Donald Harper Dinkel (1931 - 2018)

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Donald Harper Dinkel, 86, of Wasilla, Alaska, passed away at his home on Jan. 13, 2018. Don was born on Dec. 17, 1931, in Hay Springs, Neb., to Harold and Frances Dinkel. The Dinkel family came to Alaska in 1937, as part of the Matanuska Colony Project. In high school, Don was inspired by Dr. Myron F. Babb, a horticulturist at the Agriculture Research Station in Palmer, Alaska, and was determined to pursue a career in horticulture. He met his wife, Bonnie Anderson, while studying at the University of Minnesota, and they married on June 13, 1954.
Don received his Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from the University of Minnesota in 1960, and moved with his young family to Palmer to accept a position at the Agriculture Research Station. He eventually became Professor of Plant Physiology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Experiment Station and retired as Professor Emeritus in 1983.
Don was well known for his research in developing practices and protocols for growing vegetables, fruits and flowers for both commercial and home gardeners in subarctic conditions with cool soil temperatures and long day length. These techniques, and his generous sharing of knowledge, enabled many gardeners to successfully grow crops in Alaska. Following retirement from UAF, the family moved back to Wasilla to build a home overlooking the Palmer Hay Flats and the Chugach Mountains. From 1980-2009, Don and his brother, Gene, operated a commercial nursery propagating and selling hardy perennials and shrubs. Don continued his plant research while in retirement and continued to garden up until his passing. Don's ability to grow exceptionally large cabbages was recognized by several regional and national publications.
In 2017, the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association honored him with a lifetime membership award in recognition of his contributions to horticulture in Alaska. Don summarized his legacy warmly: "I don't think I would have wanted to go anywhere else. I had some awfully good students, I think that's my best accomplishment. The students."
In keeping with his strong Christian faith, Don was an elder, deacon and trustee of the First Presbyterian Church of Wasilla. He was a life member of the Free and Accepted Masons of Alaska Matanuska Lodge #7, a long-time member and past president of the Pioneers of Alaska, an active member of many other service-oriented organizations and a frequent volunteer.
Don is survived by his wife, Bonnie; daughters, Kris Dinkel and Debora Steffen; son, David Dinkel; grandchildren, Brenna Dinkel, Luke Steffen and Lauren Steffen; brother, Gene Dinkel; sisters, Joyce Kvernplassen and Audrey Miller; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his son, Gene Steven Dinkel; brother, Francis Dinkel; sister, Flo Tryck; and parents, Harold and Frances.
A celebration of life service will be held on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the First Presbyterian Church of Wasilla, 1375 E Bogard Road, Wasilla, AK 99654, with Pastor Henry Woodall officiating. Reception to follow in Fellowship Hall. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Dinkel and Dinkel fund at the First Presbyterian Church.
Funeral Home
Legacy Wasilla Heritage Chapel
1015 South Check Street
Wasilla, AK 99654
(907) 373-3840
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Published in Anchorage Daily News on Jan. 26, 2018
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