Sept. 15, 1923 to May 10, 2004
Funeral May 13, 2004 at Zion Ev. Lutheran Church, Mobridge, SD
On the day we all gathered for the funeral of Don, many of us took a few minutes to write down some thoughts about him. We want to share those memories with all of you. The pages that follow will never tell the whole story of Don and his impact on our lives.
Don and I worked on many, many projects together at church. We strung wires to power the air conditioners for the classrooms. That turned out to be a beast of job. He showed me how to light the coal furnace…just dump diesel fuel on the coal and light it with a torch. He taught me how to replace the main breaker box in the parsonage without shutting off the electrical power…quite a hair-raising experience!
We worked to unplug the sewer line to the north janitor’s closet. We finally cut a hole in the wall to cut into the sewer line. As we were cutting with the Sawsall, we hit the copper water line. Well out shoots the water! I had to scramble to shut off the main water valve. Then Don simply patched the leak with a hose clamp and a piece of rubber.
One of the funniest jobs we did was to install a refrigerated water fountain between the girls’ bathroom and the library. There was an old water fountain there, but we needed to reconfigure the drain for the new water fountain. We knew the drain line was in the wall some place, but we didn’t know where. We bashed about 6 holes in the wall looking for the drainpipe. All those holes looked pretty silly when we finally found it!
Today we are wearing matching ties. Don was always proud of his John 3:16 tie. He always commented on our matching ties.- Roger Frey, nephew
I remember my folks going out to Morristown to visit Donnie and Dorothy. Once when Marvin and I were old enough we hiked all the way to the North Dakota border! We had such fun stepping over the “boundary” line.
One summer Dad hired Donnie and Marvin to work for him. They ate meals with us in the house, but slept in the shop. At least a couple of times my sisters and I short-sheeted their bed.
We got to know Donnie better after he moved the family to the little house at Grandma Rose’s. When we’d visit Grandma, there were always kids to play with. Many a summer’s day was spent playing softball, baseball, football, and hid and seek.
Donnie often picked us kids up and took us to school. I don’t remember how many kids would be piled and stacked in the Chrysler, but away we’d go, listening to the sports reports on the radio, arguing or telling jokes.
Donnie has been an inspiration to me, especially in the last years. No matter if he couldn’t hear well or if his knee hurt, he had a smile.
I know that smile came from “something” deep inside – the knowledge that he was a child of God, a forgiven sinner, and a child of the KING.
I shall miss him.- Kathy (Arndt) Krause, niece
Don let me use his old backhoe top dig out a basement.- Calvin Frey, cousin-in-law
Don and I were wiring one day and he intentionally stapled the wire of the fuse box so I would think it wasn’t long enough.- Ben Retzer, friend
I remember him telling how he wired his van up so that it could give GOOD shock to all dogs that wanted to water the wheels! He used an old coil and had it so he could activate it with a switch.- Terry Krause, nephew-in-law
I visited him in the hospital, on the phone and in the home – each time it was a privilege to share encouragement from God’s Word, but at the same time he encouraged me as he spoke of his Savior’s love and care.- Rev. Gerald Geiger
I always enjoyed Don, as he was always interested in the same things that I am.- Robert Ernst, friend
I always enjoyed visiting with Don at family reunions. I could tell he really enjoyed being with his family. He had a story for everything.- Liz Arndt, niece-in-law
I’m going to miss the political discussions Don and I used to have. (We both liked Rush Limbaugh.) I always loved the good times and wonderful food and fun we shared at their house. We’ll miss him very much.- Kathryn Hinker, sister-in-law
There are so many wonderful things that I recall about Don. He cared and he shared his abundance. Example: when they came to my house, he’d come loaded with garden produce and always say, “ Dorothy thinks you aren’t eating enough.” (He didn’t take credit for himself.)- Aunt Emma Nelson
Donnie was my son’s (Daniel Orth) babysitter for 5 years. They use to go outside to his garden and shop. In church when I would go up to communion, I remember Donnie holding out his arms to take him while I went up. Sometimes he would motion to just leave him there after that.- Kim (Arndt) Orth, niece
There are too many memories to count. He was always laughing or smiling. When life wasn’t all that great sometimes, he still would tell people not to take any wooden nickels. I remember the times we would spend at Grandpa and Grandma’s house during the summer. Everyone in town knew him and it would take forever just to go to the grocery store because he would stop to talk to people.
I remember his truck with the square wheels and the van with the sunflower seeds he would have in it. There are so many more, but not enough ink and paper. I’m just glad he’s in heaven now listening to the crickets he hasn’t heard in such a long time.- Naomi Seidl, granddaughter
I remember the summers I spent at their house and all the fun things I did with Grandpa. One I remember very clearly was going West River in his old van. It was fun!
I also remember riding in the truck with square wheels to go pick up some wood for his wood burner. It was a lot of fun, but very bumpy.
There are lots more memories I have of Grandpa, but there would not be enough paper or ink for them all. I’m glad he is in heaven so he can finally hear without a hearing aid.- Laura Seidl, granddaughter
I worked with Don in 1973 and 1974 on scattered sites on the Standing Rock Reservation. We were suppose to plumb the water from the newly dug wells to the house. The days were long and hot.
We had to find new places in the old International van every once in a while to hide our 6-pack of beer. Others would find it before we were ready to quit for the day.- Al Gorham, friend
Every time I went over to Don’s when he had a little job for me, we’d have to discuss the job over his daughter’s beer.
