Interviewed by Benji Nichols • Originally published in Inspire(d) Magazine (March 2008)
Both Richard and Mildred Dinger grew up in the Decorah area. Through growing up in the depression years in Northeast Iowa and having spent their entire lives here, they are a wealth of local information, history, and a joy to talk with. They were married July 18, 1941, at Big Canoe Church in rural Decorah and Richard served with the 445 Bombardment Group (H) based from Tibenham Field, Norfolk, England in WW II. (Richard was also part of the same division as actor Jimmy Stewart!) Mildred (nee: Nordheim) also started the Nisse Nursery school in Decorah where yours truly went to pre-school.
What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
RD: Be honest and willing to work. Think before you speak.
How about the worst?
RD: I once offered up too much of my opinion to a supervisor at the Railroad Express after submitting a damage report. It wasn’t pleasant. (see question #1).
What did you want to be when you grew up?
RD: It was the depression years and nobody had any money, but I enjoyed delivering the paper and being a caddy at the Oneota Golf Course.
MD: Coming from those times, I wanted to study hard and receive my education.
What do/did you do?
RD: I started delivering the Des Moines Register in 6th grade and did that through my first year of College. I was also a caddy at the Oneota golf course in the ‘30s. I worked construction and then for the Railway Express and joined the service in December of 1943. When I returned in 1944 I went to work for G.F. Baker & Sons and then Construction Lumber Co. until I retired.
MD: I worked for Dr. Field as a Dental Assistant when I was still in High School, and then went on to teach in the rural schools. I later worked at Luther College, and was then convinced to start the Nisse Nursery School where I taught pre-school. I also tutored kids in Decorah.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
RD: My wife, food, and water.
MD: And I’d want us to have potatoes!
If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
RD & MD: Bread and Potatoes
Name one thing you could not live without.
Our conservative family values. We’re very proud of both of our children and our family.
Multiple choice: tell us about…Your favorite memory.
MD: The day Richard returned from overseas. I think that having him away for that time really showed me how important he was. (August 1944)
RD: After returning from service in 1944 Ernie Ask offered the opportunity to serve on the Winneshiek County Veterans Affairs Commission. I was the first WWII Veteran to do so, and I have served on the commission helping Veterans for over 50 years.