Celebrating the life of Edward James Dufek
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Edward was born on Sept. 26, 1924, in Voorhies, Iowa, to the late Joseph and Mayme (Yilek) Dufek.
He is survived by his wife, Anna May of Peoria, IL; two daughters, Debra Ann (John) Zenian of Westchester, IL, and Susan Annette (Thomas) Smith of Richmond, TX; one grandson, Benjamin David Smith of Richmond, TX; his younger sister, Mildred Smith of Waterloo, IA; one cousin, Marvin Yilek of Toledo, Iowa; as well as several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his younger brother, Raymond Dufek, a Navy Veteran, of Cedar Rapids, IA.
He spent most of his childhood in Clutier, Iowa helping out on the family farm and raising pet chickens. He was the Clutier High School class president and worked as a book-keeper at the bank. He grew up speaking both English and Czech.
Edward was a World War II Navy veteran from 1943 to 1946, where he served as a signalman on a supply ship in the South Pacific and the Mediterranean Sea, setting port in North Africa. He also was a member of the Naval Armed Guard gun crew in the US in 1944. He became a member of AMVETS in Peoria, IL and could still recite the Morse code alphabet when he was 90.
He attended Loras College in Dubuque, IA, participated in intramural sports and received his B.S. in chemistry in 1950 where he had translated several scientific articles from German into English during his under graduate research. He later set up a scholarship fund for chemistry students at Loras College.
Edward went to the University of Iowa, eating at the local diner whenever Anna May Inghram was working there as a hostess while also attending U of I as an undergraduate. They got married on May 12, 1951, in Iowa City, IA. Ed earned his secondary school teaching certificate and taught high school in Crestin, IA. He studied medicine and received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Iowa in 1956. On the way to defend his dissertation, he temporarily lost his eyesight and relied on his wife to steer their car; he later taught her how to drive. He then taught Chemistry at Loras College for a year.
They moved to Peoria, IL with the arrival of their first daughter. After their second daughter was born, he built a 4 room addition to their house, contracting out only the basement and electrical work. He played an active part in the education of his daughters, helping with science projects and typing. He was on a bowling team, in bridge club with his wife, and made candles for extra Christmas money. He was a conservationist, an amateur rock hound, and collected stamps, coins and pop tabs, of which he had collected 800 thousand, missing his lifetime goal by only 200 thousand. He learned to sew and mend clothes and once was even able to crochet without using a hook. He also enjoyed saving his favorite Journal Star comics in scrapbooks and doing their cross word puzzles every day until he was 90.
Edward worked at the USDA Agricultural Laboratory in Peoria, where his lab accidentally discovered a super absorbent substance that they referred to as “Super-Slurper”. It later was to become the absorbent gel used in both diapers and dirt-less potting alternative for house plants. While working at the lab, he learned to identify scores of wild edible mushrooms, their scientific names and how best to prepare them. He enjoyed taking his family on long hikes in the woods in search of these delicacies of nature. He retired at the age of 55, having worked there for 25 years, to pursue his numerous interests.
He was a beekeeper in both Iowa and Illinois and was an active member of the Tazewell County (now Heart of Illinois) Beekeepers Association. He had been registered with the Peoria Fire Department to remove bees from homes and yards, keeping the bees both in his backyard as well as at friends’ farms for crop pollination. With the help of his daughters, he processed the honey in his basement to sell locally. His bee keeping hobby was seen both in the Journal Star and on the children’s educational program “Romper Room”.
Edward was an active member of the Sportsman’s Club in Hanna City, IL and was very involved in the improvement and restoration of strip mine land by planting hundreds of walnut trees. He hunted deer and small game most all of his life and became an aficionado at preparing roasts and stews. He also went on yearly chartered fishing trips into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, FL for Red Snapper, Bass and Grouper.
He was an avid backyard bird - rabbit - squirrel watcher. He learned to identify birds by sound, could whistle their songs, and always kept the bird feeders filled. He also built a variety of wren houses plus blue bird, purple martin and robin houses. He raised a litter of orphaned rabbits, developing his own nature-inspired formula to feed them with an eye dropper, releasing them when they could graze. Every day he enjoyed feeding the squirrels the black walnuts that he cracked and coaxing them to eat from his hand.
Edward was an active member of the Tri-County Fish Society in Peoria and the Missouri Aquarium Society in St. Louis, with whom he traveled down the Amazon River. He traveled to Borneo, Bali and Singapore with Dr. Lucas to seine for rare tropical fish, bringing much needed school supplies for the local children. He studied and bred a variety of tropical fish in his basement aquariums, sometimes even catching pond bugs at Glen Oak park to feed them, depending on the species. He was awarded several best of show trophies at the Northwoods Mall Tri-County Fish Show.
