Donald Wayne Cromwell, age 86

Donald Wayne Cromwell

Donald Wayne Cromwell, age 86, Draper, S.D. passed away December 16, 2017 at Avera Maryhouse, Pierre. Memorial services will be Thursday, December 21, at 2 p.m., at Draper Auditorium. Burial, with full military honors, will be Friday, December 22 at 12:30 p.m. at Black Hills National Cemetery, Sturgis. Isburg Funeral Chapel has been entrusted with arrangements. Online condolences may be made to the family at
Donald Wayne Cromwell was born July 16, 1931, one of seven kids born to Arthur and Martha (Lesmeister) Cromwell. He was raised on the family farm south of Draper S.D. After graduating from Draper High School, Don worked on the farm until he was drafted in 1952 and served in the Army during the Korean War. While serving as an Army Private, Don received a field promotion to Sergeant. He was in close combat and was close enough he learned the enemy had a diet which had a lot of garlic. He said he knew to pay even closer attention to what was going on if he got a whiff of garlic. He did not talk much about his service other than these kinds of comments. 
While in Korea, Don received one of those "Dear John" letters. He was caught off guard and sad about the end of the relationship. An Army friend from Indiana suggested that Don write to a friend of his girlfriend who he thought Don would enjoy and appreciate. Don and Helen wrote letters to each other for almost two years while Don served in the Army. On Don's Army discharge there were letters going back and forth and an understanding that Don was going back to the family farm.  After Thanksgiving of 1954, Don showed up in Indiana on Helen's front step. He asked her to marry him and she said yes. Don got a job in a refrigerator factory in Indiana and planned to settle there. Don and Helen were married on January 3, 1955. Don's family asked Don and Helen to come back home and help with the family farm. Don and Helen sold what they needed to and bought a grain truck to move their household to Draper in March of 1955. 
Coming back to Draper, Don started wearing many hats. He was a husband, father, farmer, Pee-Wee baseball coach, school board member, American Legion Commander, South Dakota Democratic Party County Chair, town team basketball coach, and all this while farming and raising a family. While on the school board, Don was insistent that girl's sports be supported equally to boy's sports.  He was proud of helping keep the Draper High School open for eight years longer than most people though possible. He served on the Jones County School board and received calls from people all over the county regarding education issues. 
Don and Helen believed education was important. Books. There were a lot of books in the Cromwell household. There was a party line for phone service for four farm households and three television channels available by antenna. The books provided both entertainment and education.  There was fishing in any dam that Don could find. Good fishing would bring out the seine which helped relocate fish to other dams. Sometimes there were White River catfish feeds. There were bullfrogs brought back from Missouri that decided western South Dakota was a good place to live. Some of this was probably not legal but what the heck, statute of limitations has probably long passed.
Trees. Don planted a lot of trees and they thrived. He left his mark that way as well. 
There were hail storms that wiped out wheat crops, farm accidents and record setting blizzards. All the Cromwell kids learned to drive tractors before they drove cars. There were nephews who were sent to the farm for summer rehabilitation. It was a pretty good life for everyone and seldom a dull moment.
The family farm was sold in the early 80's and Don and Helen moved into Draper, taking on a gas station and cafe along I-90. This was a new chapter and a new hat. The locals became the coffee crew who met up in the mornings and afternoons. During this time, coffee shops and diners around the country were touting their  "Rush Rooms". With this, Don and Helen decided to go with a Rush Free Zone for their cafe. This was picked up by the newspaper and then hit a national news magazine followed by calls for interviews from radio programs and newspapers around the country. Don stated in interviews that he had a problem with anyone who would talk trash about women because it was good that women be strong independent people. The Hilltop received fan mail and phone calls from around the country. 
Don said that even if you didn't know what you were doing it would probably work out okay if you just tried to do the right thing. Family and friends would probably recognize his catch phrase of "ah hell, you can do that". He thought anything was possible and couldn't wait to jump into the action.
Don was preceded in death by daughters Deb Haka and Donna Westhoff, and siblings, Laura Mae (at age  two), Clarence, Lawrence and Hazel Darnaby. He is survived by his wife, Helen, Pierre; daughters, Pat Cromwell (Skip Fossen), Rapid City, Robin Cromwell, Draper, Valerie Moore (Rick), Chamberlain; sons, Mike Cromwell (Dawn), Butternut, WI, and Chris Cromwell (Erika), Brandon, S.D.; 19 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; two sisters, Margaret Hansen and Bev (Tom) Maples, Rapid City and a brother, Richard (Nancy) of Silt, Colo. 

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