Lifelong Plainfield farmer Mick Jungels must have thought he won the lottery when his daughter Pauline chose an International Harvester employee to be her bridegroom some 40 years ago.
Jungels was a Harvester tractor man through and through, and that gave the pair plenty to talk about for hours on end, son-in-law Mike Herbst said.
“One day I said to him, ‘Mick, you love that tractor so much, I wish I could bury you on it,’” Herbst said.
“Boy, that would be something, wouldn’t it?” Jungels replied.
Indeed, it would.
While the Jungels family couldn’t manage an actual tractor, they did do the next best thing: They had custom-made casket done up in International Harvester-red and bearing the IH logo, the “M” model designation and the words “McCormick Farmall.”
On Wednesday morning, 92-year-old Jungels was buried in it at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.
Herbst began planning for that day in June 2004, when he saw an article on a Minnesota family that did the very same thing for their farmer father.
“I ran the idea past (my wife) and her brothers, and they were all for it,” Herbst wrote in “The Story Behind the Red Casket,” which was displayed at Jungles’ visitation at the in Plainfield.
Herbst began consulting with Harvester engineers and bought a decal kit. He spoke with the Overman-Jones funeral directors to seek their assistance in having a coffin painted that distinctive color of red. Jungels’ sons and grandsons put the final touches on casket Monday night.
Herbst said he has just one regret: He wishes he had told Jungels about it before he died on May 20.
“I knew if I told him about it, he would be unable to keep it quiet,” Herbst wrote. “So I decided to wait until the time was right. As the years passed, Mick did not want to talk about the inevitable. So I kept delaying my decision.
“This ended up being my biggest regret because the other day, Mick had a heart attack and went to his final reward without my telling him. He would have been so proud to know how I felt about him by doing something this special for him.”
Overman funeral director Michael Boyd said it’s rare that the funeral home gets a request for a custom-made coffin, which is what made this project particularly special.
“Everyone knew Mick,” he said. “It was fun to truly do something unique, something special like this.”
While he would not reveal the final price tag, Boyd said people would be surprised to know the cost was not exorbitant. It was about the same as some of the higher-end coffins that families routinely purchase, he said.
Beyond that, though, this was a very personal send-off planned by the Jungels family, he said. The visitation room featured tables bearing mementos and photographs from every aspect of Jungels’ life: His World War II years, which he spent as an Army soldier in Europe; his 64-year marriage to Helen, who survives him; family life with his three children, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren; his devotion to the St. Mary Immaculate’s Knights of Columbus chapter.
And, of course, there were his years as a farmer. The blue coveralls, well-worn brown boots and red International Harvester cap that he wore in the fields were on display.
There was nothing fancy about Mick Jungels, Herbst said, and that was part of what made him so endearing to those who knew him.
“He was quiet, but he was outgoing, too. He wasn’t loud, but he was able to talk to anybody,” Herbst said.