Mike E. Dunklau, 67, of Pilger formerly of Wayne, died Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk.
Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 29 at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Wayne. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28 at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Wayne. Burial will be in Greenwood Cemetery in Wayne.
Memorials may be directed to Our Savior Lutheran Church or Wayne State Foundation Athletics.
Arrangements are with Hasemann Funeral Home of Wayne.
Mike E. Dunklau was born Jan. 14, 1956 in Wakefield to Alden and Darleen (Roberts) Dunklau. He grew up on their farm north of Wayne with his two older sisters and younger brother. He attended rural school for eight years and was the top of his class. Of course, he was the only one in his class. He participated in 4-H, showing cattle and planting the seed to nurture that with the next generation. Much of those young years were spent at school, church, and helping farm. On Sundays they would visit family members.
In high school, he was a standout athlete in football and wrestling and later inducted into the Wayne High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013. He was voted Homecoming King by his classmates. He went to Wayne State on a football scholarship as a starting offensive lineman. He was selected for the Shrine Bowl, All-American, and had the opportunity to join the NFL draft. His father passed away unexpectedly in 1977 so he put his football dream to bed and took over his dad’s farming operation in the Wayne area. He started with just over 400 acres and has since grown that operation more than 10 fold. In 2009 he rejoined the Wayne High football team as a coach for the defensive line. Most of those players will still tell you that he changed the way they played the game.
Mike was the proud owner and driver of his pulling tractor, Burnin’ Bucks, since 2003. We estimate he traveled 1,344,000 miles to compete in a sport he loved. He earned accolades in 2018 as the Bush Puller of the Year and was runner up in the points race in 2022. He was a competitor at heart and always wanted to win. But the truth is, all of his grandkids thought he won every single pull. They were so proud of him.
In 2012, doctors discovered a tumor on his brain stem and the subsequent years became a big part of his story. He fought to regain some of the most basic functions. His family is forever grateful to his oldest grandchild, Hadley Jean, for motivating his recovery and making him smile every day during those early days.
As he struggled with his mortality, he did a very “Mike” thing and designed his own casket that is built out of an old church pew. He also just “popped in” to the monument shop in Norfolk to pick out his own headstone.
Mike met the love of his life, Kim Chace, in 10th grade on a trip to Washingon DC. They were high school sweethearts who navigated the tumultuous world of college athlete loves sorority girl. Kim remembers a spat they had on the phone where he drove down to Lincoln in the middle of the night, slept in his car, and waited for her outside of her sorority door to apologize in the morning. They were married in June of 1978.
They farmed together for 45 years and grew their farming operation as a family. Mike “retired” from farming in 2023… but you know… not really. He still spent nearly every day at his shop or dropping in on a section to fix something or make sure all was going to plan. He gave back to his community and was an active member of the Nebraska Corn Growers board and the CVA co op board.
Mike and Kim had three children - Ryan, Leah, and Alissa. He was a constant fixture on the sidelines and in the stands while they pursued their own athletic endeavors.
The truest joys of his life were his eight grandchildren. Right up to the day before he passed, he was on the sidelines at volleyball, soccer, and football games to cheer them on. He loved fishing with his grandkids and they all LOVED fishing with their Papa. He Loved football and baseball - but - was not a fan of micro soccer.
In his own words he wrote “most people find me quiet, calculated, and savvy”. When asked about one thing he might change about himself he replied with a smile “I’d be taller, people look up to tall people”.
He was preceded in death by his father, Alden Dunklau; mother, Darleen (Roberts) Topp; stepfather, Al Topp, and baby brother David; father-in-law, Walter “Doc” Chace of Laurel and brother-in-law, Gary Chace of Kingsley, Iowa.
Survivors include his wife, Kim (Chace) Dunklau; children, Ryan (Crystal) Dunklau of Wayne; Leah (Joe) Scheppers of Omaha; Alissa (Brian) Gniadek of Elkhorn; eight grandchildren, Hadley, Wyatt, Blayne and Kyler Dunklau; Gavin and Owen Gnaidek and Quinn and JJ Scheppers; his mother-in-law, Alice (Sanderson) Chace; siblings, Kathy Lockwood of Brandon, Minnesota, LouAnn (John) Burney of Lincoln and Randy (Shari) Dunklau of Wayne and lots of nieces, nephews, friends and tractor pullers.