Gaylon Howard Mittan

HARTINGTON — Gaylon Howard Mittan, 94, Hartington, and lifelong Cedar County resident and farmer known for his warmth, generosity and ability to converse with anyone on almost any topic, died July 11, 2018, at the Hartington Care and Rehabilitation Center. Gaylon’s wish was to donate his body to Medical Science. A Memorial Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. The Wintz Funeral Home, Hartington, is assisting with arrangements. Gaylon was born Oct. 9, 1923, in the Pleasant Valley community near Hartington, to Albert and Dorothea (Newsam) Mittan. At an early age, he got the nickname “Spud” for his love of potatoes. He carried the nickname throughout his life. He attended Pleasant Valley School District 77 through eighth grade, and Hartington High School, where he played football, acted in school plays and sang in the choir. He was class president his junior and senior years, and editor of “The Purr,” the school newspaper, his senior year. During Gaylon’s junior year, Albert suffered a debilitating stroke and Gaylon took over the family farm while caring for his parents. Helped by his uncle, Lewis, he picked corn by hand and farmed with horse teams, making renovations to the family home because of his father’s disability. He graduated high school in 1941. He married June Dowling Dec. 25, 1946, at the First Congregational Church, Hartington, and the two farmed in the Center School area until they retired in 1990. He served on the Center School board until the school closed in the early 1960s. Years later, when the building was torn down, Gaylon crafted a small replica schoolhouse mounted on a post along Highway 81 so that members of the community could continue using it as a landmark when giving directions. Gaylon loved farming and was an avid conservationist. He planted trees on the farm sites, made use of dams and terraces, and implemented many other conservation practices. He served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Committee from 1960-1980. In 1969, the Sioux City (Iowa) Chamber of Commerce recognized him for his progress in soil conservation. He was proud of his decision to return a piece of plowed land to native grass pasture, which required leaving it unused for at least a decade. As a child of the Depression, Gaylon used, reused and recycled his whole life. He tore down old farm buildings for salvage lumber and reclaimed several miles of telephone wire for electric fencing. He cut up and moved a barn and half a farmhouse a mile to a different farmstead, putting them back together for many years of use. In later years, he used bits of old machinery to craft unusual lawn decorations and mailbox holders. Gaylon was perhaps known best for his ability to strike up a conversation on almost any topic – but usually farming – with anyone. He frequently passed time in these impromptu discussions when he drove those who needed a ride to out-of-town doctor’s appointments. He also delivered meals on wheels for more than a decade, pausing to visit with the recipients and to check on their welfare. Gaylon’s lifelong love of the road and meeting people started in his early teens, when he accompanied Francis Anderson on trucking trips from Pleasant Valley to Omaha and back over unpaved roads. After he retired from farming, he accompanied his friend, Gerald Konken, on many road trips delivering vehicles. He and June spent several winters in the 1980s traveling in a motorhome through states in the Southwest. Summers were often spent making trips to New York State, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri searching old cemeteries for genealogyl data, a passion the two of them shared. Gaylon was a lifelong member of the First Congregational Church and the Hartington Senior Center, and he often visited other senior centers during his travels. He is survived by June; daughters, Carol (Gil) Doeden, Blair, and Marcia (Bruce) Newton, Omaha; sons Allen (Jennie), Omaha, and Bob, Tucson, Ariz.; four grandchildren, Eric Mittan, New York City, N.Y.; Kaitlyn Mittan, Alexandria, Va,; Brian (Valerie) Newton, Omaha; and Kyle Mittan, Tucson, Ariz.; three step grandchildren, Mike and Bill Doeden and Patricia Angle, Omaha; and five step great-grandchildren. Gaylon was preceded in death by his father, in 1952; his mother, in 1988; his brother, Ron, in 2000; sister, Cecil Johnson, in 2001; and sister, Myrl Tyler, in 2010. In accordance with his wishes, no services will be held. The family plans a celebration of his life at a later date. Those who wish to honor his memory are encouraged to plant and care for a tree, visit a care home or senior center and chat with an elder, or check on an older neighbor.

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