DANIEL E. DEGNAN
CURLEW -Daniel Edward Degnan died of a heart attack at his farm near Curlew, Iowa on Thursday, December 12, 2013. He was born on the farm January 30, 1936 in the same house in which he died 77 years later. He was born during the severe winter blizzard of January 1936. It was extremely cold, below zero for days, and snowdrifts blocked all the roads. Dr. Nelson, the Ayrshire physician, had to use a one horse shay to get to the house and deliver Daniel and his twin sister, Kathleen, who did not survive the birth.
He attended Ayrshire School, and was graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Ag and Farm Management. He served seven years in the U.S. Army Reserves. He began his first and only job with the local county ASC office in Emmetsburg, where he became manager, the position from which he retired. He continued to farm the family farm near Curlew until his death.
Danny lived on the family farm most of his life, only recently residing at “the cottage” in Sutherland, Iowa, near his sister and brother-in-law, Margaret and Donald Dau. However, he continued a daily drive, weather permitting, to his beloved farm to “check things out.”
As he drove through O’Brien and Palo Alto counties during spring planting and fall harvest, he could observe who was ahead and who was behind in “getting things done.” There were very few farms that he passed in which he did not know the history of who owned it (or who had) and how many acres were involved.
His farm, “the home place” in Booth Township, Section 1, near Curlew has had a Degnan on it for at least 115 years. Grandfather James, sons, Ralph and Billie, and grandsons, Dan and Emmett all farmed the land. Dan, as well as those who preceded his, were good stewards of the land.
Dan was a good farmer and loved his farm. He enjoyed using the latest and advanced farming methods and felt good about keeping the farm in the family.
He was never married but he was a devoted family man with numerous cousins, nieces and nephews and he kept in touch with all of them. The kids lovingly referred to him a “Unc.” He was very generous and the Christmas cards sent to the nieces and nephews would always have the present of a check, not to mention the $20 bills he would slip to the great nieces and nephews when he saw them.
He was a thoughtful and careful caregiver to his parents Ralph and Florence. They died in late 1982 and in those later days of their lives, he provided the comfort that only a devoted son could do. He made numerous trips to hospitals in Rochester, Mason City and Emmetsburg first taking one parent and then another. There was never any discussion about going to an assisted care facility or convalescent home. He was it, without complaint.
Danny never met a state fair or farm expo that he didn’t like. Everyone accused him of having season tickets to the Clay County Fair, as he would never miss a day. He said he went just to see who was there. He loved to have conversations and never met a stranger. He could and would discuss a wide range of things and usually be “right on” with his observation. He often said to a waiting relative of a long conversation, “He wouldn’t stop listening.”
He was an avid collector of farm equipment. From the time he was young he collected farm toys and later full-sized farm equipment. His passion was for Allis-Chalmers, but ran the gamut of all makes and models and all things agricultural. His collection was extensive. He traveled to many tractor shows and sales across the country. He loved tractor rides and was a regular on the KICD Spencer radio station ride.
Danny’s knowledge of agriculture was unsurpassed. His capacity to absorb and retain everything from farm policy and government programs to the latest makes and models of farm equipment and everything in between was evident to anyone who held a conversation with him. He loved to talk. And he especially loved to talk agriculture.
His depth of knowledge went beyond agriculture, however. He was a voracious reader and subscribed to a blizzard of publications, newspapers and magazines from a dozen cities, which often stuffed the worn-out mailbox. His mind was like a sponge and he had the special gift of retaining everything he read and heard in conversation. We were always amazed at the depth of his knowledge on so many topics. Magazines from Successful Farming to one that dealt with steam engines in the Western States were all over the house. And of course, if you asked him about something, he would know right where to find it and show it to you. He stayed keen and sharp to the end.
Danny had some famous comments that he would make, such as when he went to see his sister, Margaret, he would say with a smile on his face, “What’s for dinner?” When his brother James would ask a question he would say, “How much time do you have?” and chuckle. His quick grin and quiet laughter will be missed by all.
He knew the genealogy of most of the family and we regret now that we did not take advantage of that knowledge.
Danny lived a good and fruitful life, true to his beliefs and Catholic upbringing. Even in his death, he thought of others by being a donor with the Iowa Donor Network. He was a man of honesty and integrity. Everyone who knew him knew they could trust him. We were blessed by his life in so many ways. He will be greatly missed. RIP Danny.
Visitation will be Friday from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. with a Parish Vigil Service at 6:30 p.m. at the Martin-Mattice Funeral Home in Emmetsburg.
Mass of Christian Burial will be Saturday at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Ayrshire. Interment will be in Calvary Cemetery, Ayrshire.
Arrangements by Martin-Mattice Funeral Home. www.martinmatticefuneralhome.com