Welcome to the Official Website for Richard Proenneke . American Naturalist
May 4, 1916 - April 20, 2003
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Richard Louis "Dick" Proenneke was born May 4, 1916 in the small town of Primrose, located in Harrison Township, Lee County, Iowa. He was the fourth child born to William Christian and Laura (nee Bonn) Proenneke. Richard had five siblings, Robert, Helen, Lorene, Florence, and Raymond (Jake).
This is a photo of Richard's parents 50th wedding anniversary celebration, with all of the living siblings. From left: William (father), Robert, Florence, Raymond, Laura (Mother), Richard, Lorene, and Helen. The sixth child, Paul Burnard, born in 1920, died in 1928 from appendicitis.
William, Richard's father served in World War I, and later made his living as a well driller. His mother, Laura, was a homemaker. Below is the wedding photo of Richard's parents. They were married in 1909.
In an article by Lauren Zechin, she writes: "Growing up in Primrose on the Proenneke farm (which still stands today on the northwest part of Primrose) . . . Primrose was a thriving little town, though now it is mainly considered a residential community. Neighbors recall the Proenneke boys were very clever in mechanics and building, could make or repair anything."
The Proenneke boys built their own airplane and as one of their neighbors, Rudy Krehbiel recalls: "they used to land their airplane in the family's field.
The creativity and ingenuity of the Proenneke brothers is never more evident than in this story. By using a Popular Science magazine the brothers charged a series of batteries in their basement to make 32 volt direct current electricity at their house to run a refrigerator and lights by using wind power from a propeller on top of their barn and re-wired a generator from an old car. A Delco plant was common but usually charged the batteries with a gasoline engine, but the Proenneke boys did it with wind power because it was far more efficient and cheaper. Wind power isn't so new after all!
Before 1948 when electricity (REC) came to the small village of Primrose, the Krehbiel's recall an incident concerning the showing of a short movie "Popeye" at the Otto Rasch garage/filling station. Somehow the movie projector was changed by the Proenneke boys so that it could be shown on 32 volt direct current. The projector was 110 volt purchased through the Sears Roebuck Catalog. They also had a movie camera and took pictures locally in and around the town of Primrose of such activities as pulling a sled by car in the winter, and an old grader digging through the deep snow drifts.
Richard often referred to his younger brother Raymond as "Jake." According to Raymond, when he was a child, he would shadow one of the neighborhood residents, Jake Halbasch who was well known in the community as the toy whistle maker. Raymond was so intrigued he asked Jake to teach him how to make the whistles, and Jake obliged. Jake was also known for always carrying a bucket with him wherever he went.
And then there is the story of "Henny Penny" . .
Below is a photo of Richard and his pet chicken *Henny Penny.* Richard is giving Henny Penny a drink from his tin cup. If you look closely, you can see that Henny Penny is on its tip toes.