John Edward Comer (1938-2021)

    John Edward Comer, 82, of Norwalk, passed away peacefully on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021 at Kavanagh House in Des Moines.

    John was born Nov. 1, 1938 to John V. Comer and Joanna (Stone) Comer. His parents farmed in rural Monroe County, where John grew up surrounded by a large extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. He attended country schools, graduated from Albia High School in 1956 and briefly attended Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa).    

    On June 18, 1960 he was united in marriage to Marjorie Lenger at St. Peter’s Church in Lovilia. To this union six children were born: Ruth Anne, Catherine Joanna, John Michael, Susan Marie, Kevin Gerard and Paul Edward.

    John spent his entire working career with Hy-Vee, starting as a 14-year-old part-timer at the Albia store and retiring in 2000 as Senior Vice President, Purchasing. His first day on the job was an inventory Saturday; he worked from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. Sunday morning, made $7.50, and always said that except for the day he got married, it was the greatest day of his whole life. In 1970, John accepted a position as a grocery buyer with Hy-Vee and moved his young family to Chariton, where the headquarters office was located. Over the course of the next 30 years, he helped lead Hy-Vee’s procurement department to a position of national prominence in the supermarket industry, earning numerous honors and awards along the way – including induction into the Hy-Vee Hall of Fame and Iowa Grocers Hall of Fame, a term as president of the Iowa Food Industries Association, and receiving both the Sunshine Award and Heart Award from Variety – The Children’s Charity for his work leading the grocery industry’s Cash For Kids program.

    Faith, family, and community were the pillars upon which John and Marge built their lives over the course of 60 years of marriage. Encouraged by his grandfather, John joined the Knights of Columbus at age 18 and remained a member throughout his life, at one time holding positions as Grand Knight, District Deputy and State Program Director. Much of John’s time was devoted to following the sports and activities of his six children, and later his grandchildren. An avid golfer, he played at courses throughout the United States, and in retirement took a special trip with Marge to Ireland to watch the Ryder Cup. Everywhere they lived – in Albia, Chariton, Norwalk and Green Valley, Ariz., – John and Marge had a wide circle of friends with whom they enjoyed golfing, playing cards, traveling and church activities. John served on a number of community boards, including the Chariton Community School District Board of Education, and was honored to be enshrined on the Albia High School Wall of Fame for lifetime achievement.

    All his life, John took great pride in his Irish heritage and was quick to let everyone know that he was “100 percent Irish.” In recent years, he took a DNA-based ancestral heritage test that affirmed he was, indeed, 98 percent Irish. (To the end, he remained skeptical of that 2 percent Scottish ancestry.) All who recall his devotion to family, the strength of his convictions and his love of singing, toasting and swapping stories with family and friends will always think of John as the consummate Irishman.

    John is survived by his loving wife of 60 years, Marjorie Comer, of Norwalk; daughters Ruth Comer (Ray Meyer) of Chariton, Kate Schmidt (Larry) of Phoenix, Ariz., and Sue Girard (Chris Bond) of Ames; sons John M. Comer (Jen) of South Sioux City, Neb., Kevin Comer (Cindy) of Allerton, and Paul Comer (Janis) of Indianola; grandchildren Maria Schmidt, Corrie Caldwell (Matt), Michael Comer (Susan), John Markus Comer, Megan Girard (Steve Washington), Matthew Comer (Brooke), Samuel Schmidt, Hannah Comer, Erin Girard, Audrey Comer, Julia Comer, Olivia Comer and Joseph Comer; great-grandson Steven “Sonny” Washington; a sister, Mary Carr (Don) of Urbandale; an uncle, Michael Comer of Ottumwa; a sister-in-law, Theresa Lenger of North Liberty;  brothers-in-law, Jim Lenger (Nancy) of Bussey, and Joe Conway of Lincoln, Neb.; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

    A Mass of Christian Burial for John was celebrated Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021 at 10 a.m., at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in Norwalk, with burial following at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Albia. The family greeted visitors from 8-10 a.m., prior to the Mass. Memorial contributions in honor of John may be made to Autism Speaks.

    For his complete life-story, on-line condolences and to send flowers visit or call direct at (515) 981-0700.

Recommended for you

(0) entries

Sign the guestbook.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.