Melvin Dirksen

Melvin A. Dirksen passed away peacefully at home surrounded by loved ones on November 2, 2012. He was born April 7, 1931 in McPherson, Kansas. He moved to Colorado in 1952 during the Korean War. Raised as a Mennonite, Mel was a conscientious objector and member of a group of young men brought to Denver under the 1-W program. Mennonites are known as hard-working farmers who don't participate in nations' wars but make alternative service contributions with integrity and industry. After his involvement, he was a milk route salesman/driver for Stearns Dairy, and held other sales positions in industries ranging from specialized cranes to school buses throughout his career. He was 52 when he became an entrepreneur and opened Pioneer Sales and Service, selling Swedish-made Pionjar gas powered jackhammers. It was a perfect fit for a man who enjoyed developing friendships as much as tinkering and fixing things. He continued to run the business through the last weeks of his life, and didn't let his nearly three year fight with Multiple Myeloma cancer force retirement. Having grown up on the family farm, Mel never lost his roots and was passionate about restoring old tractors, in particular bright red International Harvesters. He started with the actual 1937 WD-9 model upon which he had spent numerous hours working fields as a boy. He ended up with an impressive collection of more than 15 and not quite 20 full-size implements. The family hopes to successfully locate all the tractors, stored in various barns, sheds and garages! A joy for Mel was sharing these machines with young and old admirers at summertime parades. Humble, with a ready smile and wry, clever sense of humor, Mel approached life with the motto, "If it isn't fun, don't do it" and soon became a favorite patient of many of his caregivers during chemotherapy and other treatments. An avid golfer, he and his wife of 59 years, Arzella, continued to play as his disease advanced. Beyond collections and mechanical skills, the most gratifying component of his life was his family, immediate and extended, near and far. Along with making jokes, he was in charge of making mashed potatoes at holiday gatherings and could be counted on for entertaining conversations. His positive outlook was most recently tested with the tragic and untimely loss of his 19-year-old grandson Evan, who sustained fatal injuries as a passenger in a car accident on September 9th. Mel is survived by Arzella; his son, Jim and daughters, Jan (Kirk Williams) and Suzanne (Jeff Opp). His remaining grandchildren are Jordan Williams, Kristen Dirksen, and Alexander, Eric, Ted and Griffin Opp. He is also survived by a brother, Evan and two sisters, Erma and Velma. He is preceded in death by his grandson, parents and brother Dennis. A celebration of his life and loves will be held at Denver's First Mennonite Church at 430 W. 9th Avenue on November 10th at 2:00 p.m. to be followed by a traditional German Faspa meal. Donations may be made to the Evan James Dirksen Scholarship Fund In Memory of Mel Dirksen. Please send to: #6250782635 - Attn: Tellers; c/o Wells Fargo Bank, Arapahoe Branch; 9350 E. Arapahoe Road Greenwood Village, CO 80112
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Published in Denver Post on Nov. 8, 2012