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James A. Urbatsch

James A. Urbatsch

August 8, 1941 - January 12, 2021


Graveside Service

  • A private Family Graveside Services will be held at the Osage Cemetery with Pastor David Werges officiating. In lieu of a ceremony during the global pandemic, a more extensive obituary is presented.

James Allan Urbatsch of rural Osage, Iowa, passed away in his 80th year on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, after surviving COVID-19, at Mitchell County Regional Health Center while under Hospice Care. He was the second child, after brother Gene, of Wilbur and Pearl (Bublitz) Urbatsch. He will be remembered for his hard enterprising work, integrity, and love of family. Private Family Graveside Services will be held at the Osage Cemetery with Pastor David Werges officiating. In lieu of a ceremony during the global pandemic, a more extensive obituary is presented.

Jim grew up in Grafton, Iowa. He was born in the doctor's house on State Street in Osage on August 8, 1941. He was baptized and confirmed at Emmanuel Lutheran Church and graduated from Grafton High School in 1959. His cornet case was covered in Music Man Festival stickers. He was proud of the time he scored 35 points in a basketball game and how he once played on a Blue Devil team with three other Urbatsches: Don, Gene, and Lowell. Jim graduated Mason City Junior College (now NIACC) in 1961.

Jim then started working in the Oliver production office in Charles City, Iowa, as well as in construction part-time. He telephoned Delores Staff on the advice of his mother, who, while picking Staff Farm strawberries, was impressed with Dee moving irrigation pipe. Jim and Dee were married in 1965. In 1967, he quit Oliver to farm with his dad, who was killed in a car crash that first day. Jim and Dee moved into his parents' place, the Prairie Hill Farm, in West Cedar Township, southwest of Osage. In farming, as in playing the card game 500, Jim was aggressive and successful. Contrary to accepted beef and dairy breed norms, Jim and Dee raised, from the nursery, corn-fed Holstein steers. The devoted clientele of the well-marbled lean beef helped Jim and Dee buy their first 40 acres for their corn and soybean operation. Jim and Dee grew their farm with land purchases and farming 50-50 with landlords Neil Martin, Inez Christiansen, Arlene Rudolph, and his mom Pearl Miles, all now deceased. Jim took many high yield awards and often joked that he was "Out standing in his field." He had the first New Holland TR70 Twin-Rotor combine in the area. Jim designed and fabricated many things for the farm, from his green and orange band saw to the Roundup-spraying seats on the front of the tractor to installing a viewing window in the combine hopper. (New Holland wasn't interested, but their later models incorporated such a window.) His automatic grain dump pit was featured in the October 2002 Farm Journal Magazine. He never spilled a kernel of corn or a soybean and did not appreciate the family's persistent carelessness. Jim was a Buick man and a devout J.I. Case man, and he took good care of his equipment. Equipment auction on August 14, 2020, brought fun with auctioneer Frank Fox and an end to active farming.

Jim and Dee had three kids, and Jim never missed a school or sporting event and somehow never expressed disappointment. He had the kids driving by kindergarten-age and running equipment by elementary school. Instructions were usually delivered while walking away from a confused kid on a loud tractor. To his kids' glee, he would stomp on an empty roll-on deodorant bottle and shoot the ball through the house like a pinball. He drove all over so the kids could buy "Real" beef breeds for their 4-H show cattle. He supplied the feed, with the expectation that the kids pay for college. He had a sharp wit and a healthy repertoire of poems, songs, and limericks. When other families were singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jim had an alternate version about Adolf the Antelope. He used his dad's saying, "What's bought for Christmas, goes for Christmas." And quite regularly: "Buy low, sell high," "Work smarter, not harder," and, for industrial optimization, "Move it once. No need to handle things multiple times!" While the early family days allowed for only a weekly visit to town and a celebration might warrant splitting a 16-oz bottle of Pepsi, his later years required a daily 11-mile trip to the Osage Hardee's for coffee with the fellas. Jim followed Osage Green Devil sports to the end, especially volleyball and basketball, and he more than once won Hardee's gift certificates during halftime 3-point contests. Up until the pandemic, he and Dee made frequent interstate-trips for the seven grandkids' sporting events, birthdays, and church and school activities, beaming about their accomplishments. He was generous, except for the hiding and hoarding of the gallon bucket of his mom's frosted Christmas cookies. One Christmas blizzard, at an advanced age, he backed the rear-mounted snowblower on his cab-less Case 830 down the long driveway and 2-1/4 miles through 2' of snow to the Nora Springs blacktop to get a kid's family home. Countless times he pulled the kids' cars out of the ditch and tractors from mud bogs, the latter of which all but disappeared due to his unwavering investment in drainage tile.

Jim was active at Rock Creek Lutheran Church, serving as council president and on many committees; as chairman of the Federal Land Bank board; on the boards of grain elevators; and as a Township Trustee.

Jim was blessed with many dear friends, neighbors, and relatives, both surviving and pre-deceased. He thoroughly enjoyed playing 500 with the card club (and taking the Traveling Prize). In the 1970s, he suspended just enough frugality to buy two Herter's to join the snowmobiling club. Jim and Dee annually hosted the fleet of RVs for the Kroneman/Olson beer-drinking reunion. And who could forget his 40th birthday bash and the bucolic romance of partying in a cleaned-out Morton shed, except for his toddler daughter, for whom everyone independently thought that one little sip of beer wouldn't hurt?

Jim is survived by his wife, Dee; their three children, Todd of Los Alamos, NM, Kathy (Corey Christiansen) of Cottage Grove, WI, and Stacy (Jesse Hemann) of New Prague, MN; grandchildren Riley (who renamed Jim to "Bubba") and Jadee Christiansen, and Dana, Grafton, and Spencer Urbatsch, and Drew and Taylor Hemann; brother Gene (Penny); and a good handful of cousins from Grafton to the four winds.

In memory of Jim, look up his confirmation verse, Matthew 28:20. And bid aggressively.



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