Ernest V. Derr, 92, of Keokuk, passed away at his home on January 8th, 2014.
He was born on October 29, 1921, near Donnellson, Iowa, the son of Virgil Emery and Alice Marie Frueh Derr. He married Marianna Lewis in 1946. She survives.
From the time Ernie was old enough to work he helped his father in the farm fields. As he got older, he worked as a farm hand for neighbors for one dollar a day and his dinner. Then as a young man he got a job working in the Marshall Auto Store in Keokuk, IA. In 1941 he married Urbina Gardner. They had one daughter, Karen. They were later divorced. In 1942 he joined the Army and served in the European Theater. He was in the 6th Armored Division and drove a weasel and went ahead of his Company and laid wire for communications.
He earned the rank of Corporal and received the Bronze star and other commendations. He was proud to have served his country. He was honorably discharged in 1945 and returned home and went back to work at the Marshall Auto Store. He eventually transferred to the Ft. Madison store and became the manager for a few years.
In 1950 he began his stock car racing career in the I.M.C.A. circuit. In 1952 he quit working at the Marshall Auto Store, moved back to Keokuk permanently, and made racing his life career. He worked many long hard hours to prepare the best race car possible. His dedication and perseverance allowed him to win a great number of races and he was a 12 time I.M.C.A. Champion. He raced for 26 plus years and in 21 states plus Canada. He was honored as a member of several racing sports halls of fame.
Ernest is survived by his wife Marianna Derr of sixty seven years of Keokuk, Iowa, his six children who all reside in Keokuk, Iowa, Nancy Ann (Steve) Smith, James Michael (Barbara) Derr; Steven Wayne (Carolyn) Derr; Russell Lewis (Judith) Derr; Randy Eugene (Nancy Jo) Derr; Danny Joe (Celley) Derr; Karen Garland Derr /Anderson of Florida; fifteen Grandchildren: Jeff Bennett; Beth Guy; Dannette Sargent; Ashley Haney; Stephanie Ragar; Angie Miller; Bruce, Ryan, Jacob, Alex, Zachary, Austin, and Aiden Derr, David and Douglas Anderson; eleven great grandchildren: Makenzie, Taylor, and Madelyn Guy; Bronson and Irelynd Sargent; Hayden Derr; Charli and Josi Haney; Ava Rae and Lincoln Derr; and Mia Miller; two sisters, Verna (Don) White and Virginia LeMatty.
Preceded in death by his parents, Virgil and Alice Derr; mother and father-in-law Isaac Newton and Cora Christy/Lewis; maternal grandparents John and Mary Frueh/Derr; paternal grandparents Screno and Arvilla Allan/Derr; his only brother Guy Derr who was killed in action in Auchen, Germany while serving as a private in the Army during World War II; sister, Mabel Leeper; 2 brothers-in-law Harry LeMatty and Raymond Leeper; nieces Lori Leeper, Gina and Harriet LeMatty; nephews Rocky, Thad and Thomas LeMatty, Gary White and great nephew Kelly Stenson.
Visitation will be Sunday, January 12, from 12 to 5 P.M., with the family meeting friends from 1 to 5 P.M. Services will be held Monday, January 13, at 10:30 A.M. at DeJong-Greaves Celebration of Life Center located at 917 Blondeau Street. Burial at Keokuk National Cemetery will full military rites will immediately follow the service.
In lieu of flowers memorials can be made to Wounded Warriors, P.O. Box 758517 Topeka, Kansas 66675.
He Was A Speical Man
Kit Car @ Milwaukee
Ernie's last trophy dash win at Knoxville Raceway
Gentlemen start your engines!! Lots of memories of my uncle ernie I remember the day when I was little he gave me a ride in his race car boy was that the coolest thing ever.We talked about him all the time I was wishing he lived a little closer. Went to a few races had so much fun.He will be missed much.May your racing continue up in heaven! Will be thinking of you often so many good memories.
