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Russ O. Wilkins

December 25, 1935 ~ October 3, 2018 (age 82)

Russ Ordal Wilkins “is free” as he was called home peacefully after his courageous battle with Alzheimer’s on October 3, 2018, in Yankton, SD, with family at his side.

A Celebration of Life will be at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, October 8, 2018, at Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Watertown, SD.  Rev. Dan Ofstehage will officiate.  Visitation will begin at 10:00 a.m. at the church on Monday.  Burial will be at Mount Hope Cemetery.  Russ will be laid to rest in his own handcrafted casket.  Honorary pallbearers will be the Kampeska Chapter Izaak Walton League and Russ’ coffee buddies.  Active pallbearers will be J. Thomas Larson, Dan Runkle, John Ross, Jack Larson, Logan Amdahl, Robin Kilness and DeeAnne Kilness.

Russ was born on December 25, 1935, in Huron, SD, to Martin and Gena (Ordal) Wilkins.  Clark, SD was home to Russ and his sister, Gwen.  He spent his summers working as a lifeguard and helping out at the Wilkins Drug Store.  He graduated from Clark High School and continued on with his education at Springfield Teachers College.  There he met Charlene Peterson who became his lifelong partner on February 15, 1957.  His love for learning, creating and teaching led him to earn his Master’s Degree at Northern Colorado College.  Russ began his teaching career in Beresford, SD.  He then moved to Brandon, SD, where he taught Industrial Arts and later served as Principal and Superintendent at Brandon Valley High School.  Over the years at Brandon Valley High School he implemented many educational programs  He lead the charge to increase educational expectations and secured resources for developing infra structure to support the future growth of the Brandon Valley School District.  Russ retired as superintendent in 1980.  He then moved to Watertown, SD, where he was the owner of Dakota Promotional Fundraising.  Russ was a member of Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Elks, Izaak Walton League, Lions and the Watertown City Council.  He was always concerned about the sustainability and future of Lake Kampeska.

Russ had a passion for running.  He started running with Pastor Don, a close friend and neighbor, on the gravel roads just outside of Brandon, SD.  He started one section at a time and built up to completing 12 marathons.  His dream was to run a marathon with each of his four daughters.  This dream came true!  He continued to run until one year before his passing.

Russ enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, horseback riding, fishing, sailing, hunting, woodworking and Harley riding with his “coffee buddies”.  Throughout his life his hands were never idle.  He designed and constructed each home he lived in.  Russ would spend timeless hours in his “man cave” designing and creating beautiful wood projects on his lathe.  Some of his creations included: duck calls, wood ducks, wood duck houses, caskets, step stools, and memorial flag cases, which he personally delivered to military families in South Dakota.

Russ especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren on the shores of Lake Kampeska.  His grandchildren held a special place in his heart, always bringing him joy and happiness.

To cherish memories are his spouse, Charlene Wilkins of Watertown, SD; four daughters: Debra (Dan) Runkle of Dubuque, IA, Sondra (John) Ross of Long Groove, IL, Janene Wilkins of Watertown, SD and Amy (J. Thomas) Larson of Rapid City, SD; the “joy” of his life, his grandchildren: Logan Amdahl, Christina Ross, Chloe Larson and Jack Larson; his sister, Gwen Kilness of Howes, SD; his nephew, Robin (Linda) Kilness and family of Howes, SD; his niece, DeeAnne Kilness of Marcus, SD; step-grandchildren: Tad Runkle, Sara Runkle (Gene Kennedy) and Nathan (Jaclyn) Ross; and his step-great-grandchildren: Owen Kennedy, Julian Kennedy, Olivia Ross and Collin Ross.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Martin and Gena Wilkins and twin grandchildren, Alexandria and Elizabeth Ross.

The family wishes to give special thanks to family and friends for their continuous support and to the staff at both Reflections in Watertown, SD, and the South Dakota Human Services Center in Yankton, SD.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Reflections Memory Unit (Jenkins) or the Kampeska Chapter Izaak Walton League.


“Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free,  I’m following the path God laid for me.  I took his hand when I heard him call, I turned my back and left it all.  I could not stay another day, to laugh, to love, to work or play.  Tasks left undone must stay that way.  I found that peace at close of day,  If my parting has left a void, then fill it with remembered joy.  A friendship shared, a laugh a kiss, Ah yes, these things I too will miss.  Be not burdened with times of sorrow, I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.  My life’s been full, I’ve savored much.  Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.  Perhaps my time seemed all to brief, don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.  Lift up your hearts and share with me, God wanted me now; He set me free." -Larry Neumann











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