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Vander Wilt, Iola, 1930-



  • Existence: 1930-


Iola Marinus Vander Wilt, farmer, pilot, and bed and breakfast owner, was born to Henry and Agnes Marinus on a Polk County farm in 1930. In 1934, the Marinuses lost their corn crop to the drought and struggled, like many Iowa farmers, to feed and clothe their children. Iola Marinus graduated from Prairie City High School and attended American Institute of Business in Des Moines for a year before marrying Alvin Vander Wilt. The Vander Wilts moved to Alvin Vander Wilt's parents' dairy farm near Leighton, Iowa, where they raised four children, Gloria, Marion, Mark, and Judy.

Alvin Vander Wilt was active in the American Dairy Association of Iowa, serving as president in the early 1960s. The frequent travel this position required led him to become a licensed pilot and buy his own plane. Consequently, both Alvin and Iola became active members of the Flying Farmers of Iowa. They were named Flying Farmers of the Year in 1965 and Iola Vander Wilt became the Region Four director--the first woman elected to the state board of the Flying Farmers of Iowa. She had become a licensed pilot in 1965 and initiated a "Ladies Land-it" workshop to teach women how to land planes. In 1966, she won awards from Piper Aircraft and Lycoming Motors (Cessna Aircraft) for her outstanding flight achievements as a woman flyer. In 1968 and 1969 when the Vander Wilt children were old enough to learn to fly, Iola sponsored a flying teens program in Iowa. She was elected Queen of the Flying Farmers of Iowa at the state convention in Ottumwa in 1970 and hosted the International Flying Farmers Convention in Ames in 1971. During her year as queen, she promoted the Flying Farmers as well as airport development. Despite her interest in promoting the Flying Farmers, she did not seek the position of national queen because of the cost of flying to various state conventions.

Alvin and Iola Vander Wilt continued flying until Alvin Vander Wilt's ill health caused them to stop in 1978. They spent many vacations in the air with their children, attending conventions around the country. In 1983, Iola Vander Wilt redecorated the farmhouse and opened it as a bed and breakfast. After Alvin Vander Wilt died in 1994, Iola Vander Wilt remained on the farm, renting out half of the land and farming the other half with her son Mark. She remarried February 28, 2000 and continued to reside at the farm and operate the bed and breakfast.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Iola Vander Wilt papers

Identifier: IWA0441

Farmwoman and past Queen of Flying Farmers of Iowa who encouraged farm wives and teens to learn to fly.

Dates: 1963-1973