John E. Rychnovsky, son of Joe and Ruth (Cabaret) Rychnovsky, was born December 16, 1931 in Creston, IA. John grew up southwest of Diagonal, first living at the ‘Albert Rychnovsky’ place and later moving to the current Lawrence Rychnovsky farm. He attended Harmony Country School with his brother, Lawrence, and other local kids including Barbara Keller, Don and Dick Graham and Arlene Butt and later graduated from Diagonal High School in 1951. After graduation he attended Iowa State University for one year before entering the Air Force in 1952 where he served for four years, finishing as a Staff Sergeant and C-47 Crew Chief.
John’s dad died unexpectedly in 1953 which was a major blow. However, this led to one of the highlights of his life when, while home on leave for the funeral, he met Reba Irene Watts whose parents had just moved back to the Diagonal area. He was to be eternally grateful to Mert Hollinger for introducing him and Reba. On December 27, 1955, John and Reba were united in marriage at the Catholic Church in Diagonal, IA. After John’s discharge from the Air Force, the couple moved from Sault Ste. Marie, MI, where he was stationed, back to Diagonal. They began their life together farming and eventually bought two farms southwest of town. Along the way they had three children: Patricia Lynn, Steven John and Mary Lisa, all Diagonal graduates.
John was always known for his great memory of his earliest days and was a resource for any local history including from his childhood days of working on the farm and living near his grandparents and extended family. His fondest memories were of neighbors working together threshing, stopping at Grandma Rychnovsky’s for fresh bread and jelly on his walk home from school, Sunday family dinners and listening to Captain Midnight on the radio. He also had many memories of growing up during the Depression and the valuable lessons learned during that difficult time helped him throughout his life.
John and Reba had many fun times with dear friends including attending card parties and times spent in faith at the Immaculate Conception Church in Maloy. John served many years on the DHS School Board and was instrumental in getting the bond passed for the construction of the ‘new gym,’ and helped to build the dugouts and eagles nest on the baseball field.
John enjoyed visiting with friends, but he would often strike up a conversation with a ‘stranger’ and before long, find something they had in common. He also enjoyed and appreciated a good joke and would often laugh so hard, he’d have trouble delivering the punchline. One of John’s best qualities was being a good friend to anyone in need and helping wherever or however he could. John was there to help if your car was broken down, if you needed help in the field or if you were going through a hard time. He appreciated people like Doc Watson at the Diagonal Bank, Fred and Pearl Kokesh and Bud Beymer who were all willing to help him and Reba as they started their life as farmers. John never forgot their kindness and continued to pay it forward, putting the needs of others first whenever he could.
John worked hard throughout his life. One of the highest compliments he could give was to say, ‘that person is a hard worker’. He was often out farming long after dark and, for much of his life, never seemed to know what a weekend was. Fortunately, his son, Steve, was able to lead him astray at some point when he bought him a set of golf clubs! After that, the hard work continued as before, except when Steve was in town and snow wasn’t on the ground. In those instances, he was always ready to pack some bologna sandwiches and head to the Ellston golf course. There, he would take on the task of hitting golf balls with the same determination as cutting hedge posts but with a much bigger smile on his face. He also enjoyed having a cup of coffee and sharing some jokes with his Benton coffee group.
John was a great parent and grandparent. He often talked a mean streak about spanking the kids, but it was really just talk, his good guy side would invariably come out. Regardless of how tight money was, John would be the softie spending money on Christmas presents every Christmas Eve. He never missed one of his kid’s school functions or games, even though they were never sports stars. John always expected his kids to work hard and be responsible but more importantly, he was a supportive parent and grandparent and did whatever he could to make sure his kids had it better than he did. John and Reba made many trips to Maryville and Columbia to help out Patty and Mary and their families whenever needed and to attend grandkids’ school and sports activities. Grandpa was frequently known to ‘shoot the moon’ during family games of pitch, and grandkids were treated to tractor rides, peanut clusters and popcorn as they enjoyed stories of Grandpa’s escapades from his childhood and days in the Air Force.
Perhaps the clearest testament to John’s character is when Reba became ill later in life. He was her caretaker for several years. After she moved to the Clearview Nursing Home, he would spend several hours with her each day. They developed many close friendships during those years and were very thankful for the friends and staff they met. They especially appreciated the time they spent with Dick and Evelyn Brammer. And John was always ready to hear a joke from John Pirtle! When John recently entered Clearview, he was appreciative of the familiar faces he knew as well as the new staff who were so good to him in every way possible. True to John’s character, some of his last thoughts were to make sure the staff knew how thankful he was for their help during a tough time.
John peacefully passed away on June 3, 2023, at Clearview and was constantly visited and cared for by friends and family until that time. He was preceded in death by his wife, Reba, his parents, Joe and Ruth, his step-father, Ora James, his brother, Lawrence Rychnovsky, sister-in-law, Sue Rychnovsky, in-laws, Verl and Velma Watts, and brother-in-law, Dale Watts.
Those left to cherish his memory include children, Patty (Kieran) Wilmes of Maryville, MO, Steve (Barb) Rychnovsky of Fairfax Station, VA, Mary (Bob) Allee of Columbia, MO; four grandchildren, Jessa Lynn Spainhower of San Diego, CA, Eric Travis Allee (Solange), Adam Robert Allee, Tyler John Allee; two great grandchildren, Elena Allee and Eliza Allee, all of Columbia, MO; one brother-in-law, Dean (Nancy) Watts of Peoria, IL; and sister-in-law, Lenna Watts of Pekin, IL. He is also survived by many loving nieces, nephews, cousins and neighbors including Brent Sobotka and Laverne and Carolyn Burtis. John will be missed by many.
Per John’s wishes, a graveside service, with military honors, will be held at 10:30 a.m. on June 17 at the Bohemian Cemetery in Diagonal, IA. Please direct memorials to the Diagonal Community School Scholarship Fund in honor of John.
Armstrong Funeral Home in Mount Ayr is in charge of the arrangements.