Richard Dean Struthers was a farmer all of his life. On April 19, 2020 when it was time for him to go, he breathed his last and we expect he returned to the place of his birth, the old family farm.
Our Dad passed away with the return of spring sunshine and rain, as farmers started to till the land and plant their crops. For generations this had been the way―of his father’s and grandfather’s days. As a farmer, Richard realized that he had wealth beyond measure. With his family around him, he was a rich man. His breed is a rare one, it’s becoming extinct. Of course we, his children, didn’t know him his entire life, but this is what we knew of his life and of the man we called “Dad.”
Richard was born May 24, 1934, on a farm in Kossuth County, Iowa. He was of the generation who walked miles to school. He attended Des Moines Township, a rural school in Iowa, where he graduated in 1952. Only a few people knew that our dad graduated as a married man. Our mother, Carol Heathman, had graduated a year before and Richard would not wait to marry the love of his life. They were married on September 14, 1951 and made their home near Rolfe, Iowa. In 1955, Richard and Carol (or “Ma” as he lovingly called her) moved with their two daughters to a farm near Manannah, MN. Several years later, he moved his family, now six children, to their present farm just north of Grove City, where he continued farming. Throughout the years, Richard expanded, modernized, and diversified the farm’s business practices, establishing Struthers Pork Farm. Raising hogs was the foundation of the farm. During his retirement, Richard looked forward to escaping Minnesota winters, so he and Carol enjoyed wintering in Laferia,Texas for a number of years.
Throughout his life, Richard was an “International” and “GMC” man. In fact, the day he passed, he was giving his nurse a hard time for being “green” (meaning her family used John Deere equipment). He enjoyed restoring old tractors, especially the F and Letter series Farmalls. Another favorite pastime was our threshing events. The entire family harvested several acres using the original threshing equipment that was used during the 1890s. It was one of Richard’s fondest memories. He wanted his children and grandchildren to have that magical experience of working the land like the men and women before him. He also loved his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He found great joy and amusement from them. A sort of initiation for all the grandchildren was being offered “snus” (chewing tobacco). Few were brave enough to take a pinch and those that did, immediately spit it out. He also taught his grandchildren a mnemonic to help them remember how to spell “geography.” The phrase was, “George Eddie’s Old Grandma Rode A Pig Home Yesterday.”
Some would call our Dad a “stern man.” He was that, and he was so much more. His character and personality surrounded his life’s work as a farmer. Richard believed dignity to be man’s greatest possession and that hard work and honest sweat should be valued. He believed farming, despite its hardships, is an honorable occupation which teaches a person so much, in a variety of ways. He used those lessons to ingrain in us, his children, a solid work ethic and values to last a lifetime. And for all his coarseness, he had a tender and caring heart. When saying goodbye, he always told us kids to “stay between the ditches.” It was his way of telling us to drive safely and that he loved us.
Richard found much joy from the things that surrounded him. He found comfort from his dogs who provided him companionship (Patrick and Bo). He loved watching the crops grow and his children mature to adulthood with families of their own. As Richard grew old and summed up his days, he stood tall and felt proud in the life he’d lived, because on his farm, he had found all his blessings.
Richard left behind a large family that shares loving memories they will forever hold in their hearts: His wife Carol; brother Terry Struthers and wife Grace; daughters Jean Bauer and husband Tom, Jaclyn Smith and husband Kraig, Lori Johnson and husband David, Janet Smiglewski and husband Tim; sons Rick Struthers and wife Patrice, Steve Struthers and wife Deborah; 30 grandchildren and 52 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents Vern and Mary (Molamphy) Struthers, his granddaughter Eileen Whitcomb, his brother James Struthers and his sister Sheryll Sullivan.
Rest in peace Dad. We will miss you.
A private celebration of life will be held with Richard’s immediate family to return his ashes to the places he most cherished during his earthly journey. For those who would like to see it, our Dad’s marker is placed at the cemetery at Church of Our Lady in Manannah, MN.