A Tribute to Grandpa

Douglas Junior VanCleave

March 24, 1933 - January 17th, 2010

On March 24, 1933, Orpha Lee Lamp Van Cleave and John Douglas VanCleave welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world on their farm at Greenbriar Township outside of Bagley, Iowa.     They named him Douglas Junior VanCleave.  At that time he joined two other older sisters – Ramona Jean (the oldest sister) and Patricia Jane (second in line).    Later there was one more baby sister born after Douglas named Beverly Joann.    This made a total of three girls -- RJ , PJ , BJ, and one boy -- DJ.  He was an extremely smart little boy but being outnumbered by three sisters made him also a very ornery little boy.   He was ALWAYS getting into trouble one way or another and constantly provided his three sisters and parents with endless trouble.    He loved being outdoors and was fascinated with wildlife even back then.    He was always outside helping his dad on the farm and  loved working with the horses.  When he was still young, Douglas was playing up on the roof of the barn and accidentally fell off.    He landed right on top of a post breaking his sternum which left a big indentation in his chest for the rest of his life.  This big “hole” in his chest later became a curiosity to all kids who saw him with his shirt off and the source of endless stories.

As Doug grew older he attended Bagley High School.    He continued to annoy his sisters through high school by always knowing the answers to all the teacher’s questions.    This was one trait that he never lost his entire life because anyone who knew Doug knows that he knew it all and was never wrong.   ….and if you all sense a bit of sarcasm here, it’s because this trait not only annoyed his sisters but also annoyed his wife and kids as well.  Especially when his kids would go get the dictionary or encyclopedia to prove he was wrong but he always said there was a ‘misprint’ and the books were wrong if they disagreed with what he said.    Yep.  It was amazing.  He was NEVER wrong.   I feel sorry for Jesus because he will soon see what we mean when they sit down for coffee up in heaven.  :o)  (*Pictured at right: Aunt Pat beating up Doug because he made another smart alec comment again .... :o)

All throughout High School Doug was a star athlete.   He excelled in football, basketball, and especially in baseball.  He was the star pitcher and was the reason their team won all their games.  It was while he was pitching a game in high school that he lost all of his front teeth.   He was guarding home plate during a championship game when a boy named Eldon Houston came sliding in to score.   Doug fell right on top of him and drove his front teeth right into Eldon’s head … breaking them all off.    This is why grandpa always had false teeth for as long as we all knew him. 

Douglas was forced to grow up quickly when his father died.   His dad died in 1950 when Doug was only 17 and still in High School.   As the only boy in the family, he helped his dad on their farm quite a bit and felt obligated to stay home after graduation in 1951 to help his mom.   That lasted about a year until they got into a big fight and he decided to enlist in the Army and get the heck out of there.    He enlisted and started his duties as a “Forward Observer” in the Korean War.   This position was more commonly known as a “spy” who would go in ahead of the rest of the soldiers and scout out where to drop the bombs and best position the troops.   He later was transferred to the Air Squadron where he worked on developing and maintaining the spy drone planes.   It was while he was in this unit teaching a group of students how to fix parts when one of them arced a weld causing him to lose his sight for 3 months.    That was why grandpa had to wear those goofy dark glasses all the time that made him look so scary and mean.    Any sunlight really hurt his eyes after that bad accident.  Doctors said it was lucky that he was able to see at all after that.   Doug finished out his stint in the service by transferring to the mess hall where he became quite a cook.     The soldiers couldn’t wait to eat Doug’s S.O.S. (kids ask your mom what that means ….I can't write it here.   This is a Rated G biography. :o)     Douglas was honorably discharged from the Armed Forces after 10 ½ years of service in 1963 while stationed in the state of Arizona.  

