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Elaine Friedrichs Semken

Iowa City
7/23/1936 12/27/2019

Elaine, the daughter of Albert "Bud" Friedrichs and Alma "Scrap" Dunman of Beeville, Texas, was born on July 23, 1936. Her mother died as a result of the birth and Bud was drafted into the Navy for World War II. As a result, she was raised by her mother's sister, "Jimmie," and her husband, Joe Turpen, of Eagle Pass, Texas. Much of her childhood was spent on small family ranches near Eagle Pass and Goliad, Texas. There were cattle, 10-gallon hats, oil barrel barbecues, branding irons and, of course, rifles in the rear windows of pickups. She was loved.
Joe and Jimmie decided that Elaine should go to college (first for the family) and that she could go anywhere she wanted as long as it was the University of Texas, Austin. It was there that she met Holmes on a blind date. She believed they would marry after that very first date. Holmes had similar feelings, and they married on Aug. 31, 1957. Soon after, Elaine put her new "hubby" through a master's degree at the University of Texas and later a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor by teaching elementary school. There was a stint in the service for Holmes during which the couple lived in Alexandria, Va., between degrees. While still living in Virginia, Holmes was employed by the Smithsonian to dig mammoths in Littleton, Colo. Elaine spent the next two summers tent camping south of Littleton. The crew was delighted to have a real cook oversee the meals, and the project supervisor was happy because the language was less colorful in camp. Her sense for adventure probably was enhanced here.
When Holmes accepted employment at the University of Iowa in 1965, they moved to Iowa City. After both of their sons, Steven and David, started elementary school, Elaine began teaching day care during the mornings so that she could be home after school.
Elaine was a gourmet cook; she even had an hors d'oeuvres business with a friend for a stint and joined gourmet clubs. She had many interests, including investing, duplicate bridge, Sudoku, attending Hawkeye football games, and pets. She loved her stock, bridge and book clubs and would immerse herself in a mystery, regarding it as an adventure of the mind. She was a remarkably caring and loving daughter who did everything she could for her family wherever they may be, spending time with her parents when they needed her help the most.
Her primary hobby was travel, and she visited at least 51 different countries. She first traveled with Jimmie and her cousins. Then she enjoyed geological conferences worldwide because they invariably included field trips to remote areas. Elaine marveled that her first overseas trip was to Yakutsk, Siberia. There she saw frozen mammoths and was especially pleased to handle large diamonds in the rough. On these trips, she met many geologists from many countries, and her Iowa home became a welcoming spot for visiting geologists to overcome jet lag and practice English before leaving for their professional destinations. Many returned with spouses. Colleagues of previous visitors appeared. These good deeds were rewarded when she and Holmes were invited to stay with their guests worldwide. She enjoyed travel in so many ways. She could sit on a park bench and strangers invariably would sit and talk. She was not a picky eater and sought out ethnic foods and would encourage others to partake. "After all, if you do not like it, it is only one meal out of a lifetime." She eschewed tours because they isolated you from the people. She created her own trips and adventures. Local transportation was a must, but she did not hesitate to take nature tours and later enjoyed cruises with family.
A lover of wildlife, home and family, she was at once a loyal wife and mother, but also a friend who others, including many University of Iowa students, regarded as a second mother. She loved her pets. As the saying goes, it was a lucky dog that lived in her house. They became like children and included Button, Thunder, Patches, Charlie, Jenny and Sassy.
She is survived by her husband of 62 years, Holmes A. Semken Jr.; her two sons, Steven H. Semken (wife, Ingrid) and David A. Semken (wife, Cindy); grandson, Daniel; granddaughter, Fenna; stepgranddaughter, Andrea; as well as her loving corgi, JJ.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to either the Iowa City CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank or the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center.
Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Service helped care for Elaine and her family. To share a thought, memory or condolence with her family, please visit the funeral home website at www.gayandciha.com.
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