Ron Urfer, back middle, is joined by his son and two daughters, their spouses, his wife, Nancy, and grandchildren at a 50-year celebration of Urfer Tiling on Saturday, Sept. 9 at the English Valleys Bed and Breakfast. Ron got into the tiling business in April 1973, after a three-year stint in the U.S. Army. Ron spent the evening telling stories and jokes and reminiscing about his long-time Montezuma business with current and past customers.
By J.O. Parker
It was an evening spent telling stories and reminiscing with friends and past and current customers as Ron Urfer, owner of Urfer Tiling in Montezuma, celebrated 50-years in business.
The event, which drew about 150 people, was hosted by his family at the English Valleys Bed and Breakfast on Saturday, Sept. 9. Guests were treated to barbecue pork sandwiches, cheesy potatoes, baked beans, drinks, cake and sweet treats.
Ron, who grew up in nearby rural Malcom, is a 1968 graduate of Montezuma High School.
After high school, he attend Marshalltown Community College for one year and spent the next year working at Grinnell Implement before entering the U.S. Army in the Spring of 1970. He spent three years in the service, including a stint stateside and 18-months in Okinawa, Japan, where he served as mechanic.
“I repaired trucks and Jeeps,” Ron said of his job. “I fixed them up and sent them out so they could get blowed up again.”
Ron was discharged from the Army on April 7, 1973.
“I had just got home and my dad, Elmer, asked me what I wanted to do with my life,” recalled Ron. “I told him I didn’t know.”
Elmer suggested that Ron might consider getting into the tiling business, and that he’d help him get started.
“I didn’t know anything about tiling, but I willing to give it a try,” said Ron.
It just happened that Elmer was good friends with Harold VerSteeg, who was known around Montezuma as “Fats.”
“Fats was good friends with my dad and he did a lot of bulldozing,” said Ron. “He told my dad where we could get a tiler, in Atlantic, Iowa.”
The trio drove to Atlantic, checked out the tiling machine and bought it.
“They delivered it in two days,” said Ron. “Two weeks after I got out of the Army, I was digging ditches.”
Back in the day, Ron and crew tiled using clay tiles.
“I had to put them in the tiler by hand,” recalled Ron. “Dad would sit on the back of the tiler and make sure they were straight and butted up to each other.”
It would be another 10-years before plastic tiling would come into play.
Ron said when he first got started, he was tiling in a field of cattails south of Montezuma for Mike Phillips’ dad, Ralph Phillips.
Ralph’s hired hand, Bob Hobbs, hooked the winch onto the nearby railroad tracks and helped pull him out.
“Bob said I moved the railroad tracks,” recalled Ron. “When it is really terrible muddy, it is terrible.”
“I have fond memories of that time,” said Mike, Ralph’s son. “Ron did a lot of work for us and did a good job.”
Ron recalled Frank Helm, who came to Montezuma in 1973 and started farming.
“He’s the only one I have tiled for every year,” said Ron. “He’s one of my best friends and best customers.”
When Frank came to Ron with a field that banked on both sides and had drainage issues, Ron knew what to do by laying tile along the waterways and on the side hills and it took care of the problem.
“He has improved my land a lot over 50-years,” said Frank.
Ron bought a new tiler in 1977 and is still using it to this day.
“Everything is fixable on it,” he said.
And he’s since added a tile plow, a machine that plows the tile into the ground instead of laying a trench. There is no trench.
“It really speeds up the job,” he said.
The only problem, Ron said, if I hit another tile in the field, the water will boil up and create a hole.
“I have to come back later and dig it up and fix,” he said.
Ron said he lays an averages about 100,000-foot of tiling a year.
“More than 5-million foot of tiling in 50-years,” he said.
And he’s had a lot of help through the years. His first helper was Neal Purdum in the early 1970s. His brother, Don Urfer, helped and Randy Latcham also pitched in for a time. Boyd DeJong also helped part-time back in the day. And his son, Nate, worked for him when he was in town.
Today, his son-in-law, Curtis, helps him part-time.
Ron met his wife, Nancy, on a bear hunting trip to Minnesota. Nancy’s family owned a motel and towing business in Minnesota and it happened that Ron stayed there on the bear-hunting trip.
The couple was married on March 31, 1979 and they live north of Montezuma. They have two daughters, Amanda Latcham and Krista Mostek, both Montezuma, and son, Nate, of Minnesota, and six grandchildren – five granddaughters and one grandson.
“Lots of hard work done in 50 years,” recalled Nancy. “Used to take the kids out and even put them in the shade in the comfort of a playpen. Family togetherness.”
When asked when he might retire from the tiling business, Ron, who will be 73 in November, said with a chuckle, “When they find me laying out in the field.”
“I hope they find me before the buzzards do,” he said, adding with a smile, “Well, the buzzards have to eat, too.
“It’s been good,” he said of his career in the tiling business. “I hope everyone enjoyed the day.”
Montezuma American Legion Commander Ron Hensel hands an area youngster a fresh cup of sliced watermelon on a hot and steamy Thursday, Aug. 24 at the Montezuma Booster Bash on the Poweshiek County Courthouse Square while Legion member Uwe Meyer slices watermelon.
Deep River’s Tyler Richton performs solo at the Aug. 24 Montezuma Booster Bash. Tyler and the High Bank Boys are a popular country band. The band has recorded three albums.
A youngster enjoys the bouncy slide at the Montezuma Booster Bash on Thursday, Aug. 24. The popular summer gathering is held the fourth Thursday in June, July and August.