June 4, 1963 - Air Squadron / Fort Huachuca / US Army Electronic Proving Group

(**Grandpa is in back row 2nd from Left)

Since he was already there, Doug decided to try his hand at ranching in Arizona.  He did that for a little while but got homesick and ultimately returned to the little town of Bagley, Iowa.  He made up with his mom and leased a dairy farm there.   He had always loved working with his dad on their family farm so this move was a good one for him.  He was happy working with his cows everyday.    It wasn’t too long after that he met a pretty, young, independent girl named Carole who loved to dance, play cards, and owned a small acreage herself.   She also LOVED horses.   They hit it off immediately because they liked all the same things.   When Carole met Doug, she had the fastest car in Dallas County -- a red Ford.  Doug had the fastest car in Greene County -- a white Pontiac.   When they got together on the weekends they raced other cars on the back roads -- loser buys the beer.   Didn't matter where they were or which car they were in --- they always won.   It was apparent that these two were meant to be together.Carole had two little girls (Kerry and Kelly) from a previous marriage that came along with her.   Doug thought that was great because he loved kids and wanted a big family so he quickly asked Carole to marry him.  They were married on November 15, 1965.  

Kerry was 12 and Kelly was only a few months old when Carole and Doug got married.     He quickly jumped into fatherhood with two ready made daughters.   With his athletic talent it wasn’t long until he and Kerry teamed up and became bowling partners.   The two burned up the lanes bowling together and were named State “Father/Daughter” Champions in 1967.     About a year after they were married, Doug and Carole welcomed a new baby boy into the world – John Douglas VanCleave was born on May 27, 1966.  When John was born, they lived in Rockwell City. 90 miles from Des Moines.  Carole had had complications with her other two pregnancies which meant she had to deliver this baby by caesarian to be safe.....and her doctors were in Des Moines.......90 miles away.   Back in those days, a c-section couldn't be done if the baby had already started down the birth canal.    Once Carole went into labor, there was very little time to get her to the hospital before the baby would be in serious danger.  That wasn't a problem for Doug because he had the infamous Pontiac in the garage.  When Carole went into premature labor and surprised everyone, Doug jumped into action and put that old Pontiac to the test.    This time the prize wasn't a case of beer ..... this time baby John was the prize.   45 minutes later they arrived in Des Moines just in time for Carole to go into surgery and deliver safely ....quite a miracle in those days.   ---and could have only been done with the fastest car in Green County driven by the best dad ever.  :o)

Doug later got a great job working for the State of Iowa running the state’s hospital farm in Woodward for several years.  He was later promoted and transferred to the Conservation Commission and worked as a State Conservationist.     Doug absolutely LOVED this job because it combined his love of the outdoors and wildlife into one.   He has always been a member of Trees Forever and the Wildlife Association and this was a great opportunity to work in a field that he loved.     During his tenure as a conservationist, the family had to travel to different locations around Iowa whenever Doug would get transferred to a different park or wildlife area.     While on the move, the family welcomed in a new face to the group ….Joseph Duane VanCleave.    Little "Joey" was a late Christmas present dropping in on December 27, 1969 --- only one day after Carole’s birthday. 

Over Doug's lifetime he lived in Bagley, spent 10 years in the Army stationed at different locations, owned a ranch in Arizona, moved back to Bagley, moved over to Perry, then went to Rockwell City, a little bit later went back to Perry, got transferred to Wapello, then to Letts, then back to Wapello, travelled north to rent a farm in Dumont, moved to a second bigger farm while still in the Dumont area, then moved to Bristow, after living two years in Bristow the family moved south again to Coon Rapids where Doug worked for a big cattle rancher down there, then finally back to Bristow where Doug lived out the rest of his life.      He met a lot of people in his lifetime and had many adventures.

In Doug's spare time he enjoyed taking his wife out dancing and the couple was quite good at it.   He also loved playing cards and was undefeated at “Pitch……and speaking about “Pitch”ing …. Doug’s love of sports drew him into the game of softball when he got back into Iowa.    If you talk to anybody who was anybody in the area of fast pitch softball, they’ll tell you that the name "Doug VanCleave" struck fear into batters everywhere.    He had a legendary curve ball that would burn into home like lightning and drop straight down at the plate, striking out even the best batter every time.   --- and he had the fastest "fast pitch" in the state.    Doug decided to team up with a band of country guys calling themselves the “Cooper Farm Boys.”   The "Cooper Farm Boys" were the only team in the league that didn’t have uniforms.   Doug had a uniform from a previous stint on another team so he would wear his but the other guys would wear their cowboy boots and overalls out on the field.    The more affluent teams in the league would make fun of the ‘hick’ farm team …… until they came up against them.   After they met them on the field, they weren’t making fun of them anymore!!   Especially with Doug VanCleave on the mound.

