Lillian Handke, 93, departed peacefully from this earth at the Edgewood Convalescent Home in Edgewood, Iowa on Sunday, July 26, 2020, very much enveloped at the time of her passing by the immeasurable love of her large and devoted family.
Lillian Irene Phelps came into this world on October 27, 1926, near Elkader, Iowa, the second of seven children born to Merton Albert Phelps and Bertha Helen Kauffman, all of them bonded to each other in a metaphorical fashion by being given a first name that started with the same letter, making for what turned out to be a very lucky band of seven siblings, close-knit and loyal to one another throughout their lives.
Lillian spent most all of her early life on the Mallory Township, Clayton County, Iowa, farm near Colesburg, Iowa, that her parents moved to the year after her birth, and attended school at Colesburg, graduating in 1944. In her high school days “Sis”, as she was affectionately nicknamed by her family, was a guard on the Trojanette Basketball Team, played softball, and was active in Drama Club. It might also be added that one of her favorite subjects during high school was penmanship. It is, in fact, from this class that she developed the clear and precise style of writing that remained an elegant hallmark of her correspondence throughout her life.
On July 18, 1946, nineteen year old Lillian Phelps was married at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Garnavillo, Iowa to twenty-five year old Clarence Martin Handke, and they were the parents of eight children in the course of their forty-five year marriage. The couple farmed for many years two miles south of Elkport, Iowa until their retirement in 1981, after which they made their home in the nearby town of Garber. Shortly before Clarence’s passing in 1992, however, they moved to Guttenberg, Iowa, and it is in this town where Lillian lived on North First Street for almost the next quarter of a century, being an active member while her health permitted of both the United Methodist Church there and also the Rebekah Lodge. In addition, she was for many years a volunteer at the Guttenberg Care Center.
Although Lillian Handke certainly endured more than her fair share of hard times and hard work during her days upon the earth, she still managed to live a life unblemished in any way by bad behavior, which is quite an accomplishment in and of itself. But that is still not the achievement that defines her life. Because it just cannot be overstated just how much of her heart and soul Lillian put into loving her children, which she always cherished as her main mission in life. And she was richly rewarded right to the very end with the undying devotion of those children, two of whom, Pat Chettinger and Peg Wagner, along with their husbands, Layton and Clyde, took care of her in their own homes during the last years of her life.
The remarkably long and wholly well-lived life of this absolutely lovely lady of strong faith, resolute will, and sterling moral character is, indeed, over now, but the blessing of having shared in her 93 very fruitful years upon this earth will now be dearly cherished by her many descendants for decades to come.
Those left to treasure her wonderful memory include her children and their spouses, Linda and Dennis Gardner of Evansdale, Iowa, Roger and Maggie Handke of Colesburg, Iowa, Pat and Layton Chettinger of Garnavillo, Iowa, Kathy and Scott Stewart of Farmersburg, Iowa, Peg and Clyde Wagner of Arlington, Iowa, Gary and Penny Handke of Arlington, Iowa, and Clarence and Joan Handke of Dubuque, Iowa, her son-in-law, Don Tuecke of Dubuque, Iowa, her 15 grandchildren, her 27 great grandchildren, and her 12 great-great-grandchildren; her siblings Lenny and Janet Phelps of Edgewood, Iowa, Lila and Ron Bushaw of Plant City, Florida, dear friends Penny Hansel and Sharon Sickles, and wonderful neighbors Duke and Joan Lucas of Guttenberg, Iowa.
Those now experiencing the joy of being reunited with Lillian include her husband, Clarence; daughter Pam Tuecke; her great-grandson Austin Benson; her parents Merton and Bertha Phelps; her siblings and spouses, Lyle and Dorothy Phelps, Leland and Vivian Phelps, Lowell and Jeaninne Phelps, and Lois and Jack Hill, and the light of her life in her golden years, Joe Moody.
Lillian's family would like to thank the health professionals at Cornerstone Family Practice whose medical expertise kept her with us upon this earth far longer than any of us ever could have hoped for as well as all the skilled staff at Garnavillo Tower Living Center, the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital, and the Edgewood Convalescent Home, all of whom bent over backwards during the most difficult times to provide her with the utmost of compassionate care in her last months upon this earth.
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