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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Lillian Ronk papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1966-2000
Creator: Ronk, Lillian (1922-)
Extent: 2.50 linear inches.
Collection Number: IWA0503
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: West Central Iowa farmwoman known locally as 'the flower lady.'

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 872) were donated by Lillian Ronk in 2002.

Preferred Citation: Lillian Ronk papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Address: 100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5068
Curator: Kären Mason
Email: lib-women@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa

Lillian Probasco was born on a farm near Dunlap, Iowa on August 23, 1922. She was the sixth of seven children to be born to William S. Probasco and Mary Gertrude Blakenship Probasco. Probasco grew up in a house without indoor plumbing or electricity but the family did have a telephone. Somehow her father always came up with the $1.25 monthly fee, believing that a phone was a necessity in case of an emergency in their isolated location. Probasco attended first through eighth grade at Spring Creek School. She then attended high school in Woodbine living with relatives and friends during the week and returning to the family farm on weekends. Probasco graduated from Woodbine Normal School in 1939 at the age of sixteen with a teaching certificate. Since one could not teach until the age of eighteen Probasco returned to the family farm for two years.

In 1940 Probasco was given a teaching position in Grove Township, Shelby County, Iowa. That same year she met her future husband Murlyn Ronk at her sister Catherine's wedding reception. The couple was married at Douglas County Courthouse in Omaha, Nebraska on June 3, 1941 after a mix-up thwarted their plans to elope the previous day. The newlyweds rented a farm where they worked the land and lived in a house with no electricity, indoor bathroom, phone or radio. Though Murlyn Ronk had passed his physical and expected to be drafted at any minute, as a farmer he was able to get deferments throughout World War II and contributed to the war effort on the home front. In 1945 the couple purchased a farm and moved their growing family into a permanent home. The Ronks had five children: Murlyn Faye (1942), Melvin (1943), Jerry Gene (1946), Nancy Eileen (1949) and Terry Lee (1954).

Lillian Ronk was a hands-on farmer assisting her husband with both the livestock and the crops. She also undertook large building projects, extensive remodeling jobs at the house, as well as cabinetry-making and upholstering. Around 1979 after decades of planting and harvesting a kitchen garden, Ronk eventually converted the garden into flowers, deciding that she and her husband didn?t need all that food and that she didn?t need to spend hours in the kitchen canning, pickling and preparing it. The flower garden became the focal point of the Ronk farm, if not the county. Tour buses came from Nebraska and across Iowa. Ronk was asked to provide flowers for weddings, funerals and other special occasions. Known as "the Flower Lady," Ronk wrote and self-published her memoirs in 2000 under that title.

The Lillian Ronk papers date from 1966 to 2000 and measure 2.5 linear inches. They consist of a copy of Ronk's memoir, "The Flower Lady" that spans pre-1922 to early 2000. It is a personal record of growing up in rural Iowa during the Depression. It also covers life on the home front during World War II. Ronk goes into great detail about her experiences raising five children and successfully running a farm. "The Flower Lady" also provides a window into the changing decades between 1950 and 1980. In addition to "The Flower Lady," the papers include photocopies of Ronk's diaries from 1966 to 1968. The diaries provide a daily record of Iowa weather, visitors, and Ronk's chores.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL

  • Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL
  • Box 1:
  • "The Flower Lady" - 2000
  • Diary - 1966
    [photocopy]
  • Diary - 1967
    [photocopy]
  • Diary - 1968
    [photocopy]