Life Story / Obituary
John R. (Jack) Wilkinson, passed away September 1st, 2021 at age 93. His most recent residence was Traverse City, MI where he moved in late 2020 to be near his daughter Mary Sue Wilkinson.
Jack was born in DeWitt, Iowa on June 25th, 1928 to Herbert E. Wilkinson and Mary Harrington Wilkinson. He was preceded in death by his first wife of 40 years Marilyn (Ihrke) Wilkinson in 1990 and by his second wife of 22 years Mary Margaret (Meg) Wise Wilkinson in 2018.
In addition to his daughter Mary Sue, Jack is survived by his son Clark Wilkinson of Dubuque, Iowa, his grandsons Craig (Melissa) Wilkinson and Nicholas (Cari) Wilkinson of North Liberty, Iowa; Jesse (Karla) Wilkinson Rose of Traverse City and his step children, Virginia, Jim, Jeff and John Lawlor and their partners. Also surviving Jack are his great grandchildren McKenzie, Andrew, Leon and Arthur. Also surviving him is his brother Dean Wilkinson in Harshaw, WI and his niece and nephew Nancy and Rand Wilkinson.
Jack was born on the family farm in Iowa. His mother’s diary tells of him going to 28 dances in 30 days during a time when the big bands were roaming the country. Plowing the fields after a long night out would often find him falling asleep at the end of the row, only to be caught out by his father who would drive out to wake him up and send him back to work. He taught his children to dance at family dinners at Timmerman’s Supper Club where there was always live music. Light on his feet, he maintained his love of dance throughout his life.
Jack was an avid and accomplished golfer, playing for over 75 years. He made two holes in one and was able to shoot his age from 73 to 87. He was never far from a golf course and cherished the many dear friends he made through that game.
As a young man, Jack was active in the cattle business, first on the Iowanda Farm with his brother and then as a herdsman for the renowned Turner Hereford Ranch in Sulphur, Oklahoma. Traveling across the country in rail cars, sleeping above the bulls, he exhibited cattle at State Fairs throughout the United States. He spoke fondly of his first horse Rusty and his “cowboy hey days”.
A certain gal he was in love with drew Jack back to DeWitt where he married Marilyn the month after she graduated from high school. This did not make her parents happy but they got over it as Clark and then Mary Sue were born. Shortly after that Jack left the farm and began his career in the insurance business. A skilled salesman and motivational leader he quickly moved through the ranks of Farm Bureau. He was then recruited to start a new insurance company in Dubuque, Iowa. Together with Ivan Dull, he started Life of Mid America Insurance Company. With little more than paperclips, a notepad and their entrepreneurial spirit they grew a successful company from which he retired as Senior Vice President of Marketing. He also served on the Board of Directors for several insurance companies and various community organizations.
Jack and his first wife Marilyn then made the move to Naples, Florida where for 10 years they enjoyed old and new friends and many, many rounds of golf. They returned to Iowa to be near their aging parents, eventually settling back in DeWitt, their birthplace.
After Marilyn’s death in 1990, Jack was lucky enough to find another Iowa gal to love. Old friends and the opportunity to play more golf drew him to Mesa, AZ where he met Meg. Dancing and golf were once again in the picture. They fell for each other hard, meeting in February and marrying in May. Together they shared 22 years of love enjoying homes in Mesa, Okoboji, Iowa and finally returning to Florida where they settled at Highlands Ridge in Avon Park. Meg and Jack shared a love of golf and they had many happy years enjoying their life together. Jack often remarked about how lucky he was to have had two great loves in his life.
Jack was an optimist with a great sense of humor. He was the life of the party and had many friends. As a young father, Jack credited Marilyn for doing the bulk of the child rearing. During her illness he became an attentive and loving caregiver. After her passing, Jack’s relationship with his adult children blossomed into a beautiful, supportive friendship. Marilyn would have been so proud. The bond that developed between all of his children, was strong and deep. Grandson Nic says grandpa gave him “intelligent guidance.” In early years he was prone to say “This too shall pass.” In later years his listening ear, sensitivity and caring were profound gifts to his children. During four o’clock cocktails with him or daily calls he offered love, encouragement and wisdom. Simple words of advice often included “Remember what your name is.” “ We’ll get it handled.” And most recently, “As you age your mind will clear.”
Jack’s final week was peacefully spent at Munson Hospice House where he and the family received extraordinary, loving care for which they will be eternally grateful.
Those wishing to remember Jack are invited to donate to a charity of their choice or to simply share a smile and a kind word with a stranger, or a conversation with someone who could bring them a new perspective. And if you find yourself on a golf course – think of Jack.
Jack has been cremated and will be returned to DeWitt, Iowa for internment.
Please share your thought with the family and more.