Marion County native turns 100

Hillsboro resident Bob Delk turned 100 on Sunday. An active musician since the age of 12, he played some music at both of his birthday parties this weekend, including a large one held by his family at Ebenfeld on Sunday.
Hillsboro resident Bob Delk turned 100 on Sunday. Delk was born on Aug. 7, 1922 and grew up on a farm just outside of Peabody, where he lived until he was 23.
Hillsboro resident Bob Delk turned 100 on Sunday. He married his first wife, Aldene, and was married to her for 54 years before she died in a tragic car accident in 1999. They had four children together.
A special birthday cake for Hillsboro resident Bob Delk, who turned 100 on Sunday. His children and grandchildren threw him a huge birthday party to celebrate on Sunday evening at Ebenfeld Church.

There are not a lot of people who live to be 100 years old, let alone people who are in such great health and independent. Even rarer are those who live that long, are in such great health and who are so incredibly positive. But Bob Delk, current Hillsboro resident, is all of this and more.

“I always think positive, and whatever happens, happens,” said Delk.

Delk, who turned 100 on Sunday, has lived his whole life in Marion County.

He grew up four miles north of Peabody, where he lived for the first 23 years of his life. He then moved to another farm in Marion, where he raised his children and spent most of his life. He finally gave up the farm life and moved to live in town in Hillsboro at the age of 85.

“My second wife, Dorothy, and I decided to settle down a bit and move to town eventually,” said Delk.

Delk farmed for most of his life. He always raised crops, but he also had cattle for many years until they became too much work for him. He loved farming and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

But what most people in Marion County know Bob Delk for most is his music.

“I’ve been playing music since I was 12 years old. My hands weren’t big enough for the guitar yet then, so I started out on a four-string banjo,” said Delk.

Delk’s dad, John, taught him how to play. In fact, Delk credits his dad with just about everything good in his life.

“You ask me how I have lived so long? It’s just what I told people at my birthday celebrations this weekend: ‘Honor thy parents that it may be well with thee and that you may live long on the Earth.’ I honored my dad. He was such a good man. He could do anything. He was a real kind person. From the time I was 3 years old, I just wanted to be with him, no matter what he did. I loved spending time with him,” said Delk.

Delk told stories about vacationing with his dad as an adult and spending time with him every day on the field or at the bowling alley if it was raining and they couldn’t farm. And Delk had story after story about music with his dad.

“We had a family band. There wasn’t TV back then, so we would play music. We would travel and play in all the town school houses. We had a family band. Dad would play violin, I played the banjo and ukulele, my sister played piano, and Mom played the dobro,” he said. “We would play at church and then go home and everyone would come over and we would play some more.”

Delk figured out that he has played in over 65 towns in Kansas, including over 100 times in Emporia. And he hasn’t just played with amateur musicians. He played in professional groups from the Peabody Plainsmen, starting in 1943, who were hired to play at the Marion County Fair, to the Singspirationals, who cut a record. He traveled with that group for eight years doing shows almost every weekend.

While he credits his musical abilities with helping to keep him young, he is quick to downplay his talent.

“I’ve played with a lot of musicians, and most of them were pretty good. I don’t figure myself a very good player, but they cover me up, and I get by that way,” said Delk.

But he is known throughout Marion County as being really good on the guitar and can often be found playing at events from senior centers to Flint Hill Counterpoint events.

And he has played all over the country, as well, with different musicians and even in Canada. He has also traveled all over.

In fact, he has lots of stories to share about traveling with both wives. He loved traveling with his first wife, Aldene, who he was married to for 54 years before she was killed in a tragic car accident.

“We had to work for a living for so long and raise our kids, but we had so much fun traveling to Texas and other places at the end,” Delk said. “And then my second wife and I got to travel a lot, as well. I have been to California 16 times. And Germany and many other places. I always tell people, do what you can and have fun with it. I have done just that.”

Delk doesn’t plan to stop having fun anytime soon. He has more music playing coming up, and he plans to keep on enjoying time with people.

“I have never met anyone I don’t like. I just like some people more than others,” he said with a laugh.

He really enjoys time with his kids and grandkids, as well, and they love spending time with him. Most of them still live close by, although Delk keeps pretty busy.

“Grandpa has always kept such a full social calendar that he has to keep on living. He has filled his days with farming, music, popcorn, homemade ice cream, laughter and making every stranger his friend,” said grandson Dustin Dalke.

Sounds like Delk will have plenty to do to make it to his next big milestone birthday.

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