Richard T. “Dick” Wilkinson, 93, of Heppner passed away peacefully at Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Heppner on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. A funeral service will be held Wednesday, December 16, 2015, at 11 a.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church in Heppner. Concluding service with military honors and Masonic ritualistic service will follow at the Heppner Masonic Cemetery.
Dick was born on December 19, 1921, near Heppner, the son of Frank and Wavel Ball Wilkinson. As a small child Dick was taught to do his share of work on the ranch. The thing that became ingrained in him was a good work ethic, which led him to become the successful rancher that he was. He went to school in the one-house school at the mouth of Skinner Creek near Heppner, then attended the rest of grade school and high school in Heppner, graduating with the class of 1939.
He entered Oregon State University in the fall of 1941, taking animal husbandry. Military service interrupted his college after three terms. He served with the United States Army during World War Two, and was stationed in Hawaii. Dick took several courses at the University of Hawaii while stationed there.
On his return to the ranch after World War Two he went into partnership with his father. On October 31, 1951, he married Virginia Dean Cochell; they were happily married for 62 years. After his father’s death in 1957 the ranch continued to work as a family partnership. From a beginning acreage of approximately 750 acres Dick steadily enlarged his private land holding to include over 30,000 contiguous acres. He always maintained an active range improvement program and practiced successful conservation measures to preserve the land.
In 1965 Dick was named Cattleman of the Year. He was president of the Morrow County Livestock Growers for two terms, and served on the executive committee of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. He was on the county school board for many years, and was chairman in 1963, when the board’s most notable achievement was getting a new high school built in Heppner. He served as a rural electric administration director, presently known as the Columbia Basin Electric Cooperative, for 21 years, director on the Federal Land Bank Board for 23 years, member of Morrow County Planning Commission and the county medical board.
In 1994 he was honored as the first “Landowner of the Year” in Oregon, in recognition of outstanding contribution to fish and Wildlife resources in Oregon. Dick was also honored as 1997 Business of the Year and 1998 Diamond Pioneers by the Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences.
Other memberships include the Morrow County and Oregon cattlemen’s associations, Oregon Wheat Growers League, and Morrow County Farm Bureau. Dick’s other affiliations include Blue Lodge Masons, Royal Arch Masons, Scottish Rite, Al Kader Shrine, Eastern Star, Elks Lodge and American Legion.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Virginia Wilkinson; parents Frank and Wavel Wilkinson; sister Frances Oslund; daughters Judith Paine Shannon and Pamela Wunderlich and her husband Mark; sister Shirley Rugg; grand- and great-grandchildren; and nieces and other Wilkinson relatives in Canada.
Memorial contributions may be made to Pioneer Memorial Hospital Long-Term Care, P.O. Box 9, Heppner, OR 97836 or to Willow Creek Terrace Assisted Living, 400 Frank Gilliam Drive, Heppner, OR 97836.
Sweeney Mortuary of Heppner is in care of arrangements.