“It’s hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember”

—Sujish Kandampully

Darwin K. Uhlenhopp, age 67, of Nevada, died Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

The beginning of Darwin’s obituary began as simply as that. It goes on to talk about where he was born, where he went to school and his first teaching job.

That first teaching job was in Nevada. It was in Nevada that he met his wife, Mary, and the couple raised their three children, Nick, Pam and Brigietta.

This story is about those children’s tribute to their father and their children’s grandfather.

A dad leaves his mark in the world through the love he gives his children.

Nick Uhlenhopp, the oldest of the three, now married to Andrea Crabtree, has two children, Laney, three and Landry, just a couple days away from her first birthday. The couple live in Bowling Green, Ky., where Nick is assistant athletic director and head of football operations at Western Kentucky University.

“Dad never met a stranger,” tells Nick. “He always loved to talk and he enjoyed the students he taught; he would be the one that would end up playing with kids, everywhere he went. There was no one that loved our children more than he did.”

Next in line at the Uhlenhopp home was Pam. Pam, now married to David Karkosh, also has two daughters, Hayden who is five and Audrey who is three. The couple live in Hudson. Pam travels to the University of Iowa, where she is a labor and delivery nurse at the University of Iowa Hospitals.

“My dad is the one guy that everyone talks about,” she said. “He was that way with us, too. When Hayden was born, my standing with Dad went up a notch. He loved everyone’s children — his nieces and nephews and now our children.”

Brigietta rounds out the Uhlenhopp kids. She lives in Nevada, where she is a dental hygienist with Summit Family Dental and Stephenson Dental.

“Dad was such a caring individual,” Brigietta explains. “He was such a good dad and an even better grandfather to the grandkids. Even when he retired from teaching and coaching, he still loved being around all the children.”

Darwin taught eighth-grade math and coached at many different levels in many different sports throughout his career in education in the Nevada School District. It was said that his fun-loving nature, passionate temperament and goofy antics left a legacy. After his retirement, he continued working for the Nevada School District, transporting special needs students to the Woodward Resource Center.

“Dad always loved being around school, even after his retirement,” tells Nick.

Outside the classroom Nick, Pam and Brigietta had fond memories of something always going on at home. From family movie night to vacations, the adventures continued.

Pam shared a favorite family activity while they would be eating out.

“We would go out to dinner and we would play the ‘check game’, she tells. “We would all have to guess what the bill would be. It was just something that we always did.”

“When we would get ready to go on a family vacation, Dad would spend two days getting the car ready,” tells Nick. “He would clean that car from top to bottom before we could pull out on the highway. He was that way with anything that he cleaned. He would clean the house and the barn and when we would all come in for lunch, we knew that Dad was still out in the barn, dusting it.”

All three agreed that their dad is their hero.

“Yes, he was and still is my hero,” said Pam. “He’s my dad and when Mom got sick, I watched him as he took care of her and he was amazing. And when Mom died, Dad picked it up and played the Mom role for us too.”

Brigietta agreed. “After Mom died and when Hayden, Laney, Audrey and Landry were born, he would be both grandma and grandpa to them. He would write and send them notes in the mail, because that is what Mom would have done. He was my shoulder to cry on.”

Nick added, “He was always there for me. I could call him for advice, or if I had sporting questions, he would help me work through them. He took Mom’s place when she died and played both roles for all of us.”

Being a papa for the past five years was Darwin’s world, according to Nick. “It was what he lived for.”

Reflecting on Darwin and Mary’s direction that they provided for their children, Brigietta felt that both her parents were probably the most caring people she knew.

“Dad was pretty detail-oriented, and I try to be that way,” she said. “He didn’t make snap decisions, but would think about the options. Both Mom and Dad were hard workers and made good employees for those they worked with and for.”

Nick shared these thoughts about his parents giving him the direction he needed to be successful in his life.

“My mom was the nicest person around. I believe that she got more accomplished being nice to people. Dad was more the silent worker. He was always outside doing something. He never laid around. They taught me so much, and I try to live by their example.”

Pam also remembers both her Mom and Dad as caring people.

“They were always helping other people and directed me into my occupation of being a labor and delivery nurse. I, too, want to help people. They both would tell me that I would be fine and that they cared for me. Although I think I got my toughness from my dad, my caring from my mom.”

Last year, Darwin was experiencing some pretty major medical issues. He was waiting to be put on a liver transplant list. Recently, he was hospitalized at the University of Iowa.

“I was waiting to get a phone call to go get Dad and take him to skilled care,” tells Pam. “I did get a call last Thursday, but it wasn’t to come get Dad. He had a blood infection and it was a very serious septic situation. Once Nick got back and Brigietta was here, we, along with the doctors, decided that the outcome was not going to be good and that we needed to just keep him comfortable. He passed very peacefully on Saturday.”

Other dear friends and former students had much to say about their friend and educator:

Coach Gary Vasey

“So many memories, so many stories and so many great times! What we will remember most about Uhle was his passionate SPIRIT. Although his illness robbed him of life, it couldn’t take his SPIRIT. His SPIRIT will live on in the many lives he touched, especially his kids (Nick, Pam and Brigietta) and four precious grandchildren.

Coach, you fought the good fight and you were never alone! No more pain, no more suffering. Rest in peace, my friend!

