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Walter Van Tassel

February 16, 1924 - July 12, 2012

Walter Van Tassel, age 88 of Midland, died Thursday, July 12, 2012, at the Hans P. Peterson Memorial Hospital in Philip.
Walter Harlan Van Tassel was born February 16, 1924, in Ottumwa, Iowa, to Walter E. and Ruth Van Tassel. Walter (“Junior” to many) moved to the Midland area in 1929 where he lived with his grandparents, William and Pearl Lee, on the 1912 homestead ranch north of Ottumwa and was raised like brothers and sister with his aunt, Fern (Lee) Konst, and his uncle, Bill Lee.
Walter was educated at the Mattison Country School where he graduated the eighth grade.
Walter continued to farm and ranch with the Lees and became very mechanically inclined, working on the farm equipment, keeping it moving during the war years (baling wire and a good set of pliers will fix anything).
In 1951, a custom farming crew from Nebraska made its way into the Ottumwa (S.D.) area. Joann Walker, who was driving truck for her parents, was invited to a birthday party for Bill Lee, where she met Walter. There were several trips to Nebraska over the next year that culminated in their marriage in 1952. Walter continued to work the ranch with the Lee’s and started his family. Walter and Bill Lee established the Golden Willow Ranch on the original homestead, which raised registered Black Angus cattle, certified seed, farming and custom grain cleaning.
Over the years, Walter worked hard to improve the quality of seed produced by Golden Willow Seeds. During this time period, Walter was recognized with several awards, including the 1991 South Dakota Certified Seed Grower of the year. In 1995, Walter and Joann were invited to participate as ambassadors for People to People mission and traveled to China. They also made trips to various locations in the United States and to Mexico. It was during this period that Walter got to meet and shake hands with former president, Jimmy Carter.
All who knew Walter had no doubt of his honesty and work ethic. Seldom was work being done that he was not involved in. He enjoyed talking with people who came to visit or have grain cleaned. If you were around him for any amount of time, you got the benefit of his story telling and his ever-present big smile and a sparkle in his eyes. He also enjoyed working on all machinery, from the simplest to the most complex, and could get just about anything back up and running. Unfortunately, he never got around to building his “flying machine” but got to fly in an airplane with son Jim and finally got to ride in a helicopter last summer. One of his favorite pastimes was fishing. He always enjoyed hunting, playing the violin and accordion, and tinkering.
Grateful for having shared his life are his wife of 59 years, Joann Van Tassel; four children, Steven Van Tassel (Susan) of Midland, Sandra Heaton (Dennis) of Midland, Linda Clavel (Ted) of Mankato, Minn., and James Van Tassel (Brenda) of Midland; eight grandchildren, Terri (Heaton) Staben, Gina (Heaton) Steinlicht, Jesse Heaton, Brady Clavel, Krista (Clavel) Brown, Michelle Van Tassel, LaRae Van Tassel and Ryan Van Tassel; five great-grandchildren Michael Steinlicht, Megan Steinlicht, Erika Steinlicht, Leah Staben and Zoe Staben; a half-brother, Donald VanTassel of Ottumwa, Iowa; a half-sister, Eunice Valentine (Phil) of Ottumwa, Iowa; a special aunt, Fern Konst; and a special uncle, William “Billy” Lee.
Walter was preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Ruth (Caster) Van Tassel; a half-brother, Vern Van Tassel; and his maternal grandparents, William and Pearl Lee.
Funeral services were held Monday, July 16, at the American Legion Hall in Philip, with Pastor Kathy Chesney officiating.
Music was provided by Barb Bowen, pianist, and Chuck and RuthAnn Carstensen, vocalists.
Ushers were Reuben Vollmer and Mickey Daly.
Pallbearers were Mark Foland, Glen Hostutler, Tony Willoughby, Ed Heeb, Dean Heeb and Vincent Schofield.Honorary pallbearers were his “birthday buddies,” Vern and Carrol Foland, Lawrence and Ronda Schofield, all of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Interment was at the Masonic Cemetery in Philip.
A memorial has been established to the Midland Volunteer Fire Department and the Midland Ambulance.
Arrangements were with the Rush Funeral Home of Philip.
His online guestbook is available at www.rushfuneralhome.com