Gene Dreiling was a numbers guy devoted to hard work, but the role that gave him the most satisfaction was building the close-knit family that now mourns his passing. He died at home on March 16 at Wind Crest Senior Living Community in Highlands Ranch, just a week after turning 92.
A proud son of Hays in western Kansas, Gene was born just in time to live through the Great Depression. He was one of nine children, all raised by Richard and Mollie Dreiling to value family and God above all else. Gene was especially close to his brothers. He would live to be the last surviving sibling.
“Family was everything to him,” said Peggy Uppenkamp, one of his daughters. And Gene recognized his nearly 69-year marriage to Flo as his life achievement. Together, they raised four children and then enjoyed a long retirement, an intertwined life built on the foundation of their steadfast love. “He was most proud of marrying mom -- he said so,” and repeated it often, said his older daughter Susan Dreiling.
Gene graduated high school in 1947 from St. Joseph’s Military Academy, now known as Thomas More Prep. The next year, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. His service included 10 months in the Korean War, and he was honorably discharged in 1951 at the rank of sergeant first class.
After resettling in Hays, Gene married Florentine Brungardt in 1952. As their family grew to include their first son, Terry, and then Susan, Gene worked his way through Fort Hays State University, then called Fort Hays Kansas State College. He earned a degree in accounting that would launch him into a fulfilling career with Standard Oil/Amoco. The births of Peggy and a second son, Tim, came later as Gene’s job with Amoco took the family to Casper, Wyoming, and then to Denver, Chicago and finally Tulsa, Oklahoma. He worked his way up from junior accountant to a manager of hundreds of people.
Like many of his generation, Gene was a man of principle and a strict father. He may have had trouble putting his love into words, but his actions spoke loudly. His pride was evident as he talked about his children and grandchildren. And at family gatherings, he came alive, deploying a razor-sharp wit and a keen eye that made him a master storyteller. A favorite tale related an episode from his teenage years, when his mother performed an enema to help the suffering boy. The at-home procedure produced unexpectedly quick results, sending young Gene sprinting through the house for relief.
His early retirement in 1987, when he was 57, was the result of meticulous planning that Gene memorialized in a tidy green book. “I told him that he should be a textbook case for high school and college students on how to plan for a successful retirement,” Terry Dreiling said.
Retirement in Tulsa afforded Gene and Flo the freedom to travel widely, to play frequent golf and to engage in social activities that included membership in the Elks Lodge. For years, they attended University of Tulsa sporting events to cheer on their youngest son’s alma mater. “Dad was a particularly vocal opponent of all officiating calls that went against his home team,” Tim Dreiling recalled.
Gene also lent his financial expertise as a volunteer with Tulsa’s Neighbor for Neighbor, an interfaith aid organization -- providing financial counseling to clients whose struggles reminded him of his own family’s humble beginnings.
In 2013, Gene and Flo moved to Wind Crest in Colorado.
Gene is survived by Flo Dreiling, 91, who lives at Wind Crest; by their children Terry Dreiling of Littleton, Susan Dreiling of Littleton, Peggy (Glenn) Uppenkamp of Black Lake, New Mexico, and Tim (Lori) Dreiling of Tulsa; and by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The family will gather March 29 for a private viewing and funeral Mass in Highlands Ranch, with burial to follow at Crown Hill Cemetery in Wheat Ridge. Remote viewing of the 9:30 a.m. Rosary and 10 a.m. Mass will be available at this link: https://youtu.be/4wf1kBW7brw.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Eugene Leon Dreiling, please visit our floral store.