So Long Frank Lloyd Wright … and Delbert Meier

Last Monday marked the 59th anniversary of the death of Frank Lloyd Wright. Just three months before Wright’s passing in 1959, another visionary departed this world: Delbert W. Meier, the man who, with his wife Grace, boldly decided to build a Wright-designed American System-Built Home in a small town in northeastern Iowa in 1917, and lived happily thereafter and, indeed, passed on in that house – this “American house.”

Del Meier was the beneficiary of a very colorful obituary in the local newspaper, The Monona Leader, which we post here in tribute. We’ll leave it to Simon and Garfunkel to properly fete Frank on this anniversary.

D.W. Meier Funeral Held

Funeral services for Delbert William Meier, 78, were held Saturday afternoon, Jan. 10, at 2 o’clock at the Schultz Funeral home with Rev. E. Wayne Hilmer officiating.

Burial was in the City cemetery.

Mr. Meier died at his home Thursday morning, Jan. 8, at 3:30 o’clock from a heart attack. He had been suffering from a heart ailment for some time.

Music at the services was provided by Mrs. George Martin, soloist. She was accompanied by Mrs. Ivon J. Schultz at the piano.

Honorary pallbearers were: H.T. Orr, G.F. Fox, K.W. Rash, Edward Wirkler, Reuben Bernhard, Clayton County Bankers association, and Clayton County bar association.

Active pallbearers were: F.J. Peglow, Elmer Kurth, George Martin, W.C. Kruse, Ivon J. Schultz, George Wiethorn, Raymond Mielke, and William Hubacher.

Mr. Meier was born on a farm north of Postville, May 6, 1880, the son of John H. and Louisa (Splies) Meier. He was one of five children. Milo S. Meier of Minneapolis, Minn., is the only one who remains.

In that early day, life was rigorous, but he and an older brother spent many happy hours wandering over the wooded hills and fertile fields.

Then there was the country school to which they traveled with their swinging dinner pails for their early education. The family moved to Postville, later, so the children could have a better education.

He graduated from high school, then entered Upper Iowa university at Fayette. He was a good student and became a member of the debating team which won high honors for the school. His liking for forensics helped him decide to study law.

In the fall of 1903 he entered the University of Chicago, graduating there in 1905, taking two degrees, bachelor of philosophy and doctor of jurisprudence.

Then the question arose where to “hang out the shingle.” Being of a venturesome spirit, Indian territory seemed a likely place, so accordingly, Tulsa, Okla., was the town of his choice.

While in college he had met Miss Grace Estelle Burgess. They were married in 1903.

Not liking the climate in the southern territory, the couple returned to Iowa and Mr. Meier took over the law office of Ed Otis.

Two children were born to the couple, Esther, now Mrs. John Roberts of Darlington, England; and Martha, now Mrs. Walter Renk of Sun Prairie, Wis. These, with two grandchildren, John and Richard Renk, and a new great-grandchild, Wyatt Farley Renk, survive him.

Mr. and Mrs. Meier have resided in Monona for more than fifty years. On Dec. 28, recently, they celebrated their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Mr. Meier served in official capacity in the town as mayor, and on the town council. As a school board member, he was instrumental in building the new addition to the “old building,” and the construction of the present one, serving again as a member of the board. At the time of his death, Mr. Meier was serving as president and director of the Union State Bank, in which capacity he faithfully served for many years. He was a life-long member of the Iowa State Bar association.

During World war I, he was a member of the Clayton County Draft board, and during World war II he served for a time as government appeal agent. For this effort he was given citations from two presidents, a selective service medal in the name of congress of the United States, signed by Harry S. Truman, and a certificate of appreciation signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

So passes another of the older residents of Monona. Few are left who took part in the social and business life of the town when he opened his office here in 1907.

How to Install a Tile Backsplash
(Good News: It’s Easier Than You Might Think!)

Before installing the backsplash in our kitchen I had never in my life tiled a single thing. But how hard can it be? I reasoned. I mean, people have been tiling for thousands of years! And all of those people couldn’t have been geniuses. But then as I watched YouTube videos and read how-to posts with all their steps and warnings of pitfalls, I grew increasingly worried that tiling was a job best left to professionals. No! my inner adventurer called out. And so my can-do, DIY spirit kicked in and I decided to tackle the job on my own. And you know what? It’s not as hard as you might think! Now that I’ve mastered the art of tiling (because, you know, I’ve done it once so now I’m an expert), I’m going to share the process with you. Continue reading

Farmhouse Fabulous: New Flooring for the Kitchen

When I work on a DIY project – like, say, installing new Pergo laminate flooring in the kitchen – my mind wanders during the easier parts of the work. For instance, while ripping up the old vinyl tiles in the kitchen I thought up punny things I could say about the new flooring. I may have said a couple of my punny sentences out loud and chuckled to myself. That’s one of the things I love about DIY projects – that my hands are busy creating something beautiful while my mind is off on tangents all its own. Multi-tasking for the mind!

