Our Dad was born on June 25, 1956, in Storm Lake, IA, to parents Dale and Darlene Franken. He was a country boy and was raised on the farm where he helped with animals and daily chores growing up. An Irish twin with his older sister, Kathy, those two grew up inseparable. When they were four and five years old, Dad was climbing a fence and broke his leg and had to have a huge cast. His sister, Kathy, would push him around on the farm in an old baby carriage so they could still play. She remembers teasing him and dad lifting up his broken leg and hitting her with his heavy cast. They shared bunk beds together growing up with Kathy on the top and dad on the bottom, always kicking the top bunk.
From a young age, Dad found a love for music, along with his sister Kathy. They started their first band when they were just 14 and 15 years old along with dad’s buddies Mike and Gary and called themselves “Electric Acid”. They continued their band into high school where they played for their high school prom. After Kathy left for college, they became a three-piece band and renamed themselves “Hades”, a rock and roll band. Dad, Mike, and Gary remained a trio to this day, with lots of jam sessions held at the building.
In 1981, the band “Whiplash” was born! They became local celebrities, booked every weekend at popular locations like The Cobblestone, Indian Village, The Orchid Club, Lakewood Ballroom, The Hideout, The Barn, and several other events, fairs, and parties. Dad was a self-taught musician, starting with the guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, harmonica, and a little bit of fiddle. He sang tenor and you could always count on him to hit those high notes, whether it be performing on stage, in his car, or out of the blue.
Dad met Mom for the first time at the Feed Mill in Schaller, IA. She was a bartender at Paulson’s where he asked her out, and her response was “why don’t you call me and find out.” So, he did and when he arrived to pick her up, he was welcomed with Wanda on the table because there was a mouse in her house! Dad, being the nice man that he was, helped catch this mouse and little did he know, he’d be helping Wanda from that day forward! A few months in, the band guys knew it was serious because dad let mom drive his prized possession, his 1983 Limited Edition Firebird Trans Am.
The two were united in marriage on September 28, 1985. Whiplash even made a special appearance at the reception, proving mom was dad’s biggest fan. When mom finished nursing school, they decided to start their marriage adventure when she got recruited to work in Texas. His first real job in Texas was the chauffeur and car maintenance guy for the Nuns at the hospital where mom worked. And being the people pleaser that dad was, the Nuns loved him. Together they loved riding the ferry to visit Galveston, TX and Dad always had to have fresh seafood when they’d go out to eat. They enjoyed endless hours of fun and adventures with Dave and Deb while living in Texas. Dad and Dave continued their music, playing with big names like Tracy Byrd, Mark Chesnutt, Percy Sledge, and Black Oak Arkansas.
Dad worked several jobs throughout his life. He drove truck for Shared Medical Services with the MRI for many years. He later was an over the road trucker for Ruan Trucking out of Holstein, IA, and then decided he wanted to be home more after he had grandbabies, so long time friend, Mark Hansen, offered him a job at Rex Chevrolet in Odebolt, IA. He enjoyed working as the Service Advisor and being around cars. Upon retirement, Dad was never one to sit still, and an opportunity to do farm work came his way! He joined the Heartland Ag team and became a kid again, being around the farm and doing what he has always loved.
Mom and Dad started their family with their first daughter, Kaela, in 1988, and then a second daughter, Kaitlin, in 1990, and another daughter, Kara, in 1994, and he officially became a “girl dad”, a title he cherished. Dad earned high gold status with embracing the girl dad life, from constantly getting his hair done, watching all of our fashion shows when we got new clothes, and becoming a pro at the perfect pony tail… tight as can be and just a little off center. He was at every sporting event and sat through hours of dance recitals and just when he thought he would have a break from dance, he was blessed with five more granddaughters and had to endure more hours of dance recitals...but he got to do it with his little buddy and only grandson. I’m sure he’ll never forget all of the choreographed dance routines we made him do in high school for dance team, for all of our weddings, and all of the times we made him “point your toes” when he was just sitting around.
After moving back to Iowa, Dad’s love of music continued by him becoming a DJ. He provided music, sound, and karaoke services for weddings, the occasional family reunion, and his daughter’s high school homecoming dance and even his daughter’s senior prom (which was filled with lots of inappropriate music). This is when he fully accepted the nickname “Ran-Dogg”, that his daughters and friends called him. Dad always had the dream of bringing “Whiplash” back together and he succeeded with the whole crew in 2008 for their appearance at the Popcorn Days Beer Garden in Schaller. His band days lived on when they performed at Crossroads Days in Early in 2010 as “Helsinki Smashrod”, a combination of his early day bands. These performances were so special because we were finally able to see dad perform in person and doing what he’s loved over all of these years.
Dad showed his love by filling your car up with gas, scheduling regular oil changes, washing your car the second you pulled in the driveway, and always making sure your cars maintenance was up to date. He took great pride in having a nice, weed free, yard. If he was home, you could always find him lying on the ground by the shed sharpening the mower blades or tinkering with something regarding the mower. At the end of the day, you could always find him sitting in his recliner with his Jude cat. Dad never turned down the chance to have La Juanitas, always had a diet coke, occasionally with a splash of Crown, and always had time to talk. He was a lifelong Green Bay Packer Fan! He was able to check off his bucket list by attending a Packer game in Kansas City and at the famous Lambeau Field. Ultimately, Dad embraced being a husband, father, and Opa. He cherished his time spent with his friends, family, and babysitting his grandchildren and grand dogs. We’ll never understand why he was taken from us so soon, but he got to walk all three of us down the aisle, see all of us have our own kids, and got to be with mom for almost 38 years. His short life was lived to the fullest and we will miss him greatly. Rest in peace Dad, we will always remember and love you.
Those left to carry on his memory include his wife Kari Franken of Early, IA; children: Kaela (Kyle) Wiig of Sioux City, IA, Kaitlin (Dana) Morris of Lake City, IA, and Kara (Dalton) Tripp of Early, IA; grandchildren: Thea and Molli Wiig, Mila, Jovi, and Nell Morris, and Lee Tripp; sister Kathy (Dale) Stille of Iowa City, IA; mother-in-law Wanda Bulten of Early, IA; sisters-in-law: Marla (Steve) Jewett of Sloan, IA, and Lori (Stuart) Sweeden of Rome, GA; brother Dennis Franken of Schaller, IA; several nieces, nephews, extended family members, and many friends.
Welcoming dad home: mother Darlene Franken; father Dale (Phyllis) Franken; grandparents Hank and Ella Franken and Bert and Maude Rininger; father-in-law Swede Bulten; brother-in-law Lowell (Darlene) Ulven; uncle Darrell Franken; and several special pets.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Kari Franken, PO Box 306, Early, IA 50535.