Vander Molen family wraps up 50-year era of Lynnville Transport ownership

Marty and Betty Vander Molen are surrounded by their sons, Jeff, Mike, and Brent, in front of a fleet of trucks they have operated as owners of Lynnville Transport the last 50 years. The Vander Molen family hosted "Lynnville's Last Ride" Mar. 30 to commemorate the closing of Lynnville Transport and Sully Truck Wash. 


By Margaret Vander Weerdt

With sunny skies and temperature at 60 degrees, 75-year-old Lynnville Transport closed Mar. 30 with “Lynnville’s Last Ride” convoy of mostly semi tractors. Owners for the last 50 years, Marty and Betty Vander Molen, with their three truck-driving sons Mike, Jeff, and Brent, commemorated their long-standing businesses. The first seven vehicles in the convoy were Lynnville Transport vehicles.

Leading the convoy was Marty, as the oldest family member with his passenger the youngest in the family, great-grandson Brexton, son of Jordan and Tayler Vander Molen. Marty drove a truck like one he once drove, a 1964 GMC cabover. The only unit not on the auction, second in line was a red Ford F350 pickup driven by Jeremy Vander Molen pulling a flatbed trailer loaded with a white 1946 International firetruck, and pickup passengers were Betty and several grandkids. Third in line was 2020 Peterbilt red and white semi and trailer driven by Mike with Val Nikkel as passenger. Fourth was a 2019 Peterbilt semi and trailer with driver Jordan and his son Trice as passenger. Fifth was 2012 Kenworth maroon semi and trailer driven by Jeff accompanied by his family members. Sixth was 2022 Kenworth semi and trailer driven by Brent with his son Ben riding along. The seventh was a 2012 Peterbilt semi and trailer driven by one of two current drivers not a family member, Beryl Dunsbergen, who has driven part-time for the company for 40 years. The other current driver was Rich Van Manen, who has driven part-time for the company for over 30 years.

Many, many spectators were parked along the route giving a wave or enthusiastic “elbow pump” to hear honking semis. Sixty-four vehicles, mostly trucks, joined the mile-long convoy traveling from Sully Truck Wash to Galesburg, Pella (including driving through The Cottages area where longtime bookkeeper of the business Roger Jansen now lives), Peoria, through Sully past Sully Christian School and to the south and east sides of the Sully square, and to Lynnville Transport shop at 13051 Highway F62 East, Sully, next to Marty and Betty’s residence just east of Sully for a time of reminiscing and refreshments 2-4 p.m. A few motorcycles were at the end of the convoy.

Part of the 64-semi convoy is caught on drone camera by Justin Van Soelen at Sully Truck Wash prior to the start of Lynnville's Last Ride. The convoy lined up at Sully Truck Wash and joined Vander Molens' fleet of seven vehicles once the family passed the Vander Molens' second business site just west of Sully.

Also closing that day was Sully Truck Wash, located at 10683 Highway F62 East just west of Sully, also owned by Vander Molens. Brent and his son Ben worked there with others washing trucks.

Equipment and vehicles of the businesses will be sold by online auction Apr. 10-16 by Steffes Group, Inc.

History and other businesses

                Five decades ago in 1974, Marty and Betty bought from Russ Vande Krol the 25-year-old business Lynnville Transport, which began in 1949. Their son Mike was seven years old, son Jeff was five years old, and son Brent was born that year.

In March, Mike posted on social media, “A 32-year-old couple with three boys seven years old and younger decides for some crazy reason they needed more to do…. Also in the last 50 years, they owned Marty’s Feed and Seed selling free-choice minerals to area livestock producers as well as seedcorn to area farmers. They also had a purebred South Devon cow-calf herd (one of the first producers to import them from England)….They also had Sully Stockyards where from local farmers they bought hogs to go to packing plants. For several years, they bought calves in Montana and sold them to local farmers here to feed them out. They even owned the famous Coffee Cup Café in Sully for a few years.”

Throughout this time, Marty volunteered with LSK Jaycees and Sully Business Association while Betty spent a lot of years as a Sully Christian School Circle member like SCS moms did back then. They both volunteered with hospice at The Comfort House in Pella, too.