One of my fond memories of Ernie was when he gave me advice for taking care of my '42 Ford while he was manager of Marshall Auto in Fort Madison. Since he & I were 2d cousins I had a special feeling of pride every time he won a race and as we all know that was a whole lot of times. RIP, Ernie.
Danny and Family:
We would like to express our deepest condolence to you. You are in our thoughts and prayers at this time.
Nancy and family,
So sorry to hear about your dad. I remember as a kid going to a race at Donnellson, meeting your dad and then getting his autograph. I felt so important.
There was an article in our Decatur, Il newspaper this morning about your dad "Keokuk stock car great dies" and his racing career. I guess I'm not as far from home as I thought. Connie Wood Cloud
We attended the most amazing funeral service for Uncle Ernie today. The strength of this Derr family is beyond any we have ever witnessed.....so proud of all of you and proud to be family. What a tribute to an amazing man and racer!!! Thank you so much!!!
I have such fond memories of Ernie Derr racing here in Springfield, Mo. on the half mile dirt track out at the fairgrounds. Ernie used to come down here and race in what was called the "Big Engine Race" in the late 60's and up through 1971 or 72 before the track was paved. The races he and our Larry Phillips put on were legendary and a shame there's no way to explain to folks today what a special honor it was to watch Ernie race..Forever in my memory is the sound of that hemi motor wound up coming out of turn four..the noise bouncing off the walls as he came down the front straight-away. Goosebumps! Rest in peace Ernie, it was always an honor and a privilege to speak to you in the pits when you came to race.
We send our love and thoughts to you all. Will miss him.
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. My condolences to the entire Derr family. RIP Ernie
I remember Ernie coming to my Father's salvage yard looking for parts back in the 60's, in Hamilton, when I was a kid. He was always very friendly and personable. I'm sure he will be missed by those who knew him. Floyd Muegge
Marianna and Derr family our deepest sympathy in this time of your loss.
Our deepest condolences to your family. Please know you are in our hearts and prayers.
Steve and Nancy
Linda and I are very sorry about Ernie's passing. I have a lot of memories of him and of his racing, he was one of the "good ol' boys" in racing.
You, Steve, and the rest of your family have our sympathy and are in our thoughts and prayers
Carl and Linda Schafer
I have a STP calendar that Ernie give to me at Burlington back in the sixties. When in Keokuk I would always stop and talk with him. I asked him once if he was ever scared to race. He told me only once. It was a story to hear for sure. Mr. Derr thanks for all those races and memories.
Many memories of Keokuk race car drivers. Lived on Fulton St, I would hear Ernie start up his Pontiac race car (STP colors) I would run four blocks just to stand by the garage and watch, if I was lucky he would motion me inside. Then a warm up drive No. 7th-Grand Ave. and back, how cool. If you travel to any racing venues across the states, Keokuk, IA. is known for Ernie Derr, the Whites, Stott's and Hutcherson's. Watched a lot of dirt races and the Sly Fox was always there at the end. My condolences to the entire Derr family.
(Always thought Randy should have raced, he could sure drive a rental car.
Our condolences to the Derr family. I remember my parents and my Uncle (Raymond) and Aunt (Mabel) talking about him and going to the races to see him. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time.
We are so very sorry for your loss,God Bless.
Nancy Derr Smith. My deepest sympathy to you and your family. I grew up watching your dad race. My dad used to take me to Donnelson Ia to watch the races on the dirt track. When the race was over, we were covered totally in dirt.
Randy, Russ and family my condolences. RIP Ernie. He was always the one everybody wanted to beat. I have so many great memories from growing up in Keokuk with racing. He will never be forgotten, he touched so many.
Being a racing addict for 60+ years now Ernie was the most impressive driver I have seen be it NASCAR, or any other racing venue. He was a true racer.
Spent many, many days and nights, when I was young, following Ernie to races and without question he was one of the very, very best.
There will never be another one like him.
