Thelma Wendel Kerkman

Mar 29, 1926 - Mar 04, 2021

Thelma Wendel Kerkman

March 29, 1926 - March 04, 2021


Thelma Wendel Kerkman, 94, of Elwood, Iowa, passed away peacefully on Thursday morning, March 4, 2021, at Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House in Bettendorf, Iowa.

A celebration of her life is pending and will be announced at a later date. A private graveside service and burial will be held at the Elwood, Iowa Cemetery. The Carson Celebration of Life Center in Maquoketa is caring for the family.

Thelma Wendel was born on March 29, 1926 during a snowstorm at Delmar, Iowa. Dr. Owen Frank was the attending doctor. Her parents were George and Manuella (Werner) Wendel. At the age of one, Thelma moved with her parents back to the old Wendel farm two miles east of Elwood, where she attended Elwood Consolidated School and graduated in 1944. She then attended Cornell College at Mount Vernon for two years and transferred to the University of Iowa at Iowa City where she graduated with a major in Biology and a minor in Art Education in 1948. She taught one year at Shell Rock High School and saved enough money to return to the University of Iowa to take more science classes.

Thelma married Dean Kerkman of Van Horne, Iowa at the Elwood Methodist Church on June 11, 1950. They moved to Greely Colorado then to Alabama. Next moving to Manhattan, Beloit and finally Lawrence, Kansas where Dean received a PHD in Clinical Psychology and Thelma became an Occupational Therapist. Thelma taught school for seven years and served as an Occupational Therapist for 17 years in hospitals in Kansas City and at the Leavenworth VA Hospital. While working at the Leavenworth VA, Thelma and her husband went on medical tours to Spain, Russia, Greece, Scandinavia, Central Europe, the Balkans, Australia and New Zealand as well as the British Isles. They also visited relatives in Austria, Germany, and Denmark.

While living in Lawrence Kansas, Thelma served as a Girl Scout leader, camp director and president of the Kaw Valley Council which covered five counties. Later she became the leader of the Sunflower 4-H Club in Douglas county for several years. She was also a member of the Lawrence Flower Club and served as junior flower club leader for 25 years helping children to grow flowers, make ceramic containers and make scrapbooks to enter them into state competitions. After she retired from the Leavenworth VA, she joined the Kaw Valley Quilters Guild, Lawrence Doll Collectors Club and Cloth Doll Club.

In 1994, Thelma and Dean moved from Kansas to the Wendel farm east of Elwood, Iowa. They planted many trees, shrubs and flower beds. While there, they painted eight buildings and put new roofs on them. Thelma joined the Maquoketa Garden Club, Town and Country Quilters Guild, Hawkeye Doll Club and the Hello Dollies Club of the Quad Cities. She also belonged to the Genealogy and Retired Teachers Clubs in both Jackson and Clinton counties and was a member of the American Legion Post and Auxiliary at Lost Nation. For many years, she was an active member of the Elwood Methodist Church and enjoyed visiting other churches in the area for church dinners.

Thelma is survived by her sister, Barbara Downey of Preston, 3 children; Dennis, Renay and Amy (Ken) as well as 4 grandchildren; Amelia and Adam Kerkman, and Conrad and Benjamin Manaugh. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Dean, and sisters Betty Mae Parker and Bonnie Winchip.

Online condolences may be left at

Memorials can be sent to the American Stroke Association.


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