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Thomas D. Fretty, 87

May 24, 2015

Kensett, Iowa Thomas D. “Tom” Fretty, age 87, of Kensett, died Sunday, May 17, 2015, at the Manly Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Tom Fretty’s devoted family regrets to let his community of friends know that after a long life of serving, sharing, working and caring he is at rest.

A funeral service for Tom was held on Friday, May 22, 2015, at the Bethany Lutheran Church, in Kensett, the Reverend Tom Martin officiated. Burial was in the Kensett Cemetery, Kensett. Military honors were conducted by members of the Edward Tosel American Legion Post 110, Manly.

Thomas Duane Fretty was born Dec. 17, 1927 in Blue Earth, to Jacob and Ruby Fretty. Growing up in modest surroundings, Tom left school at an early age, enlisting in the Navy in 1943. He proudly served in both WWII and the Korean War.

Tom met the love of his life, Helen (Jean) Steiner, of Blue Earth, in 1946. On June 30, 1950 Tom and Jean were joined in marriage. They were blessed with daughters, Patty (Mark) Walker, of Greene, Iowa, Sandy (Keven) Bruesewitz, of Grafton, Iowa, and Jody (John) Kealey, of Davenport, Iowa. Tom and Jean also value Kay (Dave) Clark of Plymouth as an honorary daughter.

In 1954 Tom opened his own business in Kensett. Initially selling furniture from within their home, Tom and Jean progressed to three store fronts on main street Kensett, and in 1963 constructed a ‘shopping complex’ on the corner of Hwy. 9 and 65 in Manly consisting of a furniture store, dry goods building, lumber yard, carpet warehouse and donut shop. No matter what a person wanted or needed, it could probably be found at Tom’s Damaged and Unclaimed Freight, and if it wasn’t carried in stock, Tom would personally go on a venture to find it for his customer. Over the years, Tom and Jean sold everything from socks to band organs and were proudly self-employed for more than 60 years.

In 1966 Tom and Jean expanded their complex to include a museum area, changing the name to Tom’s Country Market and Musical Museum. It was quite an entertainment draw for North Iowa. It included a museum full of antique phonographs, band organs and other old musical instruments. There was an ice cream parlor and gift shop. There were old time community buildings which housed animated characters depicting ‘life as it was.’ These included a blacksmith shop, church, barbershop and saloon. Tom, with the help of family and friends, built a mountain with a waterfall and pools in the midst of all this.

Tom and Jean used this facility to host many fun activities for area community members. There were potluck picnics, car shows, flea markets, music concerts, and of course, magnificent fireworks displays which were put on every 4th of July for more than a decade. Wonderful, unforgettable times were created by this humble and unassuming couple.

Tom proved to be quite an entrepreneur. He mentored many a fortunate apprentice in how to create and conduct a successful business. One of his favorite reflections as a business person was, “When I first meet someone I may not sell them anything, but before we part they will be my friend.”

Tom inspired and guided the lives of countless young people (his daughters included), not just in business but also in the practice of living a fulfilling life. He always had time to freely share his wisdom with any who sought him out.

This deeply loved husband, dad and grandpa was a rare mix of work and play. It would be difficult to find a man who toiled harder than Tom, but who also could inject fun into any situation.

Anyone who knew Tom would agree that some of his greatest qualities include: generosity, commitment, and service which were guided by his faith in Jesus. He taught Sunday School and was on the boards of faith-based organizations such as Opportunity Village, Waldorf College, KCMR Radio, Billy Graham Crusades, Newman Catholic Schools and Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp. He charitably supported many service organizations, with his favorites being his church (Bethany Lutheran in Kensett), Opportunity Village and the Salvation Army.

One of Tom’s greatest joys in life were his grandchildren. No matter how busy he was, or in recent years, how sick he was, his grandchildren could always bring a grin from ear to ear to his face. His grandkids also were often on the receiving end of a poke by Grandpa’s missing fingers. His grandchildren include: Kendra (Tim) Stoner, of Dubuque, Iowa, Raechel Bruesewitz of Grafton, Lynnea (Tom) Morse, of Indianapolis, Holly Bruesewitz, of Clear Lake, Iowa, Tom Kealey, of Iowa City, Iowa, Mara Kealey of Ames, Iowa, Kate Kealey of Davenport, Bryan (Malorie) Clark of Mason City, Iowa and Andrea (Alex) Jahn, of Germany. His great grandchildren include Hannah and Micah Stoner, Phoenix and Isabella Clark and Amelie and Annika Jahn.

Some of Tom’s favorite things in life, next to family and friends, involved: wheeling and dealing, playing cards, putting puzzles together, music, golf, and going out to eat. But what made these activities most endearing to him were the loved ones with whom he shared these activities.

Next to devotion to family, Tom was a loyal friend to many, specifically including the Hogens, Perkins, Hornyaks and Smiths who have returned his dedication tenfold.

Tom will be lovingly missed by his treasured wife Jean; his children; grandchildren; brother Jake (Bev) Fretty, of Fairmont; many nieces, nephews and friends.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Jacob and Ruby Fretty; his sisters Irene Holland and Luella Bacon and sister-in-law Ruth Blakely.

If it’s true what people say about measuring your life’s worth by the love of family and friends then surely Tom Fretty’s life has been worth millions.

The family of Thomas Fretty has requested that those wishing to give a memorial may wish to give to Bethany Lutheran Church, Salvation Army, Opportunity Village, Hospice of North Iowa and KCMR Radio.

Bride Colonial Chapel, 110 E. Spring St., Manly, Iowa. 641- 454-2242. ColonialChapels.com