Remember riding to Keokuk with my dad to buy used tires and wheels from Ernie. Had to stay in the car tho for Ernie didnt want kids or anyone just hanging around the shop. Got to see him race many times as a youngster mostly at the Burlington fairgrounds. If my memory is correct I last seen Ernie race Russ's Nova at 34raceway in burlington and won the feature over Steve Fraise. Thanks for the great memorys and my condolences to the Derr family
Generations of Tri-State area residents grew up waiting for the week-end and to see the champs from Keokuk race at Donnellson. We can still hear the track announcer - "And there he is the Sly Old Fox himself, Ernie Derr."
So thank-you Derr family for sharing him with us and for the thrills and many happy hours at the races.
Derr Family condolences to you on the passing of Ernie. May you have wonderful memories of him as a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. But may you also be comforted in the knowledge of all the lives he touched through his racing career. I remember going to our local county fair in western Minnesota every weekend after the Minnesota State Fair to see the races on Sunday afternoon and the big 100 Lapper Sunday night. The stands were packed, and Ernie Derr was the one to beat. So Derr family thank you for sharing Ernie with us, generations of race fans.
Ernie was my hero, sad to hear of his passing.At 10 years old I'd ride the Trailways bus down from Davenport to my Grandparents to watch him race in Donnellson. In 5th grade my friends dad helped pit for Ron Weedon and told me Ernie was going to get beat at a race in Davenport. I punched him in the nose and spent the day in the principles office. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
1959 Ford Car Hauler - Ernie said he logged in 644K miles on it.
Racer's Reunion 2003
Racer's Reunion with special guest, Ray Nichols, minus Ernie as he was preparing his speech . . .
Ernie about to give his speech . . .
Ernie saying . . . "That's all I have to say!"
Ernie, Ray Nichols, Bill Mullin and John Johnson
Ernie was a friend. I bought my first bicycle from him at Marshall Auto in Fort Madison. My father would take me to see Ernie and all the "Keokuk Clan" race. I bought a 61 Pontiac off the USAC/NASCAR circuit and Ernie came to FM to talk to me. I think he really wanted to sell me Pontiac parts. When I started on the IMCA circuit, I was nothing but a wreck looking for a place to happen, and I had a lot of wrecks. Ernie used to take me aside and tell me where to be on the track when he came around to lap me. A lot of our fellow racers could not believe it when Ernie climbed under the hood of my ill running car at Cedar Rapids, and made it run much better. I still have a picture from a national publication, taken in 1966, of Ramo, Ernie and Lennie about to do me in. He helped me immensely when I started, and when he went to Chrysler, he gave me a lot of Pontiac parts. Condolences to all, RIP friend.
My dad, Roxy Dancy, Sr., of Shreveport, La., raced with Ernie Derr in the 50's. He quit in 1957. Tragically, Roxy was struck by lightening when I was four, in 1961. My mother continued to take us to the IMCA races and into the pits twice yearly. Mr. Derr treated me so great. When I was about six or seven, he put me in his #1 car and took me for a ride on the half mile speedway. Every year, he gave me all of the STP decals and souvenir gear they had with them. I have carried the memories of how one of the greatest race car drivers that ever lived treated a little kid in Shreveport. He was great, as a race car driver, but most importantly, as a man.
Russ and the Derr family,
I want you to know that Kathy and I were saddened to hear of the death of your dad. You were lucky to have him for so long. The man with the moustache will never be forgotten.
I still say Ernie beat A.J. Foyt on the one mile dirt track in Springfield, ILL in the mid-70's. It was an erroneous lap count. Nonetheless, I was able to watch two of the best of all times going head-to-head - something I will always remember.
