Gerald Dean Konken, age 76 of Hartington, Nebraska, died peacefully surrounded by his family on Friday, October 18, 2019 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa.
Funeral Services will be on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at 11:00 am at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hartington, NE with Reverend Amanda Talley officiating. Burial will be in the Lawn Ridge Cemetery in Coleridge, NE with military services provided by the Hartington VFW Post 5283 and the American Legion Riders. Visitation will be on Tuesday from 5:00 to 8:00 pm with a prayer service at 7:00 pm at the church. Visitation will continue one hour prior to services on Wednesday. Arrangements are under the direction of the Wintz Funeral Home in Hartington.
Pallbearers will be his nephews, Gail Konken, Galen Konken, Greg Konken, Jim Konken, Bob Konken, John Konken, Kelly Konken, Kevin Konken, Curtis Konken, Corey Konken, Doug Pedersen, and Dave Pedersen.
Honorary pallbearers will be his nieces, Kathy Walters, Gloria Hoesing, Janice Mortensen, Colleen Rowe, Connie Keiss, Marva Lee Nass, Patty McElhaney, and Debbie Brummels.
Gerald was born on February 1, 1943 on the family farm between Hartington and Coleridge, Nebraska to John Carl and Selma Wilhelmina (Wittler) Konken. He grew up on the farm and attended country grade school nearby. He went on to graduate from Coleridge High School in 1960.
Gerald worked on the family farm during his youth. He bought his first car at age 14, an old Plymouth for $35. His dad furnished the gas and insurance. When he turned 16, he took a job as an autobody technician in Hartington. After graduation he took auto body repair classes at Southern State College in Springfield, SD. He was only there a short time because it became apparent the he knew more than the teaching staff. At age 19, he moved to Lincoln, NE and was employed as an auto body repairman. He lived with his sister Lorna. He moved back to Hartington the following year to manage the auto body repair shop at the Chevrolet dealership. It was during this time that Gerald purchased his first new Corvette at age 20, a bright red 1963 Split Window Coupe. He had a need for speed and drag raced the car all summer wining several trophies.
In 1965, Gerald purchased a building and one acre of land at the south end of town and opened Konk’s body shop. In addition to repairing cars he also cleaned, repaired and repainted farm tractors for extra income. In the fall of 1966 Massey Ferguson convince him that instead of repainted tractors that he should sell new ones. At age 23, he became a Massey Ferguson dealer.
On January 28 1967, Gerald married Delores Ann Harts of rural Yankton, SD. She moved to Hartington and became his business partner. The business expanded in 1969 with a building addition and the purchase of 4 acres of land. Their first child Barry was also born that year. Gerald received an award for being the largest Massey Ferguson dealer in their sales district. This award earned Gerald and Delores a trip to the Bahamas when Barry was only 6 weeks old. Their second child, Cinda was born in 1973. Gerald purchased land to build a new home for his family on the south end of Hartington. The large ranch style home had a 3-stall garage which was unheard at the time.
Later in 1973, the business was incorporated: Konken Equipment, Inc. He received several awards in 1970 for reaching sales goals. Including being the top Massey swather dealer in North America in 1970. Gerald was also the largest Massey snowmobile dealer in the North America. Gerald would truck the snowmobiles in from the Des Moines distribution center by the semi load. His son Barry would ride with him in the truck.
Gerald also sold the most Massey combines in the district. In 1972, he sold over 50% of the market in the state of Nebraska. During the 1970’s Gerald added Snapper lawn, Buffalo tillage and Owatonna equipment to the dealership. Sales awards continued through the 1970’s including the $500,000 in sales award in 1978 and the $1,000,000 in sales award in 1979. By 1979, Konken Equipment was the largest Massey Ferguson dealer in the state. The business continued to expand when Gerald signed a contract to become a J.I. Case dealer in 1981. The following year they completely remodeled the dealership building. Gerald was able to purchase his dad’s family farm during this time. His father had sold the land when he retired. It was important to Gerald to have the family farm back, where he was born. His father first moved onto the land in 1918.
Gerald had to change the focus of his business in the 1980’s when the farm crisis hit. Many of the companies he represented went bankrupt. Customers and banks were having very hard times financially. Gerald had always had a car dealer license so he started buying and selling used cars in addition to selling and servicing farm equipment.
A fire destroyed the business in December of 1990. There wasn’t enough insurance money to rebuild but Gerald decided to build a new state of the art building that focused more on car sales. A unique stair step display area was arranged so people could see all the cars for sale as they drove by on the highway. The all new facility was really 3 buildings in one: The front third was comprised of offices, parts, customer lounge and indoor showroom. The center building had the area’s only quick lube oil change pit and room for automobile service and detail. The back room was set up to service farm equipment. The original business location was sold. Barry joined the business fulltime after college. At this time, Gerald starting selling Corvettes in addition to used cars. They sold Corvettes in every state in the United States in addition to Canada and many foreign countries. Gerald and Barry attended their 1st Black Hills Corvette Classic Rally in 1986. They had such a great time together that they went every year. Gerald made some of his best lifelong friends from the Corvette hobby.
In 2003, a decision was made to purchase the Orwig Ford dealership in Hartington. The automotive business was also going through tough times. Many thought that Ford was going to go bankrupt. Gerald had seen this before in the farm equipment business and didn’t want to go through it again so he decided to end their contract with Ford in 2005. An opportunity to sell the building came in 2012. Gerald moved back into his original business location to focus on his love of restoring antique farm tractors. In January of 2016, Gerald received an award from the Hartington Chamber of Commerce for being in business for 50 years.
Gerald began a complete renovation of his family home in early 2018. He had made the decision to sell his collection of antique farm tractors and move out of the original business location to enjoy his retirement. In order to have a place to work on a few of his favorite tractors, Gerald decided to replace his three stall garage with a much larger “man cave”. This space allowed him to display his lifelong collection of farm toy and auto memorabilia.
Gerald was an active member of the Trinity Lutheran Church where he was a longtime council member and served as council president. He served on the Hartington City Council for 10 years and was a member of the Hartington Chamber of Commerce for over 50 years. Gerald was also involved with several corvette clubs and attended the Black Hills Corvette Classic for 33 consecutive years. He also served in the National Guard and went through basic training in Ft Leonard Wood, MO.
Gerald is survived by his wife, Delores Konken of Hartington, a son, Barry Konken of Sioux Falls, SD; a daughter, Cinda Konken of Lincoln, NE; a grandson, Jack Konken of Sioux Falls; a sister, Gladys Pedersen of Coleridge; a brother, Vernon Konken of Hartington and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, 5 brothers, Norman, Wendell, Clarence, Marvin and Elmer Konken, a sister, Lorna Veddar and an infant stillborn baby.
No matter what his business ventures, his family was most important. Gerald was grateful for his many friends. He always said that he has been blessed with a wonderful family and was fortunate to work in a great community. People always loved his smile, outgoing personality and warm heart.