Donald Weidenbach died peacefully on April 2, 2022, at the age of 100. He passed away one month after his beloved wife, Charleen, died on March 1 at age 95.
Don was born on October 30, 1921, in Heil, ND and raised in Scotland, SD. Although his immediate family was small, he was part of a large extended family living in the Dakotas. Don was proud of his Germans from Russia ancestry, which he researched extensively over decades.
Growing up, Don was an enthusiastic member of his high school and college bands, playing the baritone; and of his Boy Scout troop, becoming an Eagle Scout. Don graduated from South Dakota State University in 1943 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. After graduation, he served in the Army in World War II, operating a radio communications station in the Philippines. He served from 1944-46 and attained the rank of Captain.
After the war, Don was hired as an electrical engineer at Electronic Research Associates in St. Paul, which later became Univac, where he spent most of his career. Don’s work there involved digital recording technologies and was part of the fledgling computer industry. In the last few years, he was featured in articles in the Star Tribune and the SDSU alumni magazine and in the PBS documentary program Solid State about his pioneering work.
Don and Charleen were married nearly 70 years. They raised their five children in St. Paul and Bloomington and spent time at their cabin at Bay Lake, where Don happily taught family and friends alike how to fish and water ski. They enjoyed traveling, including taking the family to an annual reunion in Montana. Over the years, the family took many other trips here and abroad. One of Don’s last plane trips took place in 2014, when he was thrilled to take the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. in recognition of his military service.
He and Char were longtime, active members of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington, MN, where he loved singing in the choir and attending men’s Bible study. Along with Char, he volunteered with many organizations over the years, notably Loaves and Fishes and Meals on Wheels. Don served on the board of Plymouth Christian Youth Center from 1964-77, and for many years volunteered as a traveler’s assistant at the Minneapolis Airport.
For the past 11 years, Don and Char lived at 7500 York Senior Cooperative in Edina, where he took up gardening and cooking, which was so helpful when Char’s health declined. He especially enjoyed cooking foods of their German and Norwegian backgrounds, and baking bread in his trusty bread machine. With help from family and wonderful caregivers, Don lovingly cared for Char, including during the worst of the pandemic.
Don was preceded in death by his parents, Gus and Emma Weidenbach; his sister, Elaine Owens; his wife, Charleen; and his son Carl, who died in 1971. He is survived by his children Jan Marshall (Tom); Grant Weidenbach; Lisa McGowan (Patrick); and Gretchen Weidenbach (Marc Farley); six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Charleen Helen Weidenbach (nee Hanson) died peacefully at age 95 on March 1, 2022, in Edina, Minnesota with her daughter Jan by her side. Born in 1926, Charleen grew up on Silver Lake Farm near Hawley, Minnesota, graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, and in 1952 married Donald Weidenbach. They were married for almost 70 years and made a wonderful, loving pair.
Charleen and Don loved traveling. Over the decades, they, along with the family, made over 50 trips out to Montana to gather on the Boulder River with her college roommates and their families and friends. Along the way, they would always stop to visit relatives and friends. She and Don took four trips to Europe, including one in 1970 for six weeks with all five kids! On this trip, they were delighted to visit Charleen’s relatives near Bergen, Norway, the birthplace of her grandfather. As lifelong learners, Don and Char participated in Elderhostel programs in both the U.S. and abroad. They also loved spending time at their cabin at beautiful Bay Lake with family and friends.
After years of raising children, Charleen worked for 15 years at Augsburg College in the Admissions Department, where she coordinated the Adult Scholars and Elderhostel Programs and assisted transfer students. She loved being a part of the vibrant Augsburg community and found her work there interesting and meaningful.
Charleen was a longtime, active member of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington, where she and Don coordinated the congregation’s participation in the Loaves and Fishes program to feed the hungry. She was a generous supporter of a wide range of worthy causes, including memberships to museums and other cultural institutions around the Twin Cities. Charleen enjoyed knitting and was always creating caps to donate to newborns and cancer patients.
Warm, intelligent, well read, and with a wonderful dry sense of humor, Charleen would quietly dispense words of wisdom. She cherished her family and made all of us feel special and loved. In her last years she faced difficult health challenges with amazing courage and grace. We will miss her dearly and always keep her in our hearts.
Charleen was preceded in death by her parents, Simon and Alma Hanson; her son Carl, who died at age 10; and her sisters Chris Liggett and Esther Johnson and their husbands.
Yankton Press & Dakotan
May 27, 2022