Over the years Doug moved on and left his conservationist position and worked more as a farm hand at various locations.   He later found his dream job -- truck driving.   He loved driving the big rigs and enjoyed being out on the open road.   After working in this field for several years and driving all kinds of trucks, he decided to call it quits and retire.    In his later years he enjoyed visiting his children and spending time with his grandkids.  I think he read just about every single spaghetti western novel ever made by Louis Lamour and any of those other dime novelists out there.   He loved John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.   If you went to Grandma and Granpa's house there was always some old western playing on the tv in the front room.  The last few years he really enjoyed watching RFD TV -- the Rural Farm Network.   He loved horses his whole life and always had several around all the time.   He always was up for a nice, relaxing trail ride or parade and sometimes just enjoyed sitting and watching his horses out the picture window.     One of his most favorite things to do was sitting in his fishing boat out on the lake for hours .... thinking .... and fishing.    Doug has always loved the outdoors and handed that love down to his children and grandchildren.    Every one of his kids likes to fish and two of them have their own farms complete with horses.

He leaves behind Carole, his wife of 44 years.  Two daughters (Kerry and Kelly) and two sons (John and Joe).     Of those four children he was the proud grandfather of 11 grandchildren Kerry’s kids:  Robyn and Megan; Kelly’s kids: Krystle, Spencer, and Danielle; John’s kids: Lauren, Little Joe, and baby Isabella (born 5 months ago); and Joe’s Kids: Connor, McKenzie, and Colin.  Doug also had two great grandchildren Kaele and Zachary.     All three of his sisters P.J. (Aunt Pat) ; RJ (Aunt Ramona) ; and BJ (Aunt Jo) are still here with us to tell the stories of D.J.'s (Douglas Junior) life so we will never forget him.

Mr. VanCleave / VanCleave / DJ / Douglas / Doug / Dad / or Grandpa .......whatever you called him, meant you knew him and odds are you won't soon forget him.   He most certainly will live on in our hearts forever.    As grumpy and belligerent and argumentative as he was in life, he will surely be missed by many.    Who will be there to yell and chastise us and tell us how to do it better and let us know what we're doing wrong?    Who will pick and poke at us when we want to just be left alone?    Who is going to aggravate us by always knowing everything all the time?   No.   Nobody will ever be like Doug.   Rest in Peace Grandpa.    We'll all take it from here .... you taught us how to take care of ourselves and our loved ones.  Don't worry about any of us.   We'll make you proud.    --- Until we meet again, take it easy up there in heaven.  Don't drink too much coffee or eat too much candy .... and NO CIGARETTES in heaven!!!  I heard it's "No Smoking" up there.     I hope you found Ally and Butch and Penny and Tammy and Sonny and Ginger (well, maybe not Ginger ..... she really hated you .... stay away from her ...:o)  and I hope all your old friends and family met you at the gate on Sunday night and now are all sitting around a big table playing "Pitch" and drinking coffee talking about old times.    We'll love you always.  


Please enjoy the pictures we've dug up throughout the years to share with everyone.    If some of the pics don't load up, click on your 'refresh' button a few times and they should eventually all come up.   If anyone out there has any pics of Doug that they'd like to email in to add to this page, I'll put them on here.    Send them to:   knrarabians@iowaconnect.com .   

YAY!!!! I FINALLY GOT THE VIDEO TO LOAD!!! Please excuse the quality .... I had to video the video so it's a bit shakey and a little grainy.   I'll continue to try to get it better but for now ... ENJOY!!!

