Bill Britt, 94, died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday morning, November 20, 2019 in Manchester, Iowa.
Bill Britt (Dad) was born on the Britt century farm south of Delhi, Iowa on Jan 12, 1925 to Eunice (Bersley) and John J. Britt. Dad's actual birth name was John William but was always called Bill. He was baptized at St Luke's Church in Hopkinton. Dad walked to a one room school house for grades 1-8 and attended Buck Creek High School by riding a horse two miles to and from school. Dad graduated from Buck Creek High School in May 1942 and then went into farming with his father and other relatives. During this time he had the wonderful opportunity, to “cross the pond” to connect with his heritage in Ireland with Uncle John Casey.
Dad always had a strong feeling of US patriotism and enlisted with the Marine Corps from 1950-1954 during the Korean War. He attended boot camp in San Diego, CA for 3 months, sea school for 6 weeks, and was then stationed aboard the heavy cruiser USS Pittsburgh CA 72 for a 27 month assignment to the Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean and 77 countries. Aboard ship, he served on the Marine security detail. While on tour, the ship was in need of a tailor. Enticed with extra pay potential and extra ship leave when in foreign ports, Dad signed up for this job not revealing that he had never sewn a stitch in his life.
When the ship arrived back in home port, and during a 10 day leave from service “I was married to my sweetheart”- Mary Ann Schemmel on June 6, 1953 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Monticello. Dad first met Mom years before at a dance in Prairieburg and they started dating just before he joined the service. After honeymooning in Prairie Du Chein, WI, they drove their first car, a new 1953 light green Ford, to Virginia where Dad was stationed. They lived near Washington DC where they would often visit the DC sites. Dad was honorably discharged from the Marines in 1954 and they moved back to Iowa, purchased the Delhi Tap for $5500, and named it “Bill and Mary’s Tap.” They lived in a small apartment above the Tap where their first two children, Tim (1954) and Connie (1957), were born. In March 1958 they sold the Tap, and moved to a house South of Delhi for 1 year while Dad worked construction continuing to save up money for the farm down payment.
Bringing his Irish heritage, to the dream of farming, they then purchased the 160 acre family farm, “Irish Acres,” NW of Earlville where they raised their family. Jeff was born in 1959, Jill 1962, and Dan 1967. In 2005, after living on the farm for 46 years and Dad at age 80, they moved to their home in Manchester where they enjoyed a strong sense of community and visits on the front porch with neighbors and family. Dad lived at the Manchester Assisted Living and then the Good Neighbor Home in his most recent years, where he loved visits from family and friends.
In retirement, Dad turned his love of cars into a business and started “Britt Antique Cars” and loved buying cars and restoring them. It was common seeing him reading Wheeler Dealer looking for the hunt of that next car. He had customers from all over the US and even over-seas who bought his restored cars. A typical weekend visit would include driving your pick of his antique car inventory (typically Model Ts to 1950s Ford Retractables) throughout the countryside. Dad’s strong sense of community was highlighted in his participation in the Delhi Commercial Club, Delhi Volunteer Fire Department, Delhi Legion, Knights of Columbus, St John’s Catholic Church Choir, Eagles Club and others.
A love for God, strong faith and prayer practices were important to Dad. He was commonly seen praying with his prayer books and rosary. Dad (and Mom) ran a home that prayed the rosary--fast and often!
He was very committed to and loved spending time with family, grandchildren great-grandchildren, and friends. Gathering for family holidays, sharing meals and picnics, going to mass together, and on drives were joyful parts of his life. He also enjoyed a good card game and winning at the casino. Dad had a strong work ethic, resourcefulness and optimism about him. He demonstrated this throughout his years of owning the Delhi Tap, farming, restoring and re-selling old cars, and the work and pride he showed in taking care of Irish Acres. He was always grateful for what he had.
Dad, however, will probably be most remembered for always having a zest for life; a good joke, story or limerick to share; finding reasons to celebrate while passing a bottle of apricot brandy for a nip and a toast; playing the harmonica (he played it upside down); singing; and his pride of his Irish heritage. He chose to see the positive in situations. He enjoyed many laughs and good times in life--perhaps a key piece to his longevity; and he brought a lot of joy to others through sharing his good wit and humor along with a home filled with love and laughter.
Dad was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years Mary Ann, parents John J and Eunice (Bersley) Britt, and siblings Paul and Donald Britt. He will be among the 4th generation of Britts buried at St John’s Cemetery, Delhi.
Thanks to family, friends and care givers during the past few years. Especially his sister Mary Ann who he adored and niece Karen along with Sheryl and so many friends and care givers at the Meadows and GNH who were there to love him every day when we couldn’t be there.
Survivors include five children, Tim (Beverly Larrick) of Adrian, Missouri, Connie (Jerry Meisgeier) of Traer, Jeff (Patti) of Riverside, Jill (Tom Hentges) of Palatine, Illinois, and Dan (Jean) of Waverly; 10 grandchildren, Tyler and Krista Britt, Ben and Ryan (Stacy) Meisgeier, Kelly(Adam); T.J., and Nicole Hentges, and Isaac, Joseph, and Andrew Britt; 5 great-grandchildren, Zachary and Samuel Meisgeier, and Birk, Emma, and Lily Meisgeier.
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