Delmer Dale Dahnke was born to Elmer and Mamie (Goering) Dahnke on August 16, 1931, near Hartley, IA, in the same farmhouse where he lived until his passing. His youth was spent helping on the family farm and developing his love of music. He often told the story of singing the song “Little Brown Jug” for school at age five and his teacher, being impressed with his voice, took him around the school and then to sing for others in the community. He started playing accordion as a teenager and had his first job as a musician at age 15 at Barb’s Diamond Club in Everly, IA. His talent earned him a spot on Stairway to the Stars but family circumstances prevented him from following that path.
In 1952, Delmer met the love of his life, Myrna Ida Marie Sickelka; they were married on May 10, 1953. They farmed together on the family farm near Hartley while Delmer pursued his musical avocation, eventually forming an eight-piece band. Many times he would drive the band home from a dance job just in time to change clothes and milk the cows! Later, he would go on with his music as a “one-man band” while still farming and raising livestock. He took on other jobs as well, including Hartley Ready Mix, the Hartley liquor store, and finally as a school bus driver which lasted for 23 years.
During their marriage, Delmer and Myrna had three children: Marla, Dennis, and Shannan, with whom he shared his love of music. He even included family members in various performances through the years. Delmer carried on with his musical career for sixty-four years, playing from near the Canadian border all the way to southern Texas; the majority of the time spent in the Midwest. He played for dances, special occasions, and also brought joy to residents of several area nursing homes each month with his uplifting, toe-tapping music. He retired from music at the age of 80.
Delmer always made time for his family and friends and loved to share stories of his life with them. He had a great sense of humor, and usually had a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face when telling a joke. He had a strong work ethic and was always willing to help anyone in need – even when it came to shingling his church roof. He was a person we all could depend on, turn to for advice, and who, along with Myrna, taught us all to live life… one day at a time.
On Saturday, September 16, 2023, Delmer passed away peacefully at the hospital in Sheldon, IA with family at his side. He is preceded in death by his parents, Elmer and Mamie Dahnke; his brother, Gerald Dahnke; and son-in-law, Thomas Zenkovich.
Left to cherish Delmer’s memory are his wife, Myrna; daughter, Marla (Chester) Buie of Sioux Falls, SD; son, Dennis (Londa) Dahnke of Colfax, WI; daughter, Shannan Zenkovich of Spencer, IA; six grandchildren: Chase Buie, Cody Buie, Darielle Dahnke, Dallin Dahnke, Megan (Brady) Vanderberg, and Patrick Zenkovich; one great-grandchild, Wyatt Vanderberg; special friends, Lynn and Jodie Hennings; and many beloved relatives and friends.