is survived by his son Steven Bathke and his wife Vikki of Omaha; daughter Deborah Bathke and her husband Adam Houston of Lincoln; grandson Evan Houston of Lincoln; brothers Ray (Karen) Bathke of Dakota City and Roy (Pat) Bathke of Dixon; sisters-in-law Phyllis (Don) Sargent of Spearfish, SD, Marlene (Dick) Lake of Iowa City, IA; Julie Wonder (John Boger) of Ida Grove, IA; and brother-in-law George Wonder of Henrietta, NY. He also leaves behind many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Herbert H. and Elsie Bathke; his wife Janice Wonder Bathke; his sisters and their husbands, Bonnie and Harold Stammer and Betty and Wally Evans; and nephews Michael Hendricks, Darren Minor, Harold “Butch” Stammer, and Bruce Stammer.
In lieu of the traditional lunch we ask everyone to remember him in their own way – raising a glass of red beer, dancing a polka, or playing a hand of Euchre would be appropriate.
Condolences may be left online for the family at www.rushfamilycareservice.com