Three area youngsters enjoy watermelon sold by the Montezuma American Legion Post 169 during the Montezuma Booster Bash on Thursday, Aug. 24.
A number of classic automobiles were on display at the Aug. 24 Montezuma Booster Bash. The community event is held the fourth Thursday in June, July and August.
Members of the Montezuma Cheerleading team perform a routine at the Aug. 24 Montezuma Booster Bash.
Mick Gabel, right, of Montezuma visits with a friend at the Monte Boosters Bash on a hot and steamy Thursday, Aug. 24.
It’s the time of year we ask for community support to help fill empty food shelves. Donations can be left at the food pantry when open or at the church where there is a grocery cart to put food items in. Thanks in advance for your help and for making a difference in the lives of others.
On Monday Sept. 11, members of the Montezuma Fire Department will be honoring the 343 FDNY firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11/01. The public is welcome to join fire department members as they walk 3.43 miles around Montezuma. The event will begin and end at the fire station. Please be at the fire station and ready to go at 6 p.m.
Carter Michalek of Montezuma, left, and fishing partner Alex Meland of New Sharon, captured the Iowa B.A.S.S. Nation State Championship in the High School Division on the Mississippi River on Sunday, Aug. 6. The fishing duo caught three bass weighing in at 9.76 pounds to capture the title. They will fish in the 2024 Bassmaster High School National Championship at a later date and location to be announced.
By J.O. Parker
Two area high school anglers recently earned the Iowa B.A.S.S. Nation State Championship.
Team members Carter Michalek, of Montezuma, and Alex Meland, of New Sharon, brought home top state honors in the High School Division.
There were 41 teams from across Iowa who competed in the state tournament held on Sunday, Aug. 6 on the Mississippi River in Prairie Du Chien, Wis.
Carter and Alex caught a three-fish limit for a total of 9.76 pounds, leading them to the top prize. The two anglers will go on to fish in the 2024 Bassmaster High School National Championship at a later date and location to be announced.
They’ve fished at nationals twice in the junior division. This will be their first national tournament as high schoolers.
The anglers are part of the Iowa Youth Fishing League.
The All-Iowa Writers’ Conference, which had been held for 10 consecutive years prior to COVID, is returning for an eleventh year. It will be held on Saturday, Sept. 16 at the Community Hope Church in Montezuma.
David LaBelle, who is often referred to as the Normal Rockwell of photography, will headline this year’s conference. LaBelle has written five books including the acclaimed photography book, The Great Picture Hunt,and fiction novel, Bridges and Angels: The Story of Ruth. LaBelle taught photojournalism for more than a decade at colleges such as Western Kentucky, University of Kentucky and Kent State. He is an internationally renowned photographer who has worked with more than 20 different newspapers and magazines throughout nine states.
Joining LaBelle will be Professor Adrianne Finlay. She is the author of young adult sci-fi thrillers, Cut Off, and Your One and Only. Adrianne teaches English at Upper Iowa University and is the Program Director of Creative Writing. Originally from Ithaca, New York, Finlay lives in Cedar Falls with her husband, the poet, J.D. Schraffenberger, and their two daughters.
Iowa-based mystery writers Joe LeValley and Laura Snider, both from Central Iowa, will also lead presentations. A lifelong Iowan, Joe LeValley is the author of the Tony Harrington Series, which follows the life of a small town newspaper reporter. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America and The Authors Guild. He also participates in activities of International Thriller Writers and StorySummit.
Laura Snider, a graduate of the Drake University School of Law, pens the Ashley Montgomery legal thriller series, which follows the life of a public defender. She started her law career as a prosecutor, then switched sides and became a defense attorney.
Couple Patricia and Kevin Kimle, who wrote the novel, The Only Free Road: An Underground Railroad Saga Unveiled, will also be presenting. Patricia is an artist and lover of historical fiction, which lead to writing the book with her husband. Kevin currently serves as the Rastetter Chair of Agricultural Entrepreneurship at Iowa State University. He is also the Director of the Start Something Agriculture program and is a teaching professor in the Department of Economics at Iowa State.
Local author Crystal Ferry, who writes under the pen name Stella Bixby, will kick off the conference. Crystal is the author of the popular cozy mystery series featuring Rylie Cooper. She also writes the Magical Mane Mystery Series and Shalya Murphy Mystery Series.
The conference runs from 9-4. Doors open at 8:30. Cost for the all-day conference is $40 if you pre-register and $50 at the door. Lunch from Dayton’s Meat Products in Malcom will be provided for attendees.
The All-Iowa Writers’ Conference was founded by J.O. and Debbie Parker, co-owners of Our Front Porch Books in Montezuma. The couple has published five books – two Iowa photography books and three romantic suspense novels in the popular Hope Series.
Many local businesses help make the conference possible with generous financial donations as well as product donations for the on-going door prize drawings that take place throughout the day.
To learn more about the Parkers and Our Front Porch Books, visit them at www.ourfrontporchbooks.com or on Facebook.
Montezuma's Broox Stockman cuts through the Southeast Warren defense to gain yards for the Braves, who won the game, 47-28, to improve to 2-0 on a hot, muggy night at Badger-Gabriel Field. The Braves travel to Morvia on Friday, Sept. 1 where they will open district play. Game time is 7 p.m.
Here's your chance to own one of todays No. 1 Griddle/Grill combos. Blackstone, one the finest on the market, donated by "Hometown Hardware" Get your Ticket from any Montezuma Legionnaire - Ron's Barber Shop - Hometown Hardware where its on display. Thanks for your support!