Official Obituary of

Michael D. Leith

December 25, 1939 ~ February 29, 2024 (age 84) 84 Years Old

Michael Leith Obituary

For all of his 84 years, Mike Leith lived a life that revolved around family – and the family farm. He grew up on a farm established in 1883 by his grandfather, Jack Leith. He farmed that land south of Manson, Iowa, for many years. Since 1971, he’d lived on his own acreage barely a mile away.

He raised his family there and was active in farming his entire working life, including running the combine through last fall’s corn harvest and serving as the farm manager over the last year. Mike died Feb. 29, 2024, a few weeks shy of what would have been his 64th year involved in farming.

Michael Donald Leith was born Dec. 25, 1939, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. As a Christmas baby, he shared the same birthday as his mother, who was born on Christmas 1901.

For elementary school, Mike biked a mile-and-a-half to Lincoln Township School No. 9, where he was among the last generation of students in the one-room schoolhouses that once dotted the countryside of rural Iowa.

Mike went to school in town for ninth grade and graduated from Manson High School in 1958. He enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was based in Germany as a radio repairman before being discharged from the service in 1959 to take over the farm from his dad, whose health had declined.

Mike later met Marilyn Merk, who also grew up in Manson, when she was visiting her friend Linda at the Carlson farm. Mike knew the Carlsons and had stopped by that night. They went on to marry at Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church on Dec. 8, 1968, and, in 1971, settled at their current home.

Mike was an active corn and soybean farmer and, only in the last year, had stepped back to managing the farm as his son Monte took over more of the work.

Farming means being resourceful, and Mike was a skilled welder who could fix equipment or make it himself. Like most farmers of his era, he also worked off the farm. In the 1960s, Mike drove for McGowen Oil in Rockwell City. He delivered fuel to farmers around Calhoun County for McGowen and then operated his own truck for many years, calling it the Leith Tankwagon.

In 1965, he became a substitute mail carrier for the regular mailman on the route, working from the post office in Manson. He took over rural route #2 full-time in the mid-1970s and was the community’s mailman for homes south of Manson until his retirement in 1999. He hauled mail in the mornings six days a week and farmed most of the rest of the time, except Sundays. On his mail route, the glove box held peppermint Lifesavers for himself and the kids who greeted him at roadside mailboxes.

Mike was a familiar presence in and around Manson and nearby Knierim. He visited the John Deere dealership in Manson every day – sometimes more than once a day – to drink coffee and talk farming. He grew several rows of sweet corn each year and brought husked ears to many neighbors in the summers.

Later in life, he was most often seen in his John Deere Gator, putting on 27,000 miles over just two years at top speeds of 22 mph between his fields and on the way to town.

Mike hunted deer in his younger years and enjoyed fishing throughout his life; he often visited the pond owned by his cousin and lifelong friend, Gary Campbell, east of Knierim. He cared for many pets, from the wild animals he caught and tamed as a child, including a crow and raccoon, to the barn cats he locked safely away each night. He even checked on the pheasants who lived in the prairie grasses of his field along the highway to Knierim.

Mike is survived by his wife of 55 years, Marilyn; sister Jean (Bob) Cosens of Spirit Lake; sons Murray Scott (Margie Lewis) of Decatur, Ga., and Monte (Heather) of Manson; three grandchildren, Lydia, Joseph and Jack, and a step-grandchild, Henry Lewis. Mike was preceded in death by his parents, John and Fern Leith; parents-in-law, Joe and Florence Merk; infant brother, Jay Merle Leith; and grandson, Allen Michael Leith.

A celebration of Mike’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 7, at Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church in Manson. Lunch will be served after. The family will receive visitors Wednesday, March 6, from 4-7 p.m., also at Augustana. Larson-Weishaar Funeral Home of Manson is handling arrangements. Memorials may be directed to the family.

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March 6, 2024

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church (Manson)

Memorial Service
March 7, 2024

11:00 AM
Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church (Manson)


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