John F. Hadam was known by many names to many people. He was Johnny to his loving wife Ina, Dad or Pops to his three children, Papa John to the grandkids and great grandkids and ‘The Diggin’ Dutchman’ to all his neighbors and other friends who made use of his talents as a backhoe operator or for gravel deliveries with his Mack truck all over southern Idaho.
While he spent most of the last 40 years of his life East of Twin Falls in Eden, the first 50 years were spent on the road starting at an early age. He was born in Oklahoma City, OK on March 19, 1931 to Johann Hadam and Gertrud Arzberger, but that was just a brief stop as his father brought the family to Southern Idaho a couple of years later for his work as a mason. After a few years helping to build churches and schools across southern Idaho out of the native lava rock, the family returned to his parents’ native Germany for a visit in August of 1939. Two weeks later Germany started World War II by invading Poland. The family was unable to return to the US and had to stay in Germany.
His parents divorced and John spent the remainder of the war in Berlin with his father. He spoke rarely of his time in Berlin, but it involved regular trips to air raid shelters and foraging for food during the time of Russian occupation after the war ended. It was not a pleasant time. Due to the hardships of life in Germany post war, his parents decided to send him back to the US since he was a US citizen. It took almost a year and a half but on December 26, 1946 Johnny boarded a ship for New York City.
Three months later he turned 16 during a cross country train trip to Idaho - a place he barely remembered, that used a language he hadn’t spoken in 8 years with no one around that he knew. Thank God for Dave and Esther Block. They took Dad in on their farm North of Jerome and treated him as if he were their own. The fit was so good, that as kids we just thought everyone got an extra set of grandparents.
After a two-year stint of driving DUWK “Duck” boats for the Army during the Korean War, John returned to Idaho and married Ina Delores Jones on March 29, 1953. They were married over 60 years at the time of Ina’s passing in 2013. Even though married, they continued a life of nomadic traveling and moving. Some of the cities they lived in, included Jerome, Burley, Boise, Portland, Klamath Falls, Oregon, Racine, Wisconsin, and then a giant hop back overseas.
Following a move to Pocatello, to attend diesel mechanic school, Johnny and Ina met their dear friends, Verg and Joyce Brown. John and Verg graduated together from Oregon Tech. The friendship started as classmates and ended as best friends for the rest of John’s life.
John loved anything to do with engines, trucks, cars, and tractors. He could figure out how to fix anything mechanical. He seemed to inherently understand all machines. Sometimes the repairs he affected were not always factory approved. This led to him acquiring patents for different tools that he created in the field.
An opportunity to work for J.I. Case Company prompted a move to Racine, WI for two years. During that time, he traveled mostly to countries in South America. John would put on operators and mechanics schools and make sure that the equipment was put together correctly after shipping. When the family moved to Athens, Greece in 1971, John was the first person to represent Case in Athens. His territory at the time was Africa and the Middle East. All the developing oil countries were investing in agriculture and construction equipment, and this kept John busy throughout the region. The mid 70’s had the family moving to Singapore, and John was still working for Case Company. While in Singapore he traveled the Far East and Central Asia. Many trips were made to Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea, and Pakistan.
John finally moved his family back to the States in the late 70’s, first in Visalia, CA, where he worked for a Case dealer as the Service Manager then finally back to Idaho. They found a house that had a shop…. Oh, the wonders of a shop! He spent so many hours in his shop and then built a bigger shop eventually with the help of his good buddy Verg. (We still aren’t sure how they got those trusses up there, but I believe it involved something with the backhoe, inside the dump truck and the bucket extended…. Well, maybe we should leave that story alone). Once he had his bigger shop, then he was always in there working on a car, an engine or his beloved Mack Dump Truck. He always wanted Mom to knit him a little tiny sweater for the bulldog on the front of his Mack.
There was one more major move, when Tenneco Oil called and asked him to take over a laser land leveling project in Sudan, Africa. Of course, John said yes, and off he went with Ina, his daughter, Monica, and brother-in-law, Coy Jones and his wife, Bonnie. A jaunt from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, to home in Dongola, was roughly 300 miles, but it took two full days driving across the desert in the sand. While living in Sudan, we counted how many countries he had been to, and it was 55! That is a lot of traveling. Once they were stateside from Sudan, they returned to their home in Eden.
They had three children, along the way, Dan, Jerry and Monica. John taught his children many life lessons that he had learned, enjoy life, treat people fairly, and to be open to new experiences.
In his life, he had done farming, worked for Caterpillar, Case, Mack Trucks, Wagner Trucking, and Tenneco Oil which owned Case. There was never a stranger in John’s mind. He could converse with anyone, anywhere, and sometimes did in various languages. One time he made a hotel reservation in French, and Mom said, “are you sure we have a reservation?”, and his response was, “Well, we will see when we get there.” They did indeed have a reservation.
Dad led such an interesting life, there is no way to get it all into a few paragraphs. With his constant travel, he knew how to pack. He didn’t like it when customs agents would mess with his suitcase, so he learned to put something, usually a Playboy magazine, that for sure would be confiscated on the top of the suitcase, so when they opened it to check things out, they would take that item off the top of the suitcase and then they wouldn’t mess up the rest of his items. Everything always had to be just so.
He was part of the Magic Valley Antique Tractor Pullers for a good 20 years, including being President for a number of years. He was in a good many parades around the valley driving his Case 500 Tractor, and if he wasn’t using it for a meet or a parade, he was working on it in his shop.
In his later years, he had dementia, which we probably all saw coming before it was actually diagnosed. He still had his stories, although they may have gotten a bit jumbled at the end, but he never lost his sparkle or his zest for life. To the caregivers at Canyons Memory Care, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking care of our Dad. We won’t forget you. Heidi, Jess, Cambria, Truly, Thank you!
John is survived by his children, Daniel John Hadam, Jerald Lynn Hadam, Monica (Joe) Garner, and Linda Hadam; grandchildren, Jennie Ridley, Casey Ridley, Levi (Kyra) Hadam, Trinity Hadam, Bella Hadam, Mitch Garner, and Alexis Garner; great grandchildren, Colby, Addyson, Bryanna, Easton, Carson, and Garret; a foster sister, Lynette Perry.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 3:00 pm, Saturday, March 19, 2022, John’s birthday, at Farnsworth Mortuary, 1343 S Lincoln Ave, Jerome.
Memories and condolences may be shared with the family on John’s memorial webpage at www.farnsworthmortuary.com.