Clarence R. Lidke was the son of Emil and Emma (Steen) Lidke, who had emigrated from Germany to Nebraska and then the Idalia area. He was born May 11, 1920, on a farm southeast of Idalia which his parents rented. Due to his mother’s failing eyesight, Clarence’s care was entrusted to his sisters, Elsie, Hattie, Anne and Mabel while his brother George, older than Clarence by 4 years, was a playmate and companion. Clarence’s mother died in 1929 and the siblings assumed total responsibility for one another.
Clarence attended 1st thru 4th grades at the Star School, just west of St. John church then went to the Ash Grove school northeast of Idalia. His sister Hattie taught at Ash Grove when he was a student there; he finished the 7th and 8th grades at the Idalia school. During these years the family lived several places including the Sullivan Ranch in the Beecher Island community. Clarence had fond memories of going with the Barber boys to swim in Jack’s Gulch, located halfway between Wray and Idalia.
As the financial situation and drought of the 1930’s worsened, the Lidke family struggled, living mostly on Hattie’s teaching salary and any money the others could earn from odd jobs. They moved to Fort Lupton where Clarence got a job at the sugar beet factory, earning $.47 ½ cents per hour. He attended and was graduated from Fort Lupton High School.
When the sugar beet factory closed, Clarence and Mabel, with the help of their uncle Herman Lidke, built a wooden camper on their 1928 Chevrolet pickup and went to the lower Rio Grande Valley looking for work on the fruit and vegetable farms. They picked citrus fruit, hoed cotton and worked in the vegetable packing plants; family legend is that they left Colorado with $35; about a year later, they returned to Denver where Clarence borrowed money from George to buy enough gas to get to Idalia.
In November, 1942, Clarence enlisted in the army; his first mess hall meal was Thanksgiving breakfast at Fort Riley, KS. He chose to become a part of the Army Air Force and was sent to Tonopah, Nevada, for training. A member of the 446 Bomb group, he was a ball turret belly gunner for a B24 crew eventually stationed at Flexton Air Base, Norwick, England. He flew 35 missions from England to Germany and back, then returned to California at the end of the war, completing his military time as a fire fighter in California.
In 1946 Clarence bought his farm, where Bill Carpenter Sr. now lives. He supplemented his income by doing day work for neighbors as well as exchanging labor; he stuccoed many buildings in the area. When Hwy 385 was improved, he joined the road crew and helped build the bridge over the Republican River. He lived on the farm until the fall of 1994, when he moved to the Burlington Care Center. In November, 2011, he moved to HillCrest Care Center in Wray.
An avid sportsman, Clarence hunted, fished, and observed wildlife. He was a member of NRA and helped organize the Idalia Gun Club. He assisted with the black powder shoot at Beecher Island Days and was a hunter safety instructor. Clarence was a charter member of the Idalia Lions Club and a member of the Wray VFW.
Clarence was baptized and confirmed at St. John UCC and had served on the church board and cemetery board.
He was preceded in death by an infant sister, his parents; sisters: Elsie Moellenberg, Hattie Allen, Ann Poska, Mona (Mabel) Carpenter, sister-in-law Maxine Lidke, brothers-in-law: August Moellenberg, Berl Allen, and John Poska.
He is survived by his brother George, six nephews, seven nieces and their families.
Funeral services were held on Thursday, July 25, 2013, 1:30 p.m. at the St. John United Church of Christ in Idalia, Colorado with Pastor Jennifer McDowell officiating. Interment was held in the St. John Cemetery in Idalia, Colorado. Memorials may be made to Hillcrest Care Center, P.O. Box 100, Wray, Colorado 80758. Spellman-Schmidt Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.