Wilmer Clarke Starr, age 89, of Bison, South Dakota, passed away on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at his home in Gas, Kansas.
He was born on January 2, 1925, at Welda, Kansas, the son of Karl S. and Lena R. (Wiley) Starr. He spent his early years on various farms in the Welda community where his grandfather Mervin Starr had settled in 1844. He attended several rural schools until he started the 7th grade when he started going to Welda. He graduated from Welda High School in 1943. This was also the start of his farming career which was the love of his life until his passing. He had planted over 70 years of crops, having planted his first crop when he was a senior in high school and his last 325 acre wheat crop in the fall of 2013.
In 1946, Clarke had his own truck and was spreading lime on various farms in Anderson County. When the government contracts ran out, Clarke went to western Kansas to haul grain for a custom combiner. On his return through eastern South Dakota, he asked permission from his employer to go to Meadow, South Dakota, to visit his uncle Jim Starr. This was the start of his adventures in the Dakotas. He farmed land around Meadow in 1947.
During the winter of 1948 Clarke returned to Kansas. He and Ruby Mitchell were married in Garnett, Kansas on January 31, 1948, a marriage which lasted for over 66 years. During the next several years they farmed as many as seven different places, the farthest being as much as 100 miles apart.
Clarke planted his spring wheat crops and followed the grain harvest with his combine crew during the summers. In the summer of 1952 the harvesting was from western Kansas to the Canadian border. His combine was loaded in the ditch that separated the United States from Canada. He returned to Meadow, South Dakota, to harvest alfalfa seed down in the Wall, South Dakota area.
A son, Wayne Starr, was born on March 18, 1953, at the Iola, Kansas hospital, being the first caesarean birth that had taken place at that hospital. The baby's birth prevented Ruby's return to Dakota with Clarke in the spring. It was a late planting season. Bored by idleness, Clarke purchased his first airplane and made his first solo flight in a beautiful aluminum Luscombe airplane. Several years later he delivered this same plane to Pennsylvania.
Clarke added semi-trucks to his life in the following years delivering grain to Minneapolis, Denver, Salt Lake, and Kansas City. To make this possible and profitable he began selling fertilizer in Minnesota and North and South Dakota. For the volume of fertilizer he sold, he won two free trips to Acapulco, Mexico, one to the Grand Bahamas, one to Las Vegas, Nevada, and three trips to Hawaii. He was able to take Wayne and his wife Diann with him on his last trip to Hawaii. While in Hawaii he was hailed by a friend from Lemmon, South Dakota. Neither had known that the other vas visiting there. He had to travel a long distance before he was in an area where he was not known.
In his love for the soil, he became involved with selling Noble Machinery which he purchased from Canada. This machinery involved the under cutting of the soil, which kept the dry Dakota land from blowing. He introduced this machinery into the Bison, South Dakota area to start with.
In 1955 the Starr's basically settled at Bison, South Dakota. Clarke's love of flying led him to purchase his 1959 piper airplane. He obtained his commercial flying license and started his years of crop spraying. The largest one day of spraying was a 960 acre field. It was a section and a half of straight flying. Try telling that to the people of Florida. They were used to small 60 acre patches. The days started at day break and ended at dark. One time he was starting to fly just as the dance crowd was going home. Clarke sprayed his own crops with this same little airplane not so very many years ago. Clarke's last flying took place a little over a year ago. By this time he was flying his twin Comanche. When he became involved in the spraying business he quit making the trips south for the western Kansas harvesting season.
Since he had his own farming acres and his own trucks, Clarke began building the elevator and grain bins out on his farm, which led to getting the elevator and fertilizer licenses. The grain purchasing continued for many years until he sold the land in 2004.
Finally the years began to catch up on this hard working man. The South Dakota winters became harder and harder to endure. Clarke returned to the land of his birth in eastern Kansas. He farmed here until last year. Each summer he returned to his beloved Dakota land. Each winter he came again to Welda, Kansas where he was born. The trips to the doctors and hospitals in Kansas became more and more frequent. Still his love of farming never decreased. He experienced considerable pleasure even in the summer of 2013 out in the fields on his tractor.
Clarke was a 60 year member of the Masonic Lodge at Garnett, Kansas. He was a 50 year member of the Fairview Chapter of the Eastern Star at Bison, where he was three times the Worthy Patron of that order. For many years he was a member of the A.O.P.A. flying organization. He also was a member of Farm Bureau for many years.
The greatest joy of Clarke's life was his son, Wayne, five grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. Each year he looked forward to their visits to his house at Bison.
The Welda High School alumni reunion was also a looked forward to event. He traveled for many miles to return to this yearly visit and didn't miss very many of them. He enjoyed "showing off" his granddaughters when they were able to accompany him.
Clarke had two philosophies in life. The first, "THE IMPOSSIBLE just takes longer". The second, "Strangers are just friends I haven't met yet". I don't think that he ever met a stranger. He loved to visit with everyone.
He was preceded in death by his parents; an infant brother, and a three month old sister.
Clarke leaves to mourn his passing his wife, Ruby Starr; son Wayne Starr and wife Diann of Estelline, South Dakota; one grandson David Starr of Milbank, South Dakota; four granddaughters Carol Jergenson and husband Ryan and great grandson Zane of Fargo, North Dakota; Mary Heckenlaible and husband Lee of Chancellor, South Dakota; Linda Miller and husband Derek and great granddaughter Melani Eckman, and great grandson Body Miller of Watertown, South Dakota; Nancy Starr of Brookings, South Dakota; sister-in-law Edna Boots of Tulsa, Oklahoma; brother-in-law Bob Mitchell and wife Ginny of New Strawn, Kansas; three cousins, five nieces and nephews, and a host of friends and neighbors.
Funeral services will be held at 2:00 PM on Monday, April 7, 2014, at the Welda United Methodist Church in Welda, Kansas. Burial will follow in the Welda Cemetery. Mr. Starr will lie in state at the Feuerborn Family Funeral Service Chapel, 204 E. 4th Street, Colony, Kansas on Sunday from Noon to 8:00 PM with the family present to greet friends from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Condolences to the family may be left at www.feuerbornfuneral.com.