Click here for video (may take quite a while to download -- it's 22 minutes long...)  or if that doesn't work, click here

Even when he got older he tormented his three sisters .... from left PJ (Aunt Pat); RJ (Aunt Ramona); Grandpa ; and BJ (Aunt Jo)
Grandpa with baby Joey ....... Grandpa in 1951 (Graduation Picture)
Kelly and John meet baby Joey for the first time and get to hold him ... when he gets older they pick on him and beat him up all the time.
Grandpa with John and Joey ... John sleeps next to Grandpa (you can see the hole in Grandpa's chest in this picture)
Carole (Mom/Grandma) in her dance outfit...Carole (Mom/Grandma) and her friend fishing .... Carole (Mom/Grandma) bowling
Whole family together in 1968 (Kerry, John, Grandma, Kelly, baby Joey, and Grandpa .........Kelly and John outside with Grandma
Joey sleeps with Ronald McDonald ... John and Kelly pose with Mrs Beasley ... Joe, John, and Kelly at Christmas
Weren't we all so cute?    Joe, Kelly, and John at Christmas ....Kelly with her "black nose" -- Swedish tradition is to put a 'black nose' on the birthday girl/boy so everybody knows it's your birthday!! All us kids loved getting black noses!!   It meant we were special.  .....  Tell me John isn't planning on smacking someone or causing some kind of trouble in this last picture -- he's got the look of devilment in his eyes ...
OMG!   What were we supposed to be here???   A weird little pillow boy?  Am I a conehead?   What's that??  A witch?  Ahhhh .... ok.    Oh, and I see I got candy cigarettes in my bucket.   Yippee!!  Just what a 5 year old little girl needs.   Smoking is still healthy in 1970.  :o)
The whole family in 1972 ........ John, Joe, and Kelly Christmas 1975... John is a nerd.
OMG!  Who the heck was in charge of dressing us?!!   ...... so, was Joe on Star Trek?  Isn't that a Star Trek shirt???!!!!... Great Grandma, Joey, and Grandpa in Bristow Kitchen
Thanksgiving at Great Grandma's (From left:  Great Grandpa, John, Grandpa (Dad), Great Grandma, Grandma (Mom), Kelly, Joey ... Joey, Tammy (white German Shepherd), John, and Kelly
Grandpa in 1973 wearing his wetsuit to fix the dams when they needed repaired....the kids in 1976 - John, Joe, Kerry, Kelly
Grandpa and John...Grandpa at Kelly's 20th Birthday... Grandpa and John with his FFA cow
Joe on Justy, Kelly on Babe, and John on his moped (1980)... Kelly, Krystle and Joe (1987)....John on his motorcycle
John's Graduation (never thought that would happen, huh!!!) ...Baby Joey grows up and Graduates High School (or that!! :o) ...John Grandpa and Joe at airport
Grandma, Grandpa, and Grammie in 1984 ...... Grammie and Grandpa in 1985.....John, Joe, Kelly, and Kerry all together in back yard
The family gets together for Thanksgiving in 1985 .... Grandpa and Aunt Jo
Grandma and Grandpa ... Little Joe and Grandpa in his truck ... Grandpa, Lauren, and Barney on the couch
  Grandpa sound asleep with Krystle ...Grandpa and Connor...Grandpa and Lauren...Grandpa in doorway
Grandpa with John on vacation ...
Grandpa with Sara and her new foal ..... Grandpa and John in the kitchen
Grandpa and Kelly out trail riding 1982 ... Grandpa and Kelly in the Bristow Parade 2005 ... Grandpa and Kelly in the Shell Rock Parade 1985
