Sidney Vikla, 90

A garden hoe, rake, wheel barrow, lawnmower, love of family, land, animals, and music describe Sidney. 

He married Betty Ann Prchal on May 21, 1957, at St. Scholastica Church in Heidelberg. While renting a house in Lonsdale, they purchased a farm south of Lonsdale, spending their first night there on November 6, 1958. Quickly, it became home, and neither of them ever thought of living anywhere else. 

Sidney was born on February 15, 1931, his parents were Mathias and Josephine Vikla (Andrysek). His mother, born in Moravia, came to America at the age of sixteen. 

Sidney attended public school in Veseli. In those years, district schools were combined within the county, valedictorians and salutatorians were chosen from district eighth grade graduates. Sidney was given the honor representing his district school as salutatorian.

His high school years were spent at New Prague High School, graduating in 1949. Learning to play trumpet at a young age, the band teacher put him in the senior band his freshman year, not requiring any more lessons. His junior year, musical classmates organized a band, naming it the Ho-Bo Band, their attire matching the band’s name. His senior year he was playing dance jobs with the Jolly Woodchoppers, when Roman Rezac asked him to be the trumpet player in his band. Betty’s dad was already a member. Sidney accepted Roman’s offer, and the two of them played trumpets for ten years, traveling near and far, often playing three time a week. Dances were held on Tuesday’s, Saturdays, and Sundays.

This is when Sidney met Betty Ann. He played, and she danced. Over the years, he played with the Bob Smisek Orchestra, Dick Kubes Orchestra, Dale Pexa Band, and helped out many bands in need of a trumpet player for a job or two.

Sidney’s dream was to be a leader of his own band. That dream came true in the 1970’s Star Orchestra, which was comprised of eight members playing polkas, waltzes, fox-trots, and entertaining dancers who enjoyed the circle-two-step, while listening to Sidney on the microphone instructing them what to do next. 

After high school, he farmed his home place, was drafted into the Army in 1953 during the Korean War. After completing his basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, the Korean War was ending.

The Army didn’t want to send soldiers overseas at this time, so Sidney was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia where he enrolled in engineering school. After completing the required courses, he went overseas to Manila, Philippines, and to Okinawa where he did topographic surveying.

He was discharged in May, 1955 at Fort Carson, Colorado, his rank Corporal, receiving the National Defense Service Medal. He was in the Army reserve for eight years, and was a member of the American Legion Post 43. Army buddies would always find a trumpet in one of the barracks, which he played in Army band groups. 

Returning home, he was hired at Snyder General (later changed to McQuay, Inc.), an air conditioning factory in Faribault where he was employed for 41 years, doing prototype work. 

Growing up, there weren’t many toys, but there were many instruments, second-hand ones. People purchased fruit trees from the Vikla nursery. Having no money to pay for them, customers would send Sidney’s dad an instrument.

Sidney loved the alto and trumpet; a few dents didn’t matter. His dad, a country school teacher, played violin, and taught Sidney horn basics.

Sunday afternoons, along with his sister and three brothers, they would play in the farm’s kitchen. Only one brother, and Sidney, continued playing music. His other siblings did not have musical interests, which ended the young grade school Vikla band. 

Sidney’s first-owned car was a new 1955 four-door Chevrolet Bel Air. It cost $1,800, and Sidney purchased it with money earned in his military service. On the farm, Sidney and Betty raised chickens, hogs, and Hereford cattle. Betty’s grandmother raised chickens, and told her one day the hen house would be hers. That building was moved to their farm in the early 60s, housing ducks and chickens.

It stood empty for years when some 20 years ago, Betty decided they needed chickens again. She ordered 55 baby chicks, but told Sidney she ordered 10. When the chicks arrived, she had a hard time convincing Sidney the hatchery did not make a mistake in shipment. Explaining her “little lie”, bewildered, he asked, “What are we gonna do with the eggs?”

Quickly, word spread about farm fresh eggs. Sidney, very dedicated to any job he acquired, became known as the “Egg Man,” and delivered eggs and visited with his loyal customers. 

Sidney loved the outdoors, his loaded wheelbarrow, and walking side by side with his pride and joy: his grandson Johnathan, with his little red wheelbarrow on their way to the vegetable garden and potato patch, stopping to pick a ripe red raspberry.

Many a snowman and igloos were built indoors sitting on the living room rug, or building towns out of cardboard, and parking Hot Wheels on the streets. 

Sidney wasn’t a traveler. His vacations were being at home and enjoying the tranquility. His vacations were being called for dinner, supper, and enjoying 64 years of Betty’s home-cooked meals, especially her fresh, home-baked breads and old-fashioned molasses cookies. A big bowl of ice cream in the evening completed his day.

He loved cutting and splitting wood. The fragrant smoke smell would come from the chimney as the wood burned in the furnace. 

He brought many a kitten down from the hay loft to show Melodi and visited a while, taking them back to the hay loft, climbing up the farm wall ladder. Loving kittens, he considered the climb a joy, not a job. 

In later years, no longer playing in dance bands, he would play his trumpet on the porch, and Betty would join him on the button accordion. Johnathan quickly mastered the trumpet, and he and “Papa Sid” would play duets together.  

He was proud of this daughter’s career as a music teacher. He attended her students’ concerts, and listened to her piano playing, joining her on a snappy polka.

Johnathan, very involved in music throughout his school years, brought his “Papa Sid” so much joy. A member of the Twin Cities Youth Symphonies for seven years, Johnathan played French horn. Sidney never missed a concert at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.

Attending Prairie Creek Charter School, the fifth graders were required to do an honor’s presentation of their choice. Johnathan chose music during the Civil War, narrating the history, and playing a Civil War song on the second hand instrument his great-grandfather received in exchange for an apple tree. 

Sidney and Betty worked hand in hand, planting and harvesting crops, baling countless bales of hay, doing farm chores, landscaping the yard, painting buildings, and grandmother’s original hen house, which was constructed in 1925.

They loved dancing together, shopping and eating out. He wanted to be Betty’s bicycle riding partner, but never quite got the knack. He kept tipping over, never got hurt. They laughed, as he gave it another try.

He loved to whistle, often whistling the notes on a sheet of music before playing the notes on his trumpet.

Outdoors, he exchanged whistle sounds with the cardinals.  

With family love in his heart, Sidney passed away November 9, 2021. He is survived by his loving wife, Betty Ann; loving daughter, Melodi (Larry) Van Roekel; loving grandson, Johnathan Van Roekel (loving fiancée Natasha Horsfall; two nieces, Candace (Glenn) Smith and Cheryl Hammond, now living in California, who spent many days on the farm giggling with uncle Sid.

We were blessed to have a wonderful husband, dad and papa. We supported each other. He loved life, friends and neighbors. He always kept busy, but was ready to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. 

On his 90th birthday, as we sang, with a smile, he joined us in song, a forever recorded memory. 

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