Milton Harry Duerksen was born on April 2, 1929, at the Bethesda Hospital in Goessel, Kansas, to Marie Schmidt Duerksen and Dan Duerksen. He passed from his earthly life on Dec. 22, 2022, at Bethesda Home, across the street from where he was born. He was 93.
Milton joined a family with two sisters, Ella and Eulalia, and their mother died when he was a year old. His father remarried, and two more children joined the family, Dora and Marvin.
After attending South Bloomfield School, Milt went to Goessel High School, where he would have loved to participate in sports, but his farming responsibilities at home took priority. It was in Goessel High that he noticed one of the five Voth sisters—the one named Alice with the beautiful blonde hair and sweet smile. They were married in 1952 at Tabor Mennonite Church.
A son, Kenneth, was born in 1953, but he died a few days later. Carol arrived in 1954, while Milt and Alice were working in Denver in the 1-W program. After their two years of service, the young family moved back to the Goessel community, and in 1957, Marlo joined the family, followed by Gary in 1961.
Milt was always involved with agriculture. He farmed, worked at a turkey plant, was a hired hand for another farming operation, helped build farm equipment at Hesston Corporation, and sold Nutrena feed from his barn on the farm. He raised hogs and cattle and helped foster a love of animals in his children.
When their children married and brought spouses, grandchildren, and exchange students into the family, Milt and Alice welcomed them with a keen interest in who they were and what was happening in their lives. They traveled to Virginia to watch a play that Travis wrote and directed, spent countless hours watching Olivia’s sports events, purchased yet another Lego set for Zach, and Milt “discussed” the proper color for cattle (red versus black) with Kent regularly.
Milton grew up in Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church and was a life-long, active member there, including serving as a deacon with Alice and as an usher.
Wherever he went, Milt made friends. Forty years after he quit working at Hesston Corporation, he could go for a drive in the country and tell you where some of his friends from the corporation lived. His sense of humor brightened the day of many. When he received special gifts of Mountain Dew and International Harvester items from friends, his grin filled the room; he also let it be known at one point that there would be no green tractors at his funeral.
Milton and Alice enjoyed their family in many ways, and one of the highlights was an annual weekend family trip—a tradition that started more than 40 years ago and continues to this day. When his wife passed in 2011, after nearly 59 years of marriage, it was very hard on Milton. But he found ways to carry on, continuing to do farm work and maintain the upkeep of the farm, yard and house by himself for another nine years.
Milt moved into Bethesda Home in March of 2020, thinking it would be a short-term stay and he would return to his beloved farm. He ended up staying at Bethesda, where he found another “family”—people to tease, care for and accept care from and include in the wide circle of friends who loved this man with the kind heart and ready conversation.
Celebrating his life are his children, spouses, grandchildren and their spouses: Carol Duerksen and Maynard Knepp; Marlo and Lynette Duerksen, Travis Duerksen and Erica Stotlzfus, Kent and Lyndsey Duerksen; Gary and Angie Duerksen, Olivia and Zach; sisters, Dora Unruh and Eulalia Schroeder; brother, Marvin (Rosalie) Duerksen; many relatives and friends.
A celebration of life (an opportunity to reminisce with family) will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4, at Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church, Goessel. A private burial will be at Alexanderwohl Church Cemetery with a memorial service at 10:30 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 5, at the church. Memorial contributions may be made to Bethesda Home in care of Miller-Ott Funeral Home, PO Box 96, Goessel, KS 67053.