Richard Lester Horak,
76, of rural Swisher, died Saturday, April 28, 2018, in Mercy Iowa City Hospice
Unit after a long illness. Funeral service: 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 2, at Murdoch-Linwood Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Cedar Rapids, with the Rev. Dr. Julie Schuett officiating. Burial: Czech National Cemetery, Cedar Rapids.
Richard was born Oct. 28, 1941, in Cedar Rapids, the son of Lester and Lillian (Pelisek) Horak. Although living at the same family farm during his youth, he was assigned to several different schools during the organization of the College Community School District. He was a member of College Cowhands 4-H, and graduated in 1960, while president of the Science Club at Prairie High School.
After a year at Iowa State University, where he discovered that electrical engineering was not his calling, he took a semester break to work. He helped build I-80 bridges in Nebraska and did construction work in Galveston, Texas, after Hurricane Carla.
Richard returned to Iowa in 1962 to enroll at the University of Iowa, where he first studied French. In 1964, he traveled to Paris, studying at the Alliance Francaise. He also apprenticed in Frank Pilko's Altamira Studio making and selling artisan jewelry. Before returning to Iowa in 1965, he rode his VeloSolex motorbike through Spain, France and Italy.
After Richard's year in France, he selected art and French as majors, a fortunate choice, as future wife Janice Johnson was in his French class. Richard established Lascaux, his own jewelry studio, while still in school. His sculpture and jewelry made from brass, bronze, copper and nickel silver were sold at Midwestern art fairs and gift shops. Richard graduated from the University of Iowa in 1966 and taught French in Somerville, N.J. In 1967, Richard and Janice hitchhiked around Europe. Returning to Iowa, they were married in Mason City on Dec. 23, 1967.
In 1971, Richard and Janice bought the Fordice farm south of Shueyville. This evolved into a continuous project to restore and preserve the oak-hickory timber and to introduce many choice tree species. Richard planted a fruit orchard and vineyard and established Horak's Landscape Nursery that he ran for more than 40 years. The thousands of trees and shrubs he grew grace many area homes and businesses. He especially liked growing a vast variety of trees and shrubs, and he was willing to give each plant a chance until it proved itself unsuitable for the area (for example, white birch) or too invasive (black locust). Richard especially enjoyed grafting special trees for customers, and he developed a process that worked even when standard methods failed. His article "Terminal Buds Improve Grafting Results" was published in the Spring 2008 issue of Pomona, the journal of the North American Fruit Explorers organization. Many days found him gathering seeds from specimen nut trees and pits from fruit trees to use for root stock.
Wanting their farm to be protected permanently from suburban development, Richard and Janice signed a conservation easement with Bur Oak Land Trust. In 2016, the couple received the Gift to Iowa's Future award from the State of Iowa and a Certificate of Appreciation from the Iowa 86th General Assembly. Richard's last project was to collaborate with Iowa BIG to create a film called Somewhere Only We Know, telling the Bur Oak story (www.sowkfilm.com). Along with his children, Richard's greatest legacy is Wildwood Farm for which he cared since 1971.
Richard is survived by his wife, Janice; his son, Nicholas; his brother, Don (Barb) Horak; his brother-in-law, David (Kay) Johnson; nephews, Jeffrey Johnson and James Horak; and niece, Lara (TJ) Diekema.
He was preceded in death by his parents and by son, Daniel, in 2000.
Memorials may be directed to Bur Oak Land Trust, 5 Sturgis Corner Dr., Iowa City, IA 52246; or to a charity of the donor's choice.
The family wishes to thank the medical and support staff for the excellent, compassionate care Richard received during his illness.
Please share a memory of Richard at www.murdochfuneralhome.com under obituaries.