But enough about my mental quirks. You’re here for house updates, not to learn about my inner workings, right? Continue reading

DIY Tip: Always Buy the Cheap Wrapping Paper

What’s going on here? Why are we wrapping the kitchen cabinet in Christmas paper in April? Did someone dip into the absinthe again? Nope! This is just my way of using the cheap Christmas wrap that I bought on sale after the holiday to protect the painted cabinets while I strip the adjacent window.

And this is why we always buy the cheap Christmas paper! The big rolls of paper come in handy for all kinds of DIY projects. From protecting surfaces to creating paper patterns, rolls of wrapping paper are an essential part of a DIYer’s toolbox. Of course, you can always use it to wrap gifts next Christmas too!

One Thing Leads to Another: The Curse of Renovations

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, long before HGTV and the utter ubiquity of home and design shows, makeovers were relegated to daytime talk shows. Oprah or Sally Jesse or Ricki would host a group of guests who were sartorially challenged or stuck in the past. They’d bring the guests out and hear their tales of wardrobe woe for the first half of the show and then usher them offstage so that a team of stylists could transform them. In the final minutes of the episode the hosts would welcome their newly dapper guests back to the stage with some sort of flourish – standing next to a split screen of a “before” photo or breaking through a big printed copy of their old look a la a football player. The audiences would cheer and whistle and the guests would announce their happiness in their newfound beauty. But then what happened when the guests got home?

Even as a kid watching these shows, I used to think about how the lucky ladies and gents who walked away from the makeovers must have felt when they got home. When they took their new outfits out of the wardrobe bags and hung them next to their own clothes, it surely must have made everything look old, tattered and out of style. I can imagine them saying, “Well, I can never wear those again!” as they swept their hands across the contents of their closets. They might even look around their entire home and say, “I never knew this place looked so awful!” It wasn’t until they saw how good they good look that they recognized how bad everything was.

Renovating an old house is a lot like that. Every time one project is finished it makes it glaringly obvious that the old things around it are going to need some work too.

Sure, finishing a project like tiling the backsplash or stripping the painted fireplace can feel like a monumental achievement. But that sense of accomplishment is short lived. I’ll stand back and survey my handiwork, straining all the while to pat myself on the back, and be filled with a sense of pride in a job (usually pretty well) done. And then my attention will almost immediately dart to something adjacent to the finished project that is now begging for attention.

When we finished the fireplace, for instance, I noted the tile that needed to be replaced and the trim that needed repainting and the built-ins that needed to be replaced. As happy as I was that the fireplace project was finished, it merely opened the door to the projects around the corner.

And so it goes with the kitchen backsplash. Now that the tile is up and the grout is in, I’m noticing all the little things that need to be updated in order to really finish the kitchen. It started with the window. With the cabinets painted and the backsplash installed, it’s now glaringly obvious that the window needs a new finish. When the cabinets were old, dark and beat up and the wall was in no better shape, the window above the kitchen sink looked fine. But now that everything else is looking so polished, the window appears shabby.

As an act of pure torture, er, I mean planning, I sat down and made a list of all the little loose ends that need to be tied up in the kitchen.

  • Refinish the window
  • Install new flooring
  • Install wood trim around tile
  • Replace faucet
  • Replace outlets, switches and plates
  • Paint remaining walls
  • Replace toe kick
  • Install under cabinet lighting

Some of this stuff I knew would require repair or replacement in advance of the kitchen project. For instance, I knew that I’d want to replace the flooring and faucet before even one dab of paint was applied to the cabinets. Others didn’t make themselves apparent until just this past weekend. The outlets and switches, for example. They’re in fine working order and their off white color seemed just fine when the walls were painted. Now that wall is covered in white subway tile, however, the off white outlets stand out in a displeasing way. It’s never ending, I tell you!

Considering this growing list of projects for this one room, I should have the whole house in tip top shape sometime around 2030.