Grandpa and Kelly in more parades .... Greene River Days ... Bristow Days ... Allison Days
Grandpa's horse -- ChiChi
Grandpa, Joe, and Connor ... Grandpa at Kelly's wedding
Grandpa tries to teach Krystle to ride when she's a baby ... then he buys her a pony when she gets older
Grandpa teaches Krystle to ride her new pony...later she rides with Grandpa in parades (Krystle on Barexi in back & Grandpa on Derin in front)
Krystle and Grandpa in the Bristow Parade .... Russ tries to take a picture
Krystle being cool .....Grandpa with Connor ..... Grandpa and Joe
Grandpa and his Rottweiler --- Ally
Ally loves Grandpa... Grandpa loves to talk on the phone...
Close up of Grandpa ... John, Dad, Joe ... Grandpa at John's retirement ceremony
Grandpa out fishing ...
Grandpa shows Connor and Krystle his fishing boat...
Grandpa and his semi ...Grandpa shows Connor and Kenzie his big truck...Grandpa's dump truck
John, Grandpa, and Joe ..... Grandpa, Joe, Connor, and John
Grandpa and Larry ..... Krystle and Grandpa...Grandma, Larry, Dad
Grandma, John, Grandpa, and Joe ..... Grandpa and his three sisters (Pat, Ramona, and Jo)
Kerry, John, Kelly, Joey and Great Grandma in 1970 ..... John, Kelly, Kerry, and Joe in 1990
Grandpa on Derin in the Bristow Parade .... Grandpa rides Tarby...Grandpa with fat Magic
Grandma on Ginger ... Grandpa on Leggs ... Grandpa on Magic and Kelly on Sara
Krystle watches Grandpa open his present ...Grandpa reads the newspaper ... Grandpa poses with his deer and Joe
More hunting pics ..... Grandpa LOVED deer hunting with his friends
 ..... Grandpa and Grandma at Joe's wedding reception and wedding
Grandpa with Joe's Family on couch ... Grandpa and Little Joe in the kitchen...
VanCleave Family Get-Together ...... Grandpa and Grandma in the kitchen
Family at Aunt Ramonas in 1984 - Kelly, Grandpa, John, Joe, Grandma ...Grandma and Grandpa in the front room with the embarrassing naked lady picture on the wall...Grandpa's Birthday cake -- look at all those candles!!
Grandpa and Krystle at Graduation...Grandpa with Lauren
Grandpa and Krstle at Graduation ....Grandpa and Colin as baby and again when he's a little older
Oh my God ..... Kelly looks just like Grandma when she has brown hair!!   Eeeeek!!!
Grandpa and Aunt Pat in November 2009............ Grandpa and all three sisters Jo, Ramona, and Pat
Family Picture taken in 1989 - (John, Grandpa, Joe, Grandma, Kerry, and Kelly)
Here are just some of the kind words that have come in since Dad's Passing .....
My Dad Was My Hero
This world has many heroes,
you'd know most of them by name.
It's apparent that they gave their best,
and they deserve their fame.
But among all of the hero's,
this world has ever had,
There's not one that I admired more,
than my precious dad.
He was more than just a hero,
he never looked for praise.
He was heroic in his quiet strength,
and in his caring ways.
He may not be as famous,
as those you hear about or see.
But he was everything and so much more,
a hero ought to be.
He kept his word, it was good as gold,
on that you could depend.
He was honest and he was loyal too,
I'm proud that he was my friend.
When I hear about a hero,
and the special things they've done,
It reminds me of my father,
for he was the greatest one...

