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Joe Reinart, 99, Keeps His Voting Record Intact

By Barbara Tomka
(Staff Writer)

  Joe Reinart, 99, cast his first ballot about 78 years ago. He hasn't missed voting in an election since.
  Reinart kept his record intact Tuesday when he went to the polls and voted in the primary election.
  Reinart, who is in remarkably good health for his age, gets around with the aid of a cane. His most noticeable disability is a loss of hearing.
  Reinart voted for the first time at the Roselle precinct.
  "It was a lot different then," he recalled Thursday. "We put checks on our ballots and dropped them in a box. Now we have voting machines and don't even need a pencil."

A resident of St. Anthony Nursing home here, Reinart was one of 12 children born to Matt Reinart and the former Susan Friedman. He was born on, a farm near Roselle July 16, 1873.

  "I didn't get much schooling," Reinart said. "They didn't have schools the first years after I was born. When they did get schools, they didn't have teachers. When they finally got the teachers, they spoke in German because the whole countryside was German then. I did learn my A,B,C's though. But when I was 15 years old my school career was over," Reinart recalled.
  After quitting school Reinart worked on his father's farm until he was 21.
  "I didn't know what to do then. I got a team of horses and a piece of ground and decided to work at that for awhile," he remembered. After two years and little monetary success, he rented 120 acres of land west of Halbur.
  "It cost $2.50 per acre to rent it. I had 50 acres of corn that year (1894) and got 1,500 bushels of corn that fall. And I picked all that corn by hand. But I didn't get very far ahead. Corn was 15 cents a bushel the next year and I thought it would surely go up so I borrowed some money to pay my rent. The shelled corn the next year was worth 17 cents per bushel," he chuckled.

  Reinart decided to work at the elevator in Halbur rather than rent the farm the next year.

  "I started the job at Halbur getting $40 per month" he recalled. On Sept. 25, 1898 he married Kate Olbertz from Mt. Carmel. "We had four children while I was working at the elevator and I was getting $45 a month then. You can't support a wife and four children on $45 a month so I quit," Reinart explained.

  "In 1910 we bought our first car, a Warren. It ran real well but we traded it off for another car."
  In October of 1911 Reinart bought 120 acres of land south of Carroll. "It took 40 years before I had that 120 acres paid for," he added. Asked if the Depression set him back, he replied, "No, farming was all a depression then."

  One of his .proudest achievements is the fact that he sent all eight of his children through grade and high school. The children would walk to and from school every day. Carroll was a city of about 3,000 persons then, according to Reinart. The north side of the town extended to where St. Lawrence Church is now. The area around where St. Anthony Regional Hospital is located was all orchards. Saturday night the Reinart children would usually go to one of the 10-cent movies that were playing at the two local theaters.

While the older children were in high school Reinart decided to go into the dairy business. They raised Holstein cows and used a Ford truck to deliver the milk to Carroll every day. The income from his dairy herd wasn't as high as he anticipated.
"In 1934 we had a dry year, in 1935 a very good year and in 1936 we didn't get a thing. Milk got down to six cents a quart. We hadn't raised anything that year so we had to buy everything. The next year we had hogs and a garden so that all we had to buy was a little coffee and sugar."

Farming procedures in the county have markedly changed in Reinart's lifetime. "When I was a kid, about six or seven years old, we planted all the corn by hand. My dad would put it in the rows and I would cover it up. It was all walking then. I used horses most of the time while farming. During the last years I bought a small tractor but we never got into the high machinery business," he stated. His wife died in 1950 and he sold his farm in 1955 and moved into St. Anthony Nursing Home when it opened in May, 1963.

Because his legs aren't as strong as they used to be, Reinart doesn't get outside as much as he'd like to. "Last year I'd go to church every morning and go to town and play cards once in awhile but my legs are weak and I just walk around the building. I got a cane to protect myself from falling."

To help him celebrate his 99th birthday this year, all eight of his children and their spouses including Mr. and Mrs. Douglas (Viola) Schleisman, Iowa City; Mr. and Mrs. Wade (Isabel) Presnell, Scranton; Mr. and Mrs. Gene Reinart, Davenport; Mr. and Mrs. LeRoy Reinart, Lanesboro; Mr. and Mrs. Art Reinart, Carroll; Mr. and Mrs. H. L. (Lucille) Davis, Omaha; Mr. and Mrs. Edgar (Alita) Snyder, Breda; Mr. and Mrs. C. J. (Lucinda) Ocken, Des Moines and 21 of his 31 grandchildren and 17 of his 29 great-grandchildren held a picnic in his honor.

"We had a big party this year," Reinart said, "but next year will be the biggest ever."
(Carroll Daily Times Herald, Iowa, Thursday, August 3, 1972 p. 1)

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