A tribute: Doris Lickteig
Let me tell you about Doris Lickteig, my mother-in-law, who died a week ago today.
Besides my own parents, I can think of no people like Doris (and Glen, too,) my in-laws, who showed me by example how to work hard and live a good and meaningful life.
Doris served her church community in every way asked of her for more than 50 years – from cleaning the interior of the church on a regular basis to cooking food and baking pies to serve for the funeral lunches of grieving families in the church.
Besides making lots of pies for the funeral meals (a few hundred easily) she actually helped serve the meals too, and often took other home-cooked meals, cakes and pies to additional grieving families that she and Glen knew.
She was a dependable church servant and everybody knew it.
Before her illness, sometimes Doris and Glen would attend mass on both Saturday and Sunday. Sunday evening rosary every week at the church was part of their routine, too. In their early farming years, staying after mass at the church with their kids to say additional prayers for rain was a common occurrence, too, I was told.
She was proud of her family and was always the one to plan and prepare birthday and anniversary celebrations for her sons and daughters, their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – and other extended family members, too. She loved all the little kids of the family so much.
The meals that Doris prepared routinely for her family’s gatherings became legendary year after year and usually featured roast beef and/or fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and green beans from her garden, sauerkraut with beanie-weanies (my favorite), dinner rolls, a salad of some kind and a couple of different pies – cherry and apple (picked from their trees) to choose from. If there was a birthday to be celebrated, Doris would make a birthday cake, too.
She worked alongside Glen on their family farm northeast of Garnett from 1960 to 2010 – 50 years. They operated a Grade A dairy and milked upwards of 90 head of Holsteins twice a day from 1960 to 1992 – 32 years.
A typical milking went something like this….
When it was time to milk in the morning at about 5:30 a.m., it was usually still dark outside. Doris would open the door to the milk barn for the Holsteins (who were usually waiting at the door to come in) and the cows would march in to the milking stalls when it was their turn to be milked like soldiers at a bootcamp. The routine was nice and easy like clockwork and the cows cooperated most of the time.
She turned on the radio to country music – the volume was always turned up pretty high – and together – she and Glen – operated the automatic milking attachments – cow after cow was milked - and they could watch the cows’ milk travel the length of the milk barn through an overhead see-through milk pipeline to a collection tank in an adjoining room. The milk truck visited their farm on the hill every other day to transfer the Lickteig milk to the transport truck.
Milking the cows was the start of the work day in the morning and the end of it in the evenings. Inbetween, there was a lot of other work to do on the farm and elsewhere (such as the church).
After milking the cows, Doris would make multiple trips to and from the milk barn delivering fresh milk to calves that were kept in pens nearby until they could grow enough, and gain enough strength, to be transferred to pasture.
I have a photo of her in my mind in which she is walking across the barnyard, in rubber boots up to her knees, carrying two pails of milk in each hand. I saw her do that, and I helped her do that, many times over the years when we would visit the farm.
She also excelled in providing medical care for the cows and calves – giving them rounds of shots and other types of medicine - and in all those years she never had a calf die while it was under her care.
While she was feeding the calves and the cats and dogs in their yard, and collecting eggs from the henhouse, Glen would walk out to their silo where he would operate a conveyor belt moving silage from the silo to the feed bunks for the dairy cows. They fed their cows well, adding some grain, too.
By the time Glen was finished feeding the milk cows, Doris would have a country breakfast fit for a king and queen waiting for him back at the house – bacon or sausage and eggs, toast and jelly, cereal with milk, orange juice, coffee of course and maybe a pastry. It was plain to see they worked more before breakfast than most do all day.
In the evening, at about 5 p.m. they would repeat the milking work.
Besides the dairy, they farmed row crops all those years, too, and produced their own feed for the cattle. Doris helped with that part of the operation in many ways also, such as transporting big bags of crop seed to the fields at planting. Besides all that, she was a good bookkeeper for the farm business.
In 1985, 16-year-old Kurt Lickteig (Doris and Glen’s youngest son) fell through some ice on the creek nearby, while hunting raccoons one December evening with his dog. Kurt’s death sent the entire family into months of shock and grieving and thoughts of Kurt were never far from Doris’ mind for the rest of her life.
Doris knew only one speed – 110 mph – and the words “no’’ or “can’t do’’ were not in her vocabulary. She became an accomplished quilter and made either K-State and KU themed quilts for every grandchild, plus a smaller baby-themed quilt for each of the grandkids, too.
After moving to town in 2010, Doris kept busy babysitting for great-grandkids, cleaning the church, attending mass and she continued gardening. They could walk to mass because they selected a place nearby.
She was still going 110 mph up until last year when a lymphoma diagnosis meant a regiment of chemotherapy treatments.
She knew that someday I might write about her and over the years (when there was discussion about someone else’s funeral) she often said, “Please don’t make me sound like a saint!’’
The way she loved her family and her church and how she served others will always be an inspiration to me.