One story of that passionate SPIRIT: When I became the head Nevada softball coach in the fall of ‘83, I asked Uhle to be my assistant. His expertise and knowledge was invaluable to the team’s success. We qualified for the fall of ‘83 (fourth place) state tournament, summer of ‘84 (10th place) and summer of ‘85 (ninth place). After our first win at state in the fall of ‘83, the girls wanted to go out to eat. They chose Garcia’s, a well-known Mexican restaurant in Des Moines. Well, Uhle coming from an Iowa farm background, ordered a steak, baked potato, and salad (French dressing) and toast. The waitress said, ” Sir, this a Mexican restaurant.” Uhle said, “I know that, but I want a steak.” The restaurant accommodated him the best they could. The girls teased him the whole evening. He wanted a steak or he wasn’t going to eat anything! I took him out to eat about a month before his passing. What do you think he ordered?

Friends Gary and Mary Lynn Siefken

We first met Darwin in 1973 when he came to Nevada as an eighth-grade math teacher. He taught and coached various middle and high school sports. He met his wife Mary on a blind date, set up by us, to go scout a girls’ basketball game at Roland Story, where I dropped them off while I went on to South Hamilton to watch their girls play. This was probably in 1975 or 1976. From there they started dating, going to ball games, movies and various other school-sponsored activities.

During those early years before marriage, Darwin spent a lot of time at our house because he liked our family activities and little kids. Darwin used to lay on the floor and our kids would stand on his hands and he would lift them up and down. He had as much fun as did our kids. He used to wake up the kids, day or night, just so they could play. We had plenty of robust conversations about many things, including school, sports and politics. We would go on for hours and hours.

Darwin and Mary got married June 10, 1978. Mary’s brothers loaded their car with Rice Krispies during the wedding in Coon Rapids. I have never seen a car loaded with that much breakfast food all over the front and back seats. They spent a lot of time cleaning that red Olds Cutlass during their honeymoon.

We had a lot of fun times together playing Hearts, cookouts and other school activities, as neither of us had any money.

Darwin and Mary spent most of their wedded years in Nevada, except for a short term when they lived in Chariton. Darwin was in the Army reserves and during his boot camp, Mary bought and moved into their home on Lincoln Highway. To his surprise, she did some remodeling while he was gone. While living in the country he had lots of projects, including his war with the gophers in their yard. Mary even wrote a Christmas letter regarding the battle which he lost!

Darwin was so proud of all three of their kids and always wore the appropriate shirt of their colleges.

Even with his declining health, he could carry on a great debate with us every time we were together. Oh, how he could argue (and very loudly).

We will miss Darwin, but I will always have cherished memories.

Former students also shared thoughts:

Kole Siefken

My family has been friends with Darwin for many years, specifically my Mom and Dad, who would play cards with Darwin and Mary every weekend while I was growing up. Darwin was like a second father to me and I have so many amazing memories that it is hard to pinpoint just one. The kids must be absolutely heartbroken with now losing both parents, but I know Darwin and Mary loved them with all their hearts and they are great kids! Darwin was very proud of all of them and would say so at every chance. Although I moved away in 1988, my parents remain. Every time I came home, Darwin would come over and we would catch up. I will miss that! Please tell each one of the kids how I feel about Darwin and the positive impact he made on my parents’ life. We love him and his spirit will always be alive in our home. Life is too short, and sometimes you cannot believe when those people you could always count on will not be there anymore. I will definitely miss my second dad in Darwin. God rest his soul. Thank you for honoring him.

Judy Albers

Dar was so proud of his granddaughters and loved spending time with them. He brought Hayden, his first granddaughter, over to show her off and make her giggle for us. A great grandpa!

Jennifer K. Eggers

He was a hilarious yet tough eighth-grade math teacher. He broke several chalkboards when he would get frustrated and hit them his fist! He wasn’t mad at his students, more that he couldn’t figure out how to make us understand a certain hard concept. He was great.

Kylie House

He spent time with his students and stayed after if they didn’t understand something. He was such a great dad to Nick, Pam and Gietta.

Patti Elliott-Hapes

I graduated from Nevada in ‘94 and moved to North Carolina in ‘99. Every time I would see him when I came back, he would always call me by name. Not once did I have to tell him who I was. He will be missed by so many people, but I am glad he is back with Mary, no matter how sad we are.

Dana Marie Korrin

I just remember him always calling you a dingbat and smacking peoples’ knuckles with a ruler for not paying attention! He was a good teacher and I hated math!

Jeremy Wood Earles

Where do I start? Coach Uhle was the one that helped me get through school. He was one of the best football coaches that I have ever had! Every Friday night he would get me fired up for the night, and anytime I was down and the game wasn’t going well, he would pull me aside to give me a pep talk and fire me back up!! He was such a genuine man. Not many kids will ever get to experience a coach like him in their lifetime!!!

Rest in peace, Coach Uhle!!!!!

Darwin Uhlenhopp will be remembered for many things. Stories will continue to be told and tears will continue to flow. Grief is a strange thing in that it affects everyone differently.

Memories will remain strong, perhaps forever. The memory of a good person is a blessing.

Always remember to be grateful to those individuals who make you happy. Someone once said that they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.