Nancy E. Wonderlich, 72, of Waterville, IA, died on June 28, 2023 with her family by her side after a courageous fight against pancreatic cancer. Memorial services will be held on Saturday, July 15th, at 11:00 AM at Zalmona Presbyterian Church in rural Waukon, IA, with Pastor Sue Klimstra officiating. Friends may greet the family from 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM on Friday, July 14th, at Martin-Grau Funeral Home in Waukon. Her family requests that those in attendance wear bright colors so the church and funeral home resemble her flower gardens. The family wishes to start a scholarship in Nancy’s name; memorials may be made to the Allamakee Scholarship Fund Inc., PO Box 144, Waukon, Iowa 52172.
Nancy Elizabeth Dunham was born in Dallas, TX, on January 5, 1951, the eldest daughter of Richard E. Dunham II and Thomasine (Allison) Dunham. She adored her four siblings: Tad, Rick, Laura, and George and the family spent many happy years in San Antonio. Nancy was a member of the MacArthur High School women’s swim team and was an expert backstroker; a highlight of her time in this sport was helping her team win the 1967 Texas Women’s Swim State Championship. In the summer of 1968, the family moved to the Twin Cities; Nancy graduated from Edina High School in 1969. She began studies in animal science at Iowa State University the following fall. She swam on the ISU swim club and was awarded her athletic letter in a special ceremony celebrating 25 years of organized women’s athletic teams at ISU in 1997. In 1971, her dorm friends nominated her to be a contestant in the annual Milk Maid contest at the ISU dairy barn because they thought it would be funny for a city girl like Nancy to participate. A redheaded Iowa farm boy, Chris Wonderlich, who was studying dairy science at ISU, was her escort to the event. She would often say, “he taught me how to milk a cow and I never forgot!”
After their graduations from ISU, the couple married at Gary Memorial Methodist Church in Wheaton, IL, on March 17, 1973. They began their life together as dairy farmers, joining in their work with Chris’ parents, Robert and Norma Gene Wonderlich, on the Wonderlich home farm in southeast Iowa. They welcomed their first daughter, Kristen Allison, on January 9, 1975. In 1980, the couple bought a farm in northeast Iowa, south of Waterville; they named their farm Hope Hollow and quickly established themselves as leaders in the dairy industry of northeast Iowa, often winning awards for their herd and its production quality. They welcomed two more daughters: Megan Grace, born on April 15, 1980, and Elizabeth Clare, born on February 15, 1985.
They enjoyed many happy years working alongside each other at Hope Hollow and raising their family. In 2014, the couple sold their milking dairy herd and enjoyed almost a decade of “semi-retirement” custom raising heifers. Nancy discovered a new love during this time in her work as a substitute teacher for the Allamakee Community School District. She especially found joy in encouraging and championing young minds with a healthy dose of love, just as she did for her daughters.
She was active in leadership roles in Presbyterian Women, Allamakee Dairy Darlings, and in recent years, worked on the Iowa Dairy Princess committee. Nancy also sang in the Allamakee Ecumenical Choir for over 25 years. She was an active member of Zalmona Presbyterian Church in Ludlow, rural Waukon, where she volunteered her time as a choir director, VBS and Sunday school teacher, and served on the session. Zalmona was also the place where she taught her daughters to sing by her side.
Nancy’s greatest joys were her family and friends. Living much of her life as a transplant, she worked hard to make others feel welcomed and included. She was a queen of hospitality and enjoyed serving others. Her other loves were music and her faith, as well as her garden. She truly was a yellow rose of Texas and the beauty she found in God’s earth is evident in the many flowerbeds of her farm. She and Chris were happy to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on March 17, 2023. She leaves us with an amazing legacy of love.
Survivors include her husband Chris of Waterville, IA; her daughter: Dr. Kristen Wonderlich of Rock Hill, SC, her daughter Dr. Megan (Don) Ernst of Glenham, SD, and their children: Evelyn, Samuel, and Della Ernst; and her daughter Elizabeth (Frank) Rozycki of Runnells, IA, and their children: Isaiah, John Christian, Clare, Elijah, George, and Agnes Rozycki. She is also survived by her beloved siblings: Tad Dunham of Pittsburg, KS, Richard Dunham III of Argyle, TX, Laura Kelsoe of Dallas, TX, and George Dunham of Bartonville, TX; loved brothers and sisters in-law; and nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; her parents-in-law; and a brother-in-law Dr. Roger Wonderlich.
Nancy's grandchildren will serve as honorary urnbearers.