As a young child, I watched Ernie Derr race at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in the late '60s and early '70s. I remember going to those shows, knowing that he was one of the drivers to beat because everybody talked about Ernie Derr. On top of that, he went out and backed up what everyone was saying. At one of those shows, I met Ernie and got his autograph; that autograph hangs on my wall to this day. Watching him race has stayed with me my entire life and is one of those racing moments I am always proud to make mention of. The racing world misses Ernie Derr today, but it is a world much better because we got to watch him race back in the day. It is also better because of all the people that raced or got into racing because of Ernie and the example he set. Rest in Peace Ernie Derr.
I used to beg my Dad to take me to races in the 60's. He knew Ed Janey, so we would go and watch Chuck and Irv Janey, Ernie and all the others race.
I emailed Jayski (NASCAR race site) and Midwest Racing Archives regarding Ernie. Jayski added it today.....Lots of memories....
Ernie Derr gave our town pride in his accomplishments and put our little berg on the map. He will be long remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and close friends. A life well lived.
I have a great memory of Ernie when Dale Frey and I helped him in the pits at the Miss. State Fair and Ernie ran a few hot laps and then pulled the race car upon the flatbed truck and said to me and Dale, tie her down wer're going home. Ernie knew that something was wrong with the car by just what little hot laps he ran. Back home he found out that 2 syncronizers were out of the four speed that Nicholas Engineering in Indiana built for him. I ended up with that transmission in my 57 Chevy. God bless you Ernie for the memories and the experience.
Ernie Derr was more than a race driver. He meant so much to so many, and will be missed by all of those whose lives he touched. RIP
My condolences to the Family. Many fond memories growing up in that era with Nancy, Mike, & Steve. I learned a lot about life from those racing days. Everyone knew the great respect everyone had for your dad. It has been said many times that he won races because he was prepared and he worked extremely hard at it. God Bless the family and RIP Ernie.
i remember watching the iowa 300 & the 200 lapper in des moines.it was always ernie up front when it was over.never met him & talked to him untill his sale & him & his wife were so nice to talk to.i want to thank russ for his kindness in spending time telling us alot of old storys that were so neat to listen to.God Bless all of the Derr family.our prayers are with you.
A true hero of mine has went on to the great race track above. He is not alone, there are other drivers too, but now, Ernie will again, be waiving the checker. I watched him drive for years, and was so lucky to spend a few hours with him a few years ago at his shop, while traveling through town to my home in Decorah. Mariana and family, you have my heartfelt sympathy, and may our Lord Bless and keep you.
Ernie was a treasure for our hometown of Keokuk in more ways than one. I have spent a lifetime chasing racing, and Ernie was one of the reasons why. Prayers for the family, RIP # 1
growing up my whole family loved to go to the races that was such a fun thing to do and ernie derr was my bigest fan in racing he inspired people in many different ways he will always be remenbered as my fan of his in racing my sympathy to his whole family
I spent many hours of my youth watching Ernie race. One year, we attended 5 state fairs to watch races. Keokuk has truly lost a champion. RIP
Prayers for the family my god be with you. We went every weekend to watch Erine race that is what our family looked forward to all week. Thanks for the best memories. REST IN PEACE!
Grew up watching Ernie race INCA. Gave Hutch, Ramo fits.
Rest in peace.
I remember as a kid spending time at the house....we could do about anything...but NEVER GO IN THE GARAGE/shop. Will never forget the time Russ and I were hungry so we ate some tuna right out of can....we got in trouble from Marianne for eating ERNIE'S tunafish. Can't remember ever seeing Uncle Ernie dressed in anything but those jumpsuits or his racing gear. Remember going to many races...probably what has made me a Nascar fan. Thoughts and prayers to all the Derr's....lots of great memories.
Steve and Russ,
Thoughts and sympathies to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your dad with all of us.
