Donald D. Denke________________________________
Donald Dean Denke, Riverton, Wyo., formerly of Philip, S.D., was born June 24, 1938, to Reinhold and Rose (Helms) Denke. He was the sixth of 11 children on the farm near Pedro.
As a child, he worked on the family ranch, first learning to farm using horses, and then with tractors, which began his long love of anything with an engine. He told of working with his brothers, driving two tractors with a wire between them, dragging the wire across fields of certified seed alfalfa to assist in pollination.
He attended school at a rural school and was confirmed in the Lutheran church.
He graduated from the eighth grade and went to work for various neighbors up and down the Cheyenne River as a ranch hand. He also helped put in some of the first telephone lines in the area. He was in the National Guard in South Dakota for six years. He worked as apprentice in the body shop and learned to work sheet metal and repair cars, and also went to John Deere school while working at the John Deere dealership in Philip and had a private fence building business.
On October 17, 1959, he married Delores Hansen of Philip at the First Lutheran Church in Philip.
He liked to build and make things, and farming, so when he had an opportunity in 1964, he moved to the Midvale Irrigation Project (the Second Division Part) at a time of considerable turmoil on the project.
He participated in many conservation projects, such as land leveling, concrete ditch lining, seeding permanent pastures, and always believed in balancing his crops with animals. He re-fenced the farm according to watersheds, and preserved native ecosystems which have prehistoric relics on them. He also pushed alfalfa as a nutritious livestock feed and an irrigated crop for the area.
He enjoyed modifying his equipment and that of his neighbors to fit their needs and made, but did not patent, several pieces of very handy farm equipment. He also built a solar house, and a potato cellar. He raised potatoes for many years and sheared for neighbors. He delivered the farm lamb crop to Riverton 47 out of the 49 years that he was here.
He is survived by two sisters, Gayla Logan of Philip and Cerella Overgard of Riverton, Wyo., and two brothers, Marvin of Philip and Byron on the family ranch.
He was preceded in death by his parents, a sister and five brothers. He is also survived by his wife of 54 years, Delores, and his children. He liked to say, “I have six daughters and each one of them has a brother” – Dr. Patricia Denke and her husband, Dr. Jeff Littlefield, their daughter, Miranda Rose, and great-granddaughter, Alyce Rose; Doneen and her husband, Tom Fitzsimmons, and their sons, T.J. and Josh; Juanita Mair and her husband, Randy, with son, Dylan with wife, and Parker and Slade; Crystal Edwards and her husband, Gordon, of Riverside, Calif., son, Sean of Detroit and daughter, Ariel, in California; Lisa Denke of Laramie, Wyo.; Richard and his wife, Angela; and Ginger Bennett and her husband, Matt, with daughter, Delores, in Riverton.
Don spent the last few years of his life fighting cancer, ending with a long battle with bone cancer. His struggles ended after a stroke on November 19, 2013, which put him into the Riverton hospital. He finally passed from this earth on November 27.
In keeping with his requests, cremation has taken place. Donald also requested that in lieu of services, people take a moment from their day to remember him.