Celebration of his life will be held on Aug. 12.
John V. Wiersma, age 66, Crookston, MN, died Friday, August 2, 2013, at his home in Crookston. John was born on May 13, 1947, in Maquoketa, Iowa, son of Harry and Gertrude (Easton) Wiersma, in the home next to the church he was married in 23 years later. He attended grade school and high school in Lost Nation, Iowa. Industrious at an early age, he raised banty hens and Mallard ducks for eggs that he sold until he was big enough to work on the Edelman Farm during junior and senior high school. Milt Edelman was a role model for him and farming, especially raising pigs, was his life goal. Since college was cheaper than starting farming, he went to college. After graduating from Lost Nation High School in 1965, he attended the University of Minnesota for both his BS in 1970 and MS in 1972.
He was united in marriage with Mary (Dee Dee) Hellmer at Sacred Heart Church on May 23, 1970, in Maquoketa, Iowa. He began his PhD at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario. Dee Dee was unable to obtain a work permit, so they returned to Iowa and John worked for Milt for a few months, before moving to Ames, Iowa, where John obtained a PhD at Iowa State University in Plant Physiology. Their daughter, Julie was born in Ames on June 30, 1972. The family moved to Haslett, Michigan, and John worked with Dr. Wayne Adams on his post-doctoral studies at Michigan State University. They packed their bags and drove to Crookston, when winter was really winter and their moving van was delayed for a couple of weeks because of a blizzard. John accepted a position as a research agronomist at the NWROC for the University of Minnesota Crookston, where he was employed for 33 years. He took pride in research on wheat and soybeans and his relationship with the farmers who supported his research and his colleagues and friends at the NWROC. He cared deeply about making food crops better for those people in 3rd world countries suffering from iron deficiency anemia.
He realized his dream of raising pigs on a small farm outside of Gentilly, (known as Hampshire Orchards), doing chores before going to the center and again before returning home from work. A customer once said that a person could eat off John’s hog floor. He kept every written comment from people who purchased his pork. He sold the farm after many years, when he was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for lung cancer in 2007. John’s sense of humor, his loyalty to his friends, his pride in his family, especially his three grandchildren, and his extraordinary work ethic are going to be sorely missed.
John is survived by his wife: Dee Dee Wiersma of Crookston; his daughter: Julie (Ron Manshack) Wiersma of Roseville; three grandchildren: Eli, Anna and Ivy Manshack; and his sister: Sheri Smith of Warren, Rhode Island. He was preceded in death by his parents: Harry and Gertrude Wiersma.
The Celebration of John’s Life will be held at the Stenshoel-Houske Funeral Home, Crookston at 2 PM on Monday, August 12, 2013 with a visitation for one hour before the service.