Merlin “Mert” Laverne Jasper, 98, of Manchester, Iowa, passed away on Friday, March 24, 2023, after a courageous battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Mert was born on January 25, 1925, in Dyersville, the son of Al and Clara (Heiring) Jasper. He attended country school through eighth grade and then worked on the family farm.
Mert served his country from June 1945 to December 1946 as a Military Policeman. He had the honor of guarding Eleanor Roosevelt and General Montgomery while they were in New York City. He was a lifelong member of the Manchester American Legion Post #45. Mert went on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. in 2011. After his military service, he started Jasper Construction Company in 1948, a farm tiling and land improvement business.
Mert met the love of his life at a dance and later married Lillian Lueck on June 17, 1950, at SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Petersburg and celebrated 72 years together. They moved to Manchester in 1951 when they bought a farm. Mert farmed and continued with his tiling business and gave up full-time farming with the growth of his business.
He started his business with a small jeep with an attached trencher. His father, Al, and then brothers, Bill and Tom, later joined the business. Mert progressed from a small machine and eventually purchased large tiling machines. He built his business over the years to include caterpillars, bulldozers, and backhoes, enabling his business to grow. Mert was a charter member of the Iowa Land Improvement Contractors Association and a member of the Northeast Iowa Land Improvement Contractors Association and served twice as president. He was awarded the Master Contractor of the Year in 1963. Mert retired from his business in 1989.
Conservation and education were important to Mert. He constructed terraces and waterways on his farms. He built a two-acre pond for fish and planted many trees and windbreaks for wildlife habitat. He received the Delaware County Pheasants Forever Conservation Award in 1966 and the Isaac Walton Windbreak State Award in 1997. He also set aside two acres of native wetland prairie which enabled West Delaware students to visit and study native prairie plants, thus receiving the Friends of Education Award.
During his retirement years he took up the hobby of woodworking. His woodworking skills were self-taught and put to good use. He was a perfectionist and hand-crafted many items for his family and church. Mert constructed desks, book cabinets, hutches, bedroom sets, dressers, and many more items for his children and grandchildren. For church, items included the Presider and Deacon chairs at St. Mary and St. Patrick Catholic churches, podium in church and parish center, tv cabinet in the rectory, gift table, bride and groom kneelers, Holy oil cabinet, music boards and pulley, wood railing around altar, and many items for auctions.
Faith was an important part of Mert’s life and he was a longtime member of St. Mary Catholic Church. Mert believed strongly in giving back to the church and community. He served his church as lay minister, usher, finance committee, building committee, trustee, and St. Mary Cemetery Board. Mert was a member of the Knights of Columbus and was awarded the Knights of Columbus Distinguished Service Award and was an honorary life member. He received the Governor’s Volunteer Award for being resident advocate at the Good Neighbor Home for 23 years.
Mert enjoyed fishing, hunting, and golfing in retirement. He looked forward to weekly card playing and coffee time at Hardee’s with friends and spending time with family.
In his business and personal life, Mert lived a life of kindness, generosity, honesty, integrity, and strong work ethic. His children and grandchildren will always remember him for his encouraging words and always having a smile on his face.
Survivors include his wife, Lillian Jasper of Manchester; four children, Dr. Duane (Rhonda) Jasper of Independence, Dan Jasper of Phoenix, Arizona, Carolyn (Ernie) Mills of Janesville, Wisconsin, and Michael (Annette) Jasper of Gilbert, Arizona; eight grandchildren, Katherine (Lloyd) Rogers, Elizabeth (Cameron) Piechota, Jessica Jasper, Brian Jasper (Emily David), David (Kayla) Mills, Rebecca Mills (Ari Brouwer), Cole Jasper, and Maxwell Jasper; three great-grandchildren, Wyatt, Hadley, and Theo Mills; brother, Tom Jasper of Dyersville; sister, Norma (Jim) Wilhelm of Dyersville; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Dave and Marian Brunkan of Dyersville; sister-in-law, Mary Jane (Charles) Boerner of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; as well as many nieces and nephews.
Mert was preceded in death by his infant son, Mark; his parents, Al and Clara Jasper; parents-in-law, Art and Marie Lueck; three brothers, Herb, Bill, and Gene; sisters-in-law, Helen Jasper, Rose Ann Jasper, Joyce Jasper, Joan Jasper,
Helen Witte Bartels, Sandy Lueck, and Marilyn Lueck; and brothers-in-law, John Witte, David and Dennis Lueck, and Dale Bartels.
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