His IMCA battles with Ramo Stott were legendary. Competing on both asphalt and dirt, Ernie was unbeatable on clay. A master of his craft, he was above all a class individual. RIP
On behalf of Bo Mason's family, it is hard to find words to express the loss of Ernie. Seems like yesterday when your family moved into your home on Orleans, and the STP stickers began to flow all over the neighborhood. Thinking back I'm so glad I was home in June and Dad and I got to see most of the family during your auction. Mrs. Derr, please accept our families' deepest sympathies to you and your family during this time. Few people leave such an impression in our lives, but, Ernie was one of those few. The memories will stay with us for a lifetime and we thank you for that! God Bless you and keep you Ernie, and may he shine upon and grant you his peace! Amen.
Our sympathy to the entire family. My Dad, Richard, and I spent many nights at the garage watching Ernie work on his car. My Dad had a great deal of respect for Ernie. Our family traveled throughout the midwest watching him race. You could always tell when Ernie was coming just by the sound of his car. We were so sorry to hear the news.
Mike and Kay McKenzie
ARCA, the Automobile Racing Club of America, would like to extend its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Ernie Derr, forever remembered here as a great man, great champion and 11-time ARCA winner. Rest in Peace.
Marianna, thinking of you at this time. My prayers are with you and family. Am blessed being a part of all your lives those many years ago.
More pics of a fans tribute to Ernie and pic of him with car.
This car is a tribute to Ernie by a fan. I believe Johnny had purchased the engine from Ernie.
I got to meet Ernie in the mid 1960 at the Pelican 200 in Shreveport La. One heck of a nice guy. Thanks to Larry Loney I got to keep up with Ernie in his later years. Keep on rolling Ernie.
To Marianna and family, we offer our deepest sympathy in your loss. May God watch over and comfort you.
The greatest of all time !!!!!!!!!! IMCA lost a true class act !!!!!!
One of my heroes growing up in Iowa, will be truly missed by family and race fans everywhere, can still hear the hemi from the number 1 echoing from the grandstands in Des Moines. Race in peace my friend, God bless the Derr family and friends.
I am so sorry to hear of Ernie's passing. My sympathy to all of you. What an impact he had on our lives. He was the best, no doubt. 358 career wins according to the Internet, I bet they are missing a few.
I remember that last race when we took the kit car to Knoxville and Ernie and Joe Merrifield each won their trophy dashes, he had a lot of fun.
And driving in a caravan across Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, following that hauler, the excitement of getting to the track, and pulling in the infield. Other drivers coming over to see what was under the tarp. I remember Butch Hartman saying, "if that's the Charger I might as well leave mine on the trailer!"
oh, and "Keokuk Days" at the Iowa 300! Remember the hype of Hutch coming back to race! For the first 250 laps Ernie just drove around in the top 5 or so, making no moves until 50 laps to go. Then he started his race. He would pull up beside Hutch in turn one, sometimes on the inside, sometimes on the outside. Hutch would see him and get on it a little harder and Ernie would just cruise along, poking his nose up there for Hutch to see and Hutch would stand on it a little harder each time. Then, Ernie goes around him, Hutch stands on it and KABAM! That Ford engine went to pieces all over the track! It was awesome!
He had a big impact on my life, Renee's and Jim's. We will miss him as so many people will, but his legacy will continue for generations to come. Even today my son Alex, who has only visited the shop a few times, tells stories about the great Ernie Derr.
My sincere and deepest sympathy to the Derr Family. I have many memories of Ernie. My Dad, Pete Peterson worked at Webb Auto Supply before he opened up his own Peterson Auto Supply. I remember going with him to get auto parts and we would take them to Ernie and stay around while the race car was being worked on. I remember a couple of times, going to Webb's after school and Ernie was sitting on the stool in front of the counter waiting to get his part order filled. Nice guy and a champion of a man and race car driver. RIP Ernie!
Thanks for the thrills,Ernie.R.I.P.,champ!
Russ Derr and family,
My childhood was full of racing stories from my dad and other friends of Ernie's. My husband and I even share those stories with our grandchildren. He will be missed for he was a legend in Keokuk.
God bless and comfort you
Donna and Dan Wittich
Katrina, Robert, Bobby and Terasa Cole
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