Raymond Bernard Wolfe was born on October 27, 1896, in Lost Nation, Iowa. He was the son of Maurice Buckley Wolfe, a farmer in Lost Nation, and Sarah A. McAndrews. Wolfe had four brothers: Philip James (b. 1898), John Joseph (b. 1901), Melvin Maurice (b. 1904), and James Emmet (b. 1909).
Wolfe registered for the draft on June 5, 1918, during World War I (1914–1918). According to Wolfe’s son, Thomas, he entered the United States Navy and served at the Great Lakes Naval Base, in Lake County, Illinois, where he tended animals. He contracted influenza during the pandemic of 1918, but recovered and was discharged early in 1919.
In an essay written in 1975, Thomas Wolfe wrote that his father
caught no Germans, but he did catch the flu. In 1925 he caught Gladys McGinn of Petersville. (She was only twenty-two at the time, but that didn’t stop her from continually telling her own children that no one with a grain of sense married under thirty. To gently remind her of her own age in 1925 only brought about a foot stomping and the response, “That was different.”)
In 2007, Wolfe elaborated on how his parents met. Citing a story from Gladys McGinn’s brother Pete, he wrote that the two met at a dance in DeWitt. Ray Wolfe regularly rode his horse from Lost Nation to Petersville to meet McGinn, “sometimes taking shortcuts through fields by cutting the fence wires.” They married on August 25, 1925, in Delmar, Iowa.
According to Thomas Wolfe, the couple initially farmed in Lost Nation but lost their land and, with help from the McGinn family, bought a stead in Delmar early in the 1930s. The couple had four children: Sara Terese (b. 1926), Mary K. (b. 1929), Margery, and Thomas Anthony (b. 1940).
In addition to farming just under 200 acres, Wolfe was a trustee of Saint Patrick’s Church in Delmar, a member of the American Legion, and a member of the Delmar Consolidated school board. Family records include a letter to Wolfe, from 1938, in which a constituent calls into question his decision to send his own children to private school even as he sat on the public schools’ board.
Ray Wolfe’s son wrote that he had “a very strong personality, was well liked,” and loved horses, often traveling to Montana to make purchases. After an extended illness, Wolfe died of cancer on September 9, 1941. He is buried at Saint Patrick’s Cemetery in Delmar, where eight members of the Maquoketa post of the American Legion formed a firing squad and one member, Hugh Fletcher, blew taps. Wolfe was forty-four.
image: Thomas Wolfe and Ray Wolfe, Delmar, Iowa, 1941