"Sorry about your dad. Just look at your sisters tribute, very nice. I will always remember your dad with those dark glasses & his goatee."  Bill K


Way nice! Even brought back memories for me. A true example of "A Great American Family".   Kevin B


Thanks so much for sending us the pictures and video you made of Mr. VanCleave. You did a really great job on putting it together. Your Dad was very special to us and our kids called him, Grandpa. When we lived at Ft. Campbell, sometimes he would park his truck and we would pick him up to stay the night with us. Drayton and Tiffany would get excited to go pick up grandpa and get in his big truck. Three more special are your mom and brothers. They call Mrs. VanCleave, grandma, and call John and Joe, uncle. We may not share the same blood, but we sure share a piece of our heart with them. Thanks again and May God bless each of you.    Love, Sherrill


What an awesome tribute!!!!! Sorry to hear about your dad.  Thomas F

Very nice! I was sorry hear about your dad. Tammy M
I'm sorry for your loss .  Erret H
Thanks for sharing, my condolences and prayers for you and your entire family. And yes, I remember a story or three.  James S
I didn't hear about your dad until reading on facebook. You and your family have my condolences. Trisha B
Sorry to hear of your loss. It seems our parents are all getting up there and some of us have lost parents recently.. :( Our prayers are with you.  Debra M
 Your family is in our thoughts and prayers. Sandy V
John, my belated condolences to you and Joe... Tony T
John, deepest condolences to you, Joe and the family. Our thoughts are with you guys. Ron H
Just heard about your dad, so sorry to hear about it. Thinking of you and all of your family. Erin R
Sorry 2 hear bout your dad. im sure he will b with u someway to make sure u always have a guardian angel.  Crystal E
This was just beautiful! Thank You for sharing..I can see your Dad will be missed Your family has lots of great memories.  Pam S
Kelly.... you did a wonderful job putting it together. Your quite a lady with a fun and loving family.   Shirley R
Did yourself proud : )   Jodie E
very sorry to hear of your loss, ya'll are in my thoughts and prayers  Jamie L
So sorry. We'll be keeping you in our thoughts too. Kate W
Very touching tribute. We'll keep you and yours in our prayers.   Janet M
I'm so sorry Kelly! My husband has always said that he wants a party too! Complete with MGD and dancing girls! Sydney P
Kelly I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. You are in our prayers if you need anything please let me know. Linda S
I'm so sorry. Monica D
My sympathy to you and your family. But your dad would be so proud of you. You are a very talented person.  Arla K
So sorry  on the loss of your dad. You did an awesome job and your dad would be proud, by the way I know what S.O.S. stands for as my dad was in the service:) Sharon C
I am so sorry for your loss, all your hard work paid off..this tribute is amazing :) Christa B
I'm SO sorry to hear about your father's passing. I don't know the circumstances surrounding his death, but I sincerely hope he DIDN'T suffer. I watched my dad's agonizing death from his brutal, malicious and unkind lung cancer. There are days I wished he wouldn't have suffered as much as he did. I am thinking of you during your days of sadness, sorrow and fond memories.  Renee S
Kelly I'm sorry for your loss. Your tribute to your father lives in you and your kind works. Hugs and call any time you need to. Bridget P
I am so sorry for your loss. Prayers are with You and Your Famiy... Pam S
So sorry for your loss. You are in our thoughts and prayers!  Heidi R
We're so sorry. You've found a very spritual, healing way to deal with his passing. Tom W
 I am going through this now with my Dad, so Sorry for your loss God Bless! Cindi W
OH OH OH so sorry for your loss...My mom wanted the same, a party to celebrate her life..Love and Prayers to you and your family during this time!  Aude E
Sad for you and your family. Maybe your dad and my dad are playing pitch together in Heaven. Great tribute to your Dad. Bless you all! Linda S
Sorry for your loss. I remember when your dad came to pick us up after we bottomed out your car going over a sidewalk in high school and he never yelled at us. I thought....what a nice dad.  Marcia L
Sorry about your Dad. Dads are special. I still miss mine and it's been nearly 30 years. Have a nice party celebrating his life!!  Mary V
Our thoughts are with you, and you can surely do my funeral. Fun and games all the way. Wish I had met your Dad, I'm certain we'd have gotten along. Maybe he will meet my Dad and have a beer or two upstairs. Blessings to you, Deb S
I'm sorry to hear about your dad. I want you to do my "not funeral" party!!!  Dana J
Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Sylvia B
Kelly, I love you and if you ever need anything let me know because you know that I will be there in a heart beat for you. You are a tough person that I look up to and admire.   Steph B
I am sorry lots of prayers to you Stacey L

Sorry to hear about your loss, our prayers are with you.  Debra M

Thanks so much to EVERYONE who has sent in their thoughts and well wishes.   This page will NEVER be complete and it will live on FOREVER.   I will continue to update it with new pictures and comments and stories of Dad's life.   He will never be forgotten.   If anyone has anything they'd like to add please send it to me and I'll post it here.

Click here for pictures of Dad's "Celebration of Life Party" held Jan 22 in the Dumont Legion Hall