Charles Duerksen: 1935-2023
Charles Duerksen died at 1:05 p .m. on Monday, Aug. 7, 2023. Visitation will be held on Thursday, Aug. 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Walter Funeral Home, 553 S Juniper St., in Freeman. A memorial service will take place on Friday, Aug. 18 at 11 a.m. at the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren (EMB) Church, 27196 442nd Ave, 5 miles west and 1 mile north of Marion. Following the memorial service, a reception luncheon will take place at the Freeman Community Center, 224 S. Wipf Street in Freeman.
Charles Duerksen of Freeman, S.D., passed away on Aug. 7, 2023 at the age of 88.
Charles was born in rural Marion, S.D., on June 13, 1935 to John and Marie Duerksen. He cherished his upbringing on the family farm west of Marion, until the family had an opportunity to buy a homestead in the Parker/Monroe area. In his early years the family faced a lot of illness, which motivated him to be a cheerful person and learn to make his family laugh.
Charlie always had a twinkle in his eye, a bit of mischief to make, and stories to tell. The stories Charlie told about childhood were not just tales of hard work during difficult times, but also fun playing pranks with neighbors, teaching himself how to drive a car when his parents were gone, and antics with his dog Tippy.
Charlie’s youth group from the EMB Church attended Bible camp in Nebraska, where he was introduced to Evelyn Friesen. When he visited his sister in Henderson, Neb., a year later, he visited her neighbor’s family, which included Evelyn. Romance budded, and Charles and Evelyn married on June 16, 1956. Their family grew to include children Gregory, Jeanette, Lynette and Beth. Charles and Evelyn’s children learned from their parents what true partnership looks like.
The first 18 years of their marriage, Charles and Evelyn farmed near Parker, and during that time Charles also worked for Becker Brothers operating earth-moving equipment. After driving tractors, combines, and Caterpillars, Charles moved behind the wheel of semi-trucks, first part-time while farming and then full-time managing his own distribution terminal for American Freight for the next 18 years with an owner-operator lease. After closing his trucking business, he served as manager at the Stern Oil Warehouse until his semi-retirement, after which he began a 19-year career as a school bus driver for Freeman Public Schools. In 2020, he retired completely.
Charlie avidly supported his children in their school and music activities, warmly welcomed their spouses when they married, and doted on his grandchildren. Of primary importance was the foundation of faith he laid for his family as he lived out a life of servanthood for Christ. This extended beyond family to friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Friends facing illness could expect a call or visit from Charlie. He was always ready to haul his snowblower or lawn mower to help friends and neighbors, or chauffeur wedding couples in his antique cars.
Charles was a lifelong member of the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren (EMB) Church in rural Marion. He came to faith there at an early age and was baptized there. He excelled at memorizing scripture in Sunday school classes; when his eyesight failed, Charlie relied on those memorized Bible verses to sustain him. He was a leader in the church, serving as elder and trustee in the local congregation. He served 18 years as a trustee with the Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches, traveling to annual conventions. Charlie was also an active member of Gideons International.
Charlie cared deeply about his community, serving on the Freeman Public School Board and Freeman City Council, and acting in community theater productions.
Charles was preceded in death by his son, Gregory; his parents; brothers Alvin and Robert; and sisters Augusta Schultz, Gladys Friesen and Vernelle Ewert.
Left to mourn his passing are his wife of 67 years, Evelyn; children Jeanette (Mark) Anderson of Eden Prairie, Minn., Lynette (Bradley) Sparks of Wyoming, Mich., and Beth (Christopher) Olkiewicz of Ankeny, Iowa; daughter-in-law Ellen Duerksen of Richmond, Va.; and grandchildren: Alek Duerksen, Erika Duerksen, Meredith Sparks (George) Vafeas, Evan Sparks, and Bennett Olkiewicz; and so many family, friends, and former school bus students.
The family is profoundly grateful to the staff at Oakview Terrace for their care of Charlie during the last seven months of his life.
Memorials are suggested to the Global Impact Fund of the Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches:
11605 W Dodge Rd, Ste 3
Omaha NE 68154-2566
Or to the Duerksen Fine Instrument Fund at Augustana University:
Augustana Office of Advancement
2001 S. Summit Ave.
Sioux Falls, SD 57197
Funeral arrangements by Walter Funeral Home of Freeman.