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Richard “Dick” Wilkinson, formerly a longtime resident of Mora, Minnesota died Friday, April 24 at home in Mesa. He was 87 years old.
Dick was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1933, eldest son to Henry Allan and Irene Carroll Wilkinson. Spending his formative years in Nebraska, he had many great memories of summers with aunts, uncles and cousins in the state’s western Sandhills. In 1948, the family resettled to Minneapolis from Omaha when his father, an engineer, was transferred by Western Electric Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of today’s telecommunications giant AT&T.
Upon graduating from Roosevelt High School in south Minneapolis, Dick attended the University of Minnesota for two semesters and then served with the US Marine Corps. Following his honorable discharge, he too worked for Western Electric in the Twin Cities.
In 1959, he married Mora native Mary Danielson and in 1968 the couple returned to her hometown, purchasing Freddie’s Drive-In from Don Holland. Over the next three decades, the couple grew that business into a popular indoor dining restaurant with more than 100 seats and a thriving catering operation located along Highway 65. The restaurant was noted for its roasted chicken, fresh-baked caramel and cinnamon rolls and a dozen varieties of specialty pies. During their tenure, they employed hundreds of people and gave many high schoolers their first jobs.
Dick was a member of Mora Masonic Lodge 223 and the Lion’s Club. He also was an avid golfer, shuffleboard player in Arizona and, for a few years in Mora, an amateur youth hockey coach. Before Mora had its outdoor ice rinks built in the Kanabec County Fairgrounds, he and friend Jim Donahue secured use of the Mora Fire Department’s used firefighting hoses and flooded rinks at the local Natural Resources Forestry grounds on the western edge of Mora.
When time allowed, he enjoyed travel, making autumn visits to a deer hunting shack in northern Kanabec County that was co-owned with a group of friends. He also made trips to Manitoba where he hunted snow geese. Perhaps surprising to some is that Dick was a voracious reader, lover of card games, a dabbler with chess and fly fishing, and he became a wood carver in retirement, creating figurines and pieces in bas relief.
He is preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by Mary, his wife of nearly 62 years and by two sons Todd in Bozeman, Montana and Steve (Becky) in Plainfield, Illinois, plus six grandchildren—Zooey, Natalie, Matthew, Charlie, Abby and Zack. In addition, he is survived by his brother, Gordy (Jeanne), and two nephews, Shea and Sean.
As with every life, there is always a deeper backstory that helps explain who people are—details that never appear in pithy narratives of local obituaries. While Dick was a complicated man who sometimes struggled to articulate what was in his heart, he had profound gratitude for the unconditional support, love and companionship of his wife, the family and friendships they had in Mora, Mesa and beyond, and fond remembrances of the people who worked for him and Mary at Freddie’s.
No funeral services are planned. His ashes will be scattered at favorite locations in the West and Midwest.