If you live in Cascade or even if you only spend a short time in the town, there’s a good chance you’ll bump into Joe Merfeld or his work.
You might find him engaged in one of his favorite hobbies — scratching off lottery tickets — at any of the Cascade businesses that sell them. Go ahead and ask him how he did on his tickets, but don’t be surprised if his answer isn’t PG-rated.
If you don’t know or don’t meet the man, you’ll find his work all over town, in the form of paved streets and in a number of city projects.
“I feel very fortunate and I feel the city is fortunate, that I worked for the city,” Merfeld said of his work history. “I laid more water and sewer line in Cascade than what they ever had before. I take pride in that. We had the gumption to make these things work.”
Merfeld continued, “I always said we had more streets curbed and guttered and blacktopped than most cities did on their main streets.”
While he took pride in all the work he did, Merfeld was a working man long before Doc (Francis) Melloy hired him as a city employee.
He said his first job was to get about 50 cows back home before electricity was available in the country. That consisted of getting the bovines back home in the dark, where he’d put them out to pasture and throw down some silage.
Merfeld saw action on the front line of the Korean War as a soldier in the U.S. Army, and about three years after returning home in 1953, married his wife, Dolores.
He began working as a trucker, hauling grain and also cream. As the Dubuque Packing Company grew, so did trucking, as drivers hauled livestock to the facility. It was during his time as a trucker that Merfeld met Melloy, who he described as “a straight-shooter and very intelligent man.” During his time as a city worker, Merfeld not only did a lot of street work but also hauled garbage and helped with the construction of the pool and library.
Joe and Dolores had five children, and Joe is happy to tell you who each of his grandchildren are in photos on his living room wall, and what they are doing with their lives.
He’s almost as happy telling you about some of the people he worked with, but don’t expect him to gloat about any personal accomplishments, outside of his children and grandchildren.
Merfeld did receive some “recognition of distinction” when he was named as one of three grand marshals to reign over Cascade’s inaugural Hometown Days celebration in 2016. Merfeld represented citizens of German heritage who settled in Cascade. He remains proud of the town and its people.
“I’m glad I worked for the city and had a lot to do with its growth,” Merfeld said. “I hope people remember me as an individual who didn’t sit back on my laurels.” Indeed, Merfeld has worked most of his life.
He said that the work he did was for the people of Cascade and was done to make their lives in town easier and more enjoyable. He’d like to see more people decide to call Cascade home. “We need people who are living and working in Cascade,” Merfeld said. “That’s what made this town great.”