Joe Kreykes: Iowa born and raised

JoeKreykesJoe Kreykes was my maternal grandfather. He was born on this day in 1907 in Baker Township, O’Brien County — a rural area in the heart of the fertile farmlands of northwest Iowa, between the towns of Granville and Hospers. He was the son of Arend Jan (“Arie”) Kreykes and Metje (“Mattie”) Reitsema.

Both of his parents were Dutch immigrants who had come to America as teenagers with their families. The original spelling of their surname was Kreijkes. His father Arie, a farmer, was from Overijssel in the eastern Netherlands and will be the subject of a birthday profile later this month, and his mother Mattie was from Groningen in the northern Netherlands. Grandpa’s parents were married in Iowa in 1896, and he was their fourth of six children, all of whom were the first generation of their family to be born in America. My grandfather had two brothers and three sisters.

JoeSchoolI do not know much about my grandfather’s school days except that he allegedly graduated first in his high school class of two students. At right is a picture of him, the lone boy behind the teacher, with another small class that looks to me like 6th or 8th grade if I were guessing. Even the teacher looks young.

I remember my grandfather as a mixture of seriousness and humor.

As I said in a previous post, he was a man of deep faith who read aloud to his family from the Bible every night after dinner. He was raised in the Christian Reformed Church, a conservative breakaway denomination from other expressions of the Dutch Reformed Church in America.

I’m fairly convinced that his upbringing in the CRC established his devotion to and deep knowledge of Scripture. I’ve come to respect this about my grandfather more and more, and it has become a distinguishing part of my memory of him. He joined the more mainstream Reformed Church in America when he married my grandmother, but I somewhat doubt that this fundamentally changed the way he practiced his faith.

JoeHatGrandpa married my grandmother Hattie in 1930 in Boyden, Iowa. Hattie was also the daughter of Dutch immigrants, and together, they had four children — two boys and two girls. My mother was their second child and eldest daughter. Based on both my memories of him and what I’ve heard from others, Grandpa was a hard-working man who believed in self-reliance. He delivered cream for the creamery, farmed, and eventually owned a hardware store with my grandmother in Orange City, the county seat of Sioux County, Iowa.

My mother has said that when she was a girl, she enjoyed riding along in the truck with Grandpa sometimes to make deliveries from the creamery. I’ve gotten the sense from his adult children that he was a man who liked things done a certain way on the farm, and I don’t suppose he had much patience for idleness.  Mom once told me that Grandpa encouraged her to take physics in school because it “teaches you how to think.” He was not a frivolous man, but he did have an active sense of humor … and sometimes when my mother laughs, I can see him in her.

GrandpaRockGrandpa worked hard but also enjoyed himself and took his family on vacations to New York, Texas, Colorado, and other places … more frequently, to closer places like the lakes of Minnesota or the Black Hills of South Dakota.

I remember my grandfather in his senior years as a kind but smart and no-nonsense man who communicated his standards quietly but left little doubt as to what they were. He and my grandmother were both that way.

He took it pretty much in stride when he visited us in New Mexico once and accidentally mistook a jalapeño pepper for a pickle, which obviously startled him but also left him laughing. He laughed easily, but it was a quiet laugh.


I learned after his passing that my grandfather knew more Dutch than I realized. He never really spoke it around us. There were certain words he said, though, that always seemed distinctive to me … such as the way he rolled his r’s a little when he said certain words. I wonder now if it was a little Dutch influence.

KreykesHardwareCROPPEDThe years that I knew my grandfather were during the time they ran a hardware store in town and later when they were retired. We sometimes visited my grandparents in Orange City, where they lived in their later years, and spent a little time hanging around the store. The storefront is pictured at left.

While we probably spent more of our time with our grandmother, my grandfather was always in the picture somewhere nearby. I remember him going along for ice cream and always having a stash of white peppermints handy during church services. His voice and mannerisms left a lasting impression on me, and I can still conjure them up when I think about him.

KreykeswegIn the 1970s, as a gift from their adult children, my grandparents made a trip to the Netherlands to visit relatives and see the towns from which their parents had originated, including Rijssen, Overijssel, the home of my grandfather’s Kreykes ancestors. The picture at right is from the street Kreykesweg (or Kreijkesweg) in Rijssen.

Since his passing in 1993, my grandfather has continued to influence me. Learning more about him through my research and conversations with his family has only increased my respect and gratitude for him. I loved him very much, and I miss him. He was a good man whose life made a lasting impact.

Rest in perfect peace, Grandpa.

This is the tenth in a series, Birthday Profiles, which includes descriptions of ancestors on the anniversary dates of their births. It is one good way to slow down on gathering data and focus on individuals in their totality.

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6 Responses to Joe Kreykes: Iowa born and raised

  1. Amy says:

    It’s sad that that generation didn’t share their original languages with their descendants. Wouldn’t you love to know more Dutch now? But they all wanted to assimilate and be “American.”

  2. Mary J Lohr says:

    A beautiful tribute to your grandfather!

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