He was an avid gardener. He had a large vegetable garden, a variety of fruit trees, flowering shrubs and long expanses of flowers that adorned his yard from early spring to late fall. Whenever necessary, he hauled gallon jugs of water for the 1 acre garden that a friend had lent him. He canned much of the bounty, specializing in V-13 juice, end-of-garden pickles and plum jam. Winters were always spent thumbing through the latest Burpee’s catalog and the entire family always enjoyed trips to Kelly’s Seed Company downtown. Since his house was filled with non flowering plants, he started his seeds in the basement next to the numerous fish tanks, from which he used the enriched tank water for watering his house plants. His scientific background inspired him to expand his gardens by also cross-pollinating iris and collecting wild flower seeds. He won an award for his 6 foot long burrow’s tail succulent plant in the Peoria Horticulture Society. He responded to the Peoria Zoo’s request for help in the removal of their elephant manure and used it as fertilizer. This was also featured in an article in the Peoria Journal Star. Equipped with his weathered hoe and spade, he tended to his gardens until he was 89.
Edward won awards at the annual Home Wine Makers Contests held at Baxter’s Winery in Nauvoo, IL which was featured in the Peoria Journal Star. His chemistry background led him to always use pure well water from a friend’s farm and ferment it in wooden casks. He grew his own concord grapes, rhubarb and elderberries for wine making and he co-owned a small vineyard with a friend. He and his family enjoyed drives out in the country, searching for wild grapes and wild cherries. When asked, neighbors didn’t mind donating their dandelion blossoms for the cause. He enjoyed friends coming over for a meal, a plate of home-made cookies, a piece of his home-made “Happy Face” pie or just to visit and leisurely sip a glass of his homemade wine.
He and his wife enjoyed listening to live music at the German Hall, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Forest Park Nature Center, Glen Oak Park and the town square in Metamora. They attended, and recorded, all of the band and orchestra concerts that their daughters were in. They also set the record for the longest number of consecutive years to attend the annual Christmas sing-a-longs at the Peoria Court House. Ed had always said he would have liked to learn to play the piano, so he taught himself when he was in his sixties.
Edward enjoyed touring the US and Mexico with his family, camping in the Rockies and Appalachians, playing in the coastal waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico and photographing the sights in most states in both countries. He always pointed out the wonders of nature, collected wild flower seeds to plant and searched for aluminum cans to recycle. He also had obtained a permit to collect Mexican cacti, learning their scientific names along the way. Ed had a wonderful tenor voice and loved to sing along to the golden oldies of the forties on the radio. He even passed his driver’s test at the age of 89.
After the first trip to Mexico where he spoke German to a German-speaking craftsman, he took Spanish classes to become fluent in the language. Later, he taught Spanish at Illinois Central College for a few years.
He enjoyed woodworking since high school and had become quite a skilled cabinetmaker, making furniture and toys for family and friends. He acquired cherry and walnut trees by bartering his award winning wine for the logs downed by road construction crews. He then had it milled into lumber by a friend for the same fee. He took pride in finding the intricate grain of the wood and achieving a “finger-tingling” smooth finish by repetitively sanding and varnishing it. He also replicated spindles on the lathe to repair chairs for friends.
Edward was a board member of the German American Society in Peoria and the grounds keeper at both at Hickory Grove, where he planted hickory trees, and at the Lindenhof, where he tended to the flowers and planted German Linden trees. He and his wife also worked at the various German fests both at Hickory Grove and at the river front.
He loved to waltz, two-step and polka with his wife. He loved just spending time with his family and friends. He enjoyed learning new things, but was humble in his accomplishments, and praised God for all his many blessings.
Visitation will be Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Wright & Salmon Mortuary, 2416 N. North St, Peoria, IL. The funeral Mass will be Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, at 10 a.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 6901 N. University St, Peoria, IL. Father Dustin Schultz will officiate. An additional visitation will be one hour prior to the Mass at the church. Burial will then be at Swan Lake Memory Gardens, 4601 W. War Memorial Dr, Peoria, IL with a reception following at the church.
Memorials may be made to Forest Park Nature Center 5809 Forest Park Drive, Peoria Heights, IL 61614. Please make note that it’s for the memorial for Edward Dufek.
Friends may also sign the online guestbook or send private condolences by logging onto www.wrightandsalmon.com.
2416 N. North Street
Peoria, IL 61604
Additional Visitation will be on Monday February 08, 2016 from 9:00 AM ~ 10:00 AM at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.
6001 N University St
Peoria, IL 61614
4601 Route 150
Peoria, IL 61615
Forest Park Nature Center
Peoria Heights, IL 61614