RAPID CITY | Gordon Wicks, 94, passed away peacefully in his sleep at Fountain Springs Health Care on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. He was born at home on Jan. 9, 1927, to Harvey and Goldie Wicks on a farm northeast of Carpenter, S.D. He was the fourth of seven children.
In 1945, at the age of 18, Gordon joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in the Aleutian Islands. After two years he returned to the farm. In 2010, he went on the Honor Flight with other WWII veterans, which was a highlight in his life.
Gordon met the love of his life, Betty Jane Neu, in 1951 at a dance in Carpenter. The two courted primarily through letter-writing while Betty was a nursing student at Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls and Gordon was working on farms around Carpenter. They were married at West Bethany Church in Erwin, S.D., on June 1, 1952. Gordon never stopped declaring himself to be the luckiest man in the world for having found her. They had four children, all raised in Rapid City.
For 17 years Gordon worked for Chicago Northwestern Railroad. He spent the next 21 years working for Black Hills Packing Company.
Gordon Wicks was a dreamer who refused to live an ordinary life. He had dreams of being a baseball player, a boxer, a musician, a writer, a poet, a politician, and an oil and water douser, and he realized those dreams in small ways throughout his life.
Gordon followed his passion, dousing for water and oil. Learning of his success, people would often call him to find water on their land.
Gordon became an avid runner and walker, even setting speed walking records for Senior Olympics. He coached Little League baseball, taught neighborhood kids how to box to protect themselves from bullies, and worked with kids and grandkids to help them become better athletes.
Golfing was one of Gordon's passions, and his golfing buddies will attest that even after the age of 90, Gordon was an admirable competitor. The term "Wicksing it" was coined when he would putt rather than chip from the fairway, sinking many a long shot. He was proud to have hit two hole-in-ones in his 80s.
Gordon loved to read and write and keep up with the world around him. He wrote poetry that he shared with family and friends. A woman once stopped him to thank him for saving her life after he shared a poem he wrote about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
He played piano and guitar and sang for friends and family and to his kids nearly every night before bed. For years the highlight of his week was to play and sing with bluegrass musicians who gathered at Rockerville. In 2006, for Gordon's 80th birthday, his family helped him to produce an album of original music featuring songs about his life in the 1930s and other folk songs that had been sung to him as a child.
Gordon didn't become a politician, but he kept up on politics both historical and current and could argue over coffee with the best of them. People calling his house might well hear him answer the phone with a hearty "Senator Wicks."
If he wasn't there to answer the phone, the caller might hear a voice mail message that started with his energetic singing of "Oh what a beautiful morning..."
Gordon was a jokester and always had a story to tell. He said his day was a success if he could make at least one person laugh.
He and Betty were charter members of Atonement Lutheran Church, a congregation that became a second family. He loved his family, friends and little children with his whole heart. His laugh was contagious, his humor uplifting, his love, hugs and kisses genuine. He will be forever missed by all who knew and loved him.
Betty survives her husband, as do their children: Renee (Dave) Parker; Todd (Cindy) Wicks, Rapid City; Tonya (Rich) Tuley of Parker, Colo.; son-in-law Tony Lammers, Rapid City; sister Ione Gamber, Dallas; and brothers Larry Wicks, Carpenter, S.D., and Milo (Lois) Wicks, Portland, Ore.; 10 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Gordon's heart broke when he and Betty lost their daughter Denise Lammers in 2015. Other losses include his parents, Harvey and Goldie Wicks; brothers Kenneth (Nonie) Wicks and Roland Wicks; sister Phyllis Lathrop; and great-grandson Coen Kenner.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at Atonement Lutheran Church.
A graveside service will be held at 2:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 15, at the Black Hills National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to Atonement Lutheran Church.
Arrangements with Osheim & Schmidt Funeral Home, Rapid City.