Iowa Knights gather for state-wide convention


Oldest active member in Iowa Knights honored

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

When 102-year-old Norbert Hammes was informed of his status as oldest active member of the Iowa Knights of Columbus, “I thought they were kidding,” he said. The KCs wanted to honor the retired farmer and 4th Degree Knight from St. Mary Parish, Fairfield, during this year’s state convention in Coralville. But it took some convincing.

Barb Arland-Fye
Marie and Norbert Hammes of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield show the honor Norbert received for being the oldest active member of the Iowa Knights of Columbus. He has been a Knight since 1934.

“Norbert is really humble.” He said, ‘That’s OK, I don’t need any recognition,” Grand Knight R. Dean Adam of the Fairfield parish recalled. Family members persuaded Norbert to accept the honor in person.


On April 11, accompanied by Marie, his wife of 74 years, five of their children and other family members, Norbert walked into the packed ballroom of the Coralville Marriott Hotel with his walker. The audience viewed a PowerPoint featuring Norbert’s dedication to the Knights of Columbus dating back to 1934, when he attended the KCs national convention in Detroit with his parents. His dad was the Grand Knight from Harper that year. Norbert still has his button and ribbon from that convention 81 years ago and recalls, among other things, watching two blind boys playing the mandolin. He also got to tour the Ford Motor Co. plant and took a trip to Canada via tunnel.

To him, membership in the Knights of Columbus means being one of the leaders in the church. He’s appreciated service to the bishops when they come to the parish and likes getting dressed up in a tux for such special occasions. Marie recalls that her husband made many KC meetings and also house calls to collect membership dues.

Norbert previously served as Grand Knight in Fairfield and now has sons and grandsons who are KCs. Last year, Norbert even participated in the Fairfield KCs Campaign for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (CPID) Drive to raise funds for Special Olympics and area agencies.

Following the PowerPoint, State Deputy Mike Gaspers presented a plaque to Norbert commemorating his service to faith, family and community. The audience of 440 people stood and gave the centenarian a standing ovation.

“We needed to do something to showcase this achievement,” Gaspers said. “We need to look at the breadth and depth of who the Knights of Columbus are. We want all brother Knights to actively live their faith alongside of us until the end of their days.”

Norbert has done just that, Gaspers said in an interview with The Catholic Messenger. “His kids told me, especially his son, John, that he remembers his dad always had time to work in the church, no matter how busy the season.” Another relative told Gaspers: “Dad always said ‘God isn’t finished with me yet. He still has something for me to do. That’s why I’m still here.’”

Ultrasound initiative, local honors given

By Lindsay Steele and Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Two priests, one layman and one parish in the Davenport Diocese were among the honorees at the 114th State Convention of the Iowa Knights of Columbus held April 10-12 in Coralville.

More than 270 delegates and other Knights from across the state participated in the conference, during which the KCs ratified a culture of life initiative with a main focus on ultrasounds to pregnancy resource centers. The Knights are committed to significantly reducing the number of abortions in the state of Iowa,” State Deputy Mike Gaspers said. “If you’re going to save lives, why not go big?”

Keynote speaker Gary Nolan of the Supreme Council in New Haven, Conn., gave a talk focusing on the spirit of unity in a divided environment during the convention. New officers also were elected.

Among the honorees, Father John Spiegel, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, received the award for Diocesan Chaplain of the Year for the Davenport Diocese. Fr. Spiegel serves as chaplain of Marquette Council No. 842 and is a 4th Degree Knight of Bishop Cosgrove Assembly No. 267. He first became a Knight in 1976 and has served as council and assembly chaplain in each of his pastorates.

He said of the award, “It is an honor to be nominated by my local council for this recognition and a further honor to be so selected for this recognition by the Iowa Knights of Columbus. I value the faith-filled, active faith practice and faithful witness of the members of the Knights of Columbus at the local, state and national levels of this distinguished Roman Catholic Fraternal Order.”

Norbert Hammes of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield was honored as the oldest active member of the Iowa Knights of Columbus (see separate story).
For the second year in a row, Council 568 of Ss. John & Paul Parish, Burlington, won two awards for its service projects. It received top honors for Family Program of the Year with its “Out of the Depths” project and Youth Program of the Year with “Youth Build.”

Keith Howard, the council’s financial secretary, said an influx of new members in the last few years has helped Council 568 to achieve back-to-back dual awards at the state convention. This high level of involvement has “given us the ability to maintain the strong level of service that is such an integral part of the Knights.”

For “Out of the Depths,” the council helped with fundraising for two local Catholic families who had lost young children. “The families have had to do the unthinkable, survive as a family unit after the death of a child,” Howard said. “In one instance, a parishioner’s grandson, Jackson Gipe, succumbed to leukemia, leaving a family with medical bills. In another, a freakish accident took the life of (altar server Garrett Brockway).” Council 568 planned a breakfast fundraiser for each family, and helped support a 5k walk/run in Brockway’s memory.

Through the Youth Build program, Council 568 undertook an effort to include local Catholic youths in Knight-sponsored events. Some of the projects include a breakfast for youth going to National Catholic Youth Conference, a breakfast for Burlington Area Catholic Kids group, helping to remodel the girls locker room at Burlington Notre Dame Catholic Schools, an essay contest, a free throw contest, a God’s Portion Day breakfast and Catholic scouting activities.

The Iowa Knights of Columbus also designated Father Michael Phillips, a retired priest of the Davenport Diocese, as honoree during the state convention’s Fourth Degree Exemplification. The Knights of Columbus is based on four principles: charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. “The exemplification is based on that fourth principle: what does it mean to be a patriotic citizen?” Gaspers said. Ninety-eight Knights received their Fourth Degree during the April 10 ceremony.


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