Mike’s social media post also said, “Forty years ago this July, I got my chauffeur’s license, now known as a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License)…. We were one of the first companies to have a double-deck gooseneck trailer back in the day. I hauled a lot of feeder pigs in those trailers. Of course, pickups back then weren’t what they are now, so we used single-axle semi-tractors. I remember loading pigs around Winnipeg, Canada, for a while.”

As a direct result of Lynnville Transport cited for child labor and DNR issues, Sully Truck Wash was built and opened in 1999. The business grand opening in March 1999 was also a celebration of their Lynnville Transport’s 25th anniversary. The building features six state-of-the-art wash areas for semi trucks and is capable of preparing high pressure, high heat spray for washing livestock trailers.


                “The drivers who have driven for us would number in the hundreds and hundreds, maybe even thousands. I’m pretty sure there were farms saved by guys working for us as a ‘part-time’ driver. That goes both ways, too. All those farmers who were ambitious enough to work extra were the main reason we got through a lot of years,” Mike posted.

Jeff posted on his wife’s social media, “There are so many memories that come to mind, literally hundreds of past employees, some I barely remember. As a kid, I grew up riding along any chance I got.”

Many remember the overnight Christmas parties hosted by the Vander Molens at The Amanas for all drivers who drove each year and their families.

Mike said, “In 50 years, the accidents that happened never claimed a driver, one accident did claim the other driver” and some of their drivers were injured in truck accidents.


                “Over the years, we have watched so many farmers load their ‘last load’ of hogs or cattle,” Jeff posted. “Some of those were a sad day, and some were the best day ever (am I right, farm wives?). We have seen so many pig companies grow, struggle, and either go bankrupt or sell out. The livestock industry has seen huge changes in 50 years. The trucking industry has seen even more changes!

“The awesome customers that we served in the 50 years, we can’t even begin to thank them enough. Times sure have changed. It used to be that every farmer had livestock around. Now, there are very few. If you look, there are not even fence posts or cement lots left any more. It kind of makes you wonder where our food will come from one of these days.”


East, west, north, south

                Besides all the livestock hauling they did for the local independent producers and farmers, the business’s trucks have traveled east, west, north, and south from Iowa for millions of miles hauling feeder cattle, feeder pigs (even weaned baby 12- to 13-pound pigs), and hogs and cattle to packing plants.

East: After a load of hogs was delivered from China to Key West, FL, they took them to Iowa State University in Ames to study disease resistance. Many loads of feeder pigs from North Carolina.

West: California loads, feeder calves from Montana, and took exports to Seattle.

North: Many, many pigs from Winnipeg, Canada.

South: Breeding stock to Mexico border, as well as Arizona and New Mexico.

Thank you

No one at the open house had ever heard of such a convoy and then to have most of the trucks parked in the field west of the Vander Molen home and business was truly a once-in-a-lifetime sight.

Reflecting on the event, Marty said about it, “Nothing sad, it was time to quit. It blows my mind all the trucks today, I can’t believe it. I’m convinced we made the right decision, but it’ll be different.” He enjoyed seeing so many former drivers and hearing stories usually starting, “Do you remember...”

“I would like to give a huge thank you to all our past and present loyal customers, employees, and acquaintances. After 50 years, this is not an easy decision to make. All I can say is, ‘It’s time,’” Jeff posted.

Mike said the day was great and reflected on the trucking business and the open house crowd, “You just don’t see this kind of camaraderie anymore, like all these drivers all in one place talking to each other.”

Mike had posted earlier, “There are absolutely no words to even begin to thank all those that had anything to do with us making it through the last 50 years.”

Brent said, “It was amazing to see all the support from the community and the industry. It’s obvious we as a family have worked hard to keep a reputation and that is all thanks to our parents teaching us to put others first and things will work out. Thanks everyone for showing the support to mom and dad and the three of us as well. It means more than anyone can imagine.”

“Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we adjust to a different way of life than we have known for basically all of our lives,” Mike also posted. “This decision to close was not an easy one, and the transition might not be any easier. But we will be okay. We don’t have to look very far at all to see people that are way worse off than us. We can count our endless blessings and remember that this is all part of God’s plan for us.”

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