Gene Ficken is a retired teacher and coach and a longtime Independence community leader. He was born and raised on a farm near Spirit Lake, Iowa. He graduated from high school in 1962 and attended Iowa Lakes Community College. Gene finished his bachelor’s degree in science at State College of Iowa in Cedar Falls in 1996 and his master’s degree in biology from the University of Northern Iowa in 1977. Gene later did postgraduate work in biotechnology at Iowa State University in Ames.
Gene was employed by Independence Community Schools as a high school biology instructor for 33 years, until his retirement from the classroom in 1999. During his time at Independence High School, Gene was chairman of the K-12 science program. He was also the sponsor of the IHS National Honor Society for 14 years. Gene helped organize, develop and implement the girls’ athletic program at IHS in 1972. He served as the sophomore girls’ basketball coach for 12 years, head softball coach for 16 years and head track and field coach for 34 years, until his retirement in 2006. Gene was a member of the Independence Teachers Association, where he served as vice president and president. Gene is a lifetime member of the Iowa State Educational Association and the National Education Association.
In his community, Gene served as a coach for youth sports in football, basketball and baseball/softball. Gene also coached AAU basketball for boys and girls. He was an active member of the local Jaycees and Kiwanis groups. He is now involved with local Democratic groups, serving on the central committee.
Gene’s wife, Michelle, is a registered nurse, employed at the Mental Health Institute in Independence, where she works in the Cromwell Children’s Unit. Michelle is a member of the Iowa Nurses Association and AFSCME collective bargaining unit. She has also been a board member of the Buchanan County Health Trust.
Gene and Michele are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Independence, where both have been active on numerous committees. Gene has been a member of the church council and has served as congregational president. Gene and Michelle were actively involved with the World Wide Marriage Encounter for many years.
Gene is presently a part-time employee at Reiff Funeral Home in Independence. He has three children: Travis, Garret and Paige. He has a grandson, Tyler. In his free time, Gene enjoys building scale model Oliver tractors and implements, riding bikes and going to Hawkeye games.