Obituary: DONALD EUGENE WILKEN
July 8, 1926 – January 27, 2022
Donald Eugene Wilken was born at the Wilken homestead northwest of Faith on July 8th, 1926, to Henry and Georgia (Wilson) Wilken. He attended local country schools and graduated from Faith High School in 1944. He began ranching and farming with his father. He attended Black Hills State College during the summers, then taught in country schools for the next four years. In 1950 he was called into the Army and was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, for two years. He took up flying while in the service and purchased his own plane. He returned to the ranch and went back to teaching country schools in Perkins County. While teaching at the Prairie View School, he met Lulu Mae Lyon, who was also teaching. They were married May 25, 1955. They continued to teach and ranch for three more years until 1958, when Don and Lulu Mae stayed home to ranch full time. Linda was born that fall, and Gary was born in 1961. Don and Lulu Mae loved the ranch life, raising their family, and getting together with their neighbors and playing cards. Gary and Lori joined them on the ranch in 1989. Don and Lulu Mae enjoyed traveling including three trips to Alaska. Catching good fish was always a highlight for Don.
Throughout his life, he was a follower of Jesus and a faithful church member. He was a quiet, patient man who daily lived out his faith. Don was so faithful in his care of Lulu Mae as her health failed. He loved to serve his family and anyone who would join by serving his daily coffee time. During coffee time, he prioritized reading the Bible and the Daily Bread. He enjoyed hearing about what was happening on the ranch and always shared sound advice. Grandad loved his grandchildren dearly and was always interested in their activities. He loved it any time his grandkids stopped by to visit generously supplying them with fruit, root beer floats, and gum. He also treasured their phone calls.
His life of seeking and serving his Savior mirrored Psalm 1, which tells how the man who delights in the Lord is blessed. His depth of character and unwavering faithfulness to God and his family rooted his family in a deep way. “Like a tree planted by streams of water,” he helped ground his family in the truth of God’s Word that doesn’t change over time. “It yields its fruit in season; its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers.” In this culture that pressures us to find our worth in achievement, his humility and dependence on God points us back to Jesus. Like an evergreen tree, much like those he cultivated on the Wilken Ranch, his life bore fruit in both difficult and sweet times. Living through so many decades of change, his quiet heart before the Lord did not wither, but prospered.
Don passed to heaven on January 27, 2022 at the age of 95 at Monument Health in Rapid City. Services will be held at Bethel Free Lutheran Church in Faith on Thursday, February 3, 2022 at 10:30 am, with a lunch to follow at the American Legion Hall. Burial will be held at the Chance Cemetery near Meadow with military honors. There will be coffee time at Don’s house following the burial. Visitation will be at Bethel Church on Wednesday, February 2, 2022, from 5-7 pm. A family service will be held at 7 pm.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Lulu Mae, who passed in 2012, his parents, an infant sister, his brother, George Wilken, brother-in-law, Franklin (Red) & Margaret Lyon and sister-in-law, Sam & Helen Tidball. Celebrating his life and journey to heaven are his children, Linda & Erling Olsen, Dupree, SD and Gary & Lori Wilken, Meadow, SD, his grandchildren Monica (Andy) Coyle, Lee (Jamie) Olsen, Ann Wilken, Katie Wilken, Tricia (Cody) Herman, Susan (Tayte) Goodman, Lindsey Wilken & fiancé, Teigan Clark, Josh and Seth Wilken and great grandchildren, Moriah, Isaiah, Josiah, Levi, Daniel and Anna Mae Coyle, Trace and Eli Olsen, and Jacob Herman, his sister-in-law, Janet Wilken and many special nieces and nephews.