Francis Birkenholtz, 92, of Newton died on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Friday, June 29, 2018, at the Wallace Family Funeral Home and Crematory. The family will greet friends form 10:00 a.m. until the time of service. Memorials to the Newton High School – Woods Department (Industrial Tech) or St. Luke’s United Methodist Church may be left at the funeral home.
Francis was born on October 3, 1925 to Frank and Gladys (Gildersleeve) Birkenholtz. He grew up on the farm with his sister Dorothy (Gardner), attended Warren Grove School, and graduated with the Newton High School class of 1943.
Francis proudly joined his father in farming after graduation. He soon met Estella Aldridge and they were married in 1946. They started their home on the same farm where he grew up, welcomed children Stephen Lee and Nancy Jo into their lives, and shared their love story for over 64 years before Estella’s passing in 2009.
Francis farmed for several years before beginning work at Maytag in 1964. He began his Maytag career working as a night shift janitor while farming, and soon moved to dryer assembly before becoming supervisor of plating and sheet metal. As much as he loved working with the land, he loved the camaraderie he found working with so many folks at the plant. Francis retired after 25 years and he and Estella spent many happy winters after in Arizona.
Francis loved his family. If anyone needed advice on how something worked or how to fix something, they called Dad or Grandpa. In recent years, he gave a lasting gift to each of his 15 great-grandchildren: a beautiful hand-crafted bed.
Francis loved his neighbors, co-workers, and friends. His kind heart and strong, helping hands brought him close to those around him. He always enjoyed keeping busy, whether it was working in his shop, using his cooking and baking skills, playing a mean game of cards, or even sewing on a button. He loved to tease and laugh. His smile was infectious!
Francis was a long-time member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and the Elks Lodge, where he served as Exalted Ruler in 1976. Both of those bodies always meant so much to him.
Francis was preceded in death by his parents; wife; son, Stephen in 2008, his sister and brother-in-law, Dorothy and Jim Gardner, and brothers-in-law, Robert Thompson and David Aldridge. Those left to honor his memory are his daughter and son-in-law, Nancy and Bob LeBlanc; their children and grandchildren, Emily and Mark Allen and family, Abigail and Brendan Lamont and family, Scott and Christina LeBlanc and family, and Karin and Nick Petrucelli and family; his daughter-in-law, Janna Beth (Kling) Birkenholtz, and her children and grandchildren, Todd and Jenny Birkenholtz and family, and Eric and Jill Birkenholtz and family; his sisters-in-law, Joan Aldridge and Clarice Thompson; and many other nieces, nephews, and friends.
His absence will be great but his influence on others even greater.