Marvin Poppen


-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Marvin Poppen poses next to a rock near the entrance of Manson on Iowa Highway 7. Poppen helped find that rock and install it on the sign.

MANSON — When one thinks of someone in their 80s, it’s likely they think about someone sitting at home, spending time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and going out once in awhile.

But that’s not the case at all with Marvin Poppen.

At 85, Poppen is still very active in the Manson community, a community he has called home since he was in his early 20s.

He first started out working on his family’s farm near Palmer,

“I farmed 80 acres,” he said. “I started when I was a sophomore. And I had a couple separate buildings that I raised livestock. That was a start.”

When he was in high school, Poppen served as an FFA officer, attended Hawkeye Boys State and even helped install the turf on the football field. He also worked at the Calhoun County Fair, which, at the time, was held in Manson.

After moving to Manson when he married his wife, Carolyn, Poppen became active with St. Paul Lutheran Church in Manson.

“I was church president, treasurer,” Poppen said. “I taught Sunday School.”

From there, Poppen became very active around the Manson area. He became member of the Twin Lakes Golf Club, where he served as its president for a number of years.

Poppen also worked for a number of business ventures. Included among his career paths are a hatchery — where he at one point bought half interest in the company — a furniture business he started with another man in town, and as an insurance agent, which is what he spent the majority of his professional life working as.

Additionally, he has been a member of the Manson Economic Development Corporation ever since he was 24 years old.

He also started a couple service clubs in town.

“I was a charter member of the Manson Jaycees and I was an officer,” he said. “I was a treasurer in that, I was the president. I was a charter member of the Manson Lions Club and I held offices there.”

In fact, he’s still active in the Manson Lions Club. Very recently, he attended a meeting they held in the Manson Area Community Center.

“They call to make sure that he’s coming,” his wife, Carolyn Poppen, said. “They want him involved because he thinks all the time.”

Perhaps Poppen’s most prominent contribution to Manson is the role he played in finding a large rock used in the Manson sign on Iowa Highway 7.

Poppen said the project was undertaken by the local Chamber of Commerce, but he and a friend “did most of the work and legwork.”

Their task was to find a rock to place in the center of the sign.

“We drove all around the area,” he said.

Finally, they got a call from the landfill in Fort Dodge.

“They were digging a new cell and they found a large rock,” Poppen said. “And they knew we had been there in town looking around to find the rocks.”

Although it can’t be proven, Poppen said many in town believe that rock came from Manson itself when a meteorite hit the town more than 74 million years ago.

“That rock is solid granite,” he said. “We’re on granite here, the city here.”

It’s believed, when the meteorite hit the town, debris went flying everywhere.

“This rock was about 16 feet below the level of the land there,” Poppen said. “Because it’s solid granite, they believe it was the outskirts of the crater.”

Carolyn Poppen recalled when the rock was installed.

“They came with a big truck and really big, heavy chains,” she said. “I was out there watching them set it. It was quite an accomplishment when they finally got it all done.”

While the meteorite made a literal impact on the town of Manson, Marvin Poppen himself was honored back in 2016 for his contributions to Manson. He became the inaugural recipient of the town’s Impact Award.

And even at 85 years old, Poppen continues to make an impact on the town. He’s still active, riding his bike, going for walks, delivering Meals on Wheels, and he can still play a full 18-hole round of golf, though he admits he can’t hit the ball as far as he used to.

What keeps him going? He said it’s a combination of his good health and his faith.

“I believe that we have another life whenever He allows me to use my gifts I get from Him,” he said. “I’m still thankful that He has allowed me to me able to use my talents that he has given me.”

“He isn’t one to sit down and watch TV,” his wife added.


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