Cover photo for Eugene 'Gene' Phelps's Obituary
Eugene 'Gene' Phelps Profile Photo
1937 Eugene 2014

Eugene 'Gene' Phelps

October 28, 1937 — April 19, 2014

Eugene Edward Phelps was born October 28, 1937, the last child and only son of Arthur E. and Gertrude E. (Hoit) Phelps. He was born and raised in the same home west of Bayard where he raised his own family. Gene attended Bayard Community School and participated in many activities including FFA, basketball, chorus, and playing doubles ping pong with his sister Thelma. They graduated together with the Class of 1955. Following graduation, Gene enlisted in a special Army Reserves program and served for 6 months. He married the love of his life, Shirley Ruhde of Manning on December 30, 1956. His love of the land was an integral part of Gene's life. He farmed for many years, beginning at an early age with his father, then taking on the operation for himself. He was innovative, experimenting with no-till farming before it was common practice. He loved to garden, both vegetables and flowers to help beautify his farm. Gene also restored a 1919 Moline Universal tractor that he subsequently drove in area parades over the years. Gene was a handy-man at heart, always building and creating. He worked construction for area builders before he helped start his own business. What was to be a six-week project turned into Professional Machinery Assembly, an operation that has been in business for over 35 years. He invested his time and energy into the company which diversified over time from machinery assembly to building grain bins, assembling slides and to all types of large and small construction projects. Community was important to Gene. He was a lifelong member of the Bayard United Methodist Church, United Methodist Men, Masons, and currently served on the Friends of the Library board. He was especially proud of the Bayard library because he helped build it with PMA. He enjoyed serving on and working with the All-Alumni and Bayard Betterment Committees as well as helping to create the Bayard Hall of Pride. When his children were in school, Gene was active in school functions and spent many basketball seasons behind the scorekeeping bench and many football seasons on the "chain gang". Gene never knew a stranger as evidenced in the many people from near and far away who counted him as a friend. He was always there to help someone in need, both in the community and outside of it. With Shirley, he volunteered for many years at UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana. Also, during his semi-retirement, he and Shirley created "Silver Memories", a business where they made jewelry and other items from silverware. Gene's creativity found a new outlet as he was constantly looking for new things to make with the pieces of silver and created animals, dinosaurs and bugs to the delight of many. To those who knew him, Gene will be remembered as a lovable, caring man, full of compassion, encouragement, devotion, generosity and dedication. He was also jovial and fun loving with an amazing smile and an unpredictable streak of orneriness! Gene found great joy in life and carried a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He enjoyed his family, especially being a parent and grandparent, and was always ready for a game of cribbage or pinochle. Even near the end of his life, he commented, "I thought I had more time, but it's been a good life!" He died on April 19, 2014 in Iowa City, IA. He was preceded in death by his parents, son Danny, sisters Evelyn Hulsebus, Ruth (John) Croft, Reva (Simeon) Manhica, Thelma (Ron) Werhan, parents-in-law Herman and Bertha Ruhde, and brother-in-law Dick Mincey. He is survived by Shirley, his wife of 57 years, his children: Mark and his wife Judi and their son Ethan of Waterloo, IA, David and his wife Noel and their daughters Kelsey, Sydney and Grace of Schofield, WI, and Elaine and her husband Mike Capek and their children Megan and Nathan of Epworth, IA. Also surviving are sisters and brothers-in-law, Beverly and Donald Butler of Creston and Craig and Karyl Ruhde of St. Joseph, MO, many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.

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