He will be missed.- Terry Rinderneck, friend
Don was our handyman at the Barkers Bootery and even anything that went wrong at our house.
He will be missed. I met him many times at the store and always visited with him. He loved to visit.- Doris Weiszhaar, friend
Don had an outlook on life that we should all try to mimic and duplicate – nothing phased his positive outlook or his concern for others. He will be missed.- Dick Leonard, friend
One thing I remember, before Robert and I were married, Robert and Don went for an airplane ride. Don and Robert were both young and foolish and Don took him for a ride. I wasn’t there, but I know they were doing some “tricks.” Robert hit his mouth and knocked his front teeth loose. Robert couldn’t give me a kiss when he got back because of a sore mouth!
Our families have always been good friends. We had our children in school with theirs way back in the grades. Don and Dorothy always welcomed them into their home.- Grace Bubbers, friend
What I member best from serving Don in the hospital is that I always felt the Lord used Don to build me up more than I could have encouraged him. Don’s optimism and Don’s willingness to share his faith in Christ with everyone is an example I pray we all might follow.- Pastor Norman Seeger
I’m sure there are a lot of things I remember about Don if I took a few minutes, but the one thing that comes to mind immediately is how he delighted my children by wiggling his ears.- Betty (Frey) Nolting, sister-in-law
Don Rabenberg was God’s Guardian Angel. He loved to share plants, knowledge, and seed order books. He dearly loved his green house and the healthy plants he grew. Don had all kinds of garden advice and he was a great garden giant.- Tomi Travis, friend
Don was such an inspiring person. He always encouraged me to do my best and to give all the love I could give to someone and then give them more.
He would support me no matter what, and I could always count on him. When I made him a Valentine one year, (it was quickly made and pretty sloppy) he said that he was proud of me and he said that he would admire it forever. That just tells you that he was such a great person.- Jennifer Kae Travis, friend
I think I was about seven years old and I was staying at Grandpa and Grandma’s house for a few weeks. One night before bed, he took me on his lap and showed me this article he was reading about the Seven Wonders of the World.
The next fall when I was back in school, I told the class about them. I don’t remember all seven of them anymore, but it was fun learning about them.- Angela (Rabenberg) Teble, granddaughter
Donnie was always the first to search me out in the “Rabenberg Crowd” to ask if I was really, really sure I knew what I was getting into. He seemed to always know when I needed a smile and a break in the action.- Kari Tucker, niece-in-law
Don was the #1 plumber when we built our house in 1978-79. When I went over to paint, and Don was there working, it seemed he never got anything done. He would spend the time just talking. I finally decided that if I ever wanted to move into that house and have running water, I best let Don work alone. Then one day I had to wash out paintbrushes and since we were hauling water in jugs, I first rinsed it out in a rain puddle. He really teased me about that!
Then I have to thank Don for the jeans he gave me to use for quilts. He said he had a “few” pair – it turned out to be 76 pair! They made quite a few quilts.
I will miss him.- Sheila Frey, niece-in-law
When Don and Dorothy came back from their honeymoon, they had the first margarine that I had ever seen. You had to squeeze the tubes of margarine to mix the yellow color through it. We always had real butter made with real cream. So this margarine was so fascinating to me.- Marge Wagner, sister-in-law
Walt Balliet called him a genius and who could find a better description of my brother-in-law, Don, who always had a simple, practical solution to all our plumbing and electrical problems.- Norm Frey, brother-in-law
I also have many memories of Don Rabenberg. My sister Betty first had his children
in school when she took her first teaching call at Morristown, SD with all 8 grades. Then when I taught in Mobridge
I had Llewellyn and Rise. Whenever I bragged about my students, Betty would say that they had a good start out
in Morristown!! ;-) When I think about it, Don was the first person to step into the doorway of my classroom when
I first got to Mobridge, and he told me that he knew how I got the call out there. I should have made him elaborate,
but I just thought that the Lord had the biggest hand in it. There is always a reason why the Lord places us where
we are to work and witness.
In the last few months, I was interested in the nutrition that Don was using, so we shared many e-mails and even a few phone calls about that. I am sure that his nutrition regimen added to his stay with us. I shared what he gave me with a neighbor lady who has now just completed her treatments for cancer and is on a maintenance program. Once again it reminded me of the saying that what blesses one, blesses all. It certainly is true of God's Word. Don really had that part down and was able to share it very well. I read the other memories on the web page, and over and over the statement was there that he would be missed. He truly left a Christian legacy for all his family and friends. We will do well to copy his example. I hope that I am able to say that I am "terrific" when I am asked how I am feeling when I have a serious illness. When I shut my eyes, I can see his smile. He was a special "Don" to many. The best part is that he is even more "terrific" now and sharing the blessings of eternity.
No collection of stories about Dad would be complete without mention of his legendary
tree-stump caper. He did this in the middle 70's, when Ted Biehl was his neighbor to the south. Anyone who remembers
Ted Biehl will recall that he was a most fastidious man, caring for his yard with a level of attention to detail
that would make any landscape artist proud. It was Ted's fastidiousness that made this caper so effective. Now,
my understanding is that the germ of the idea came from my brother Lew; he and Dad carried the idea through to
Ted had a row of trees in his back yard, medium-sized trees with trunks about eight inches in diameter. Dad acquired some lengths of tree trunk of similar diameter. He bolted two steel rods about three feet long to one face of one of these trunk pieces, and then, one weekend when Ted was away, "planted" the piece of tree trunk in Ted's yard, at the end of his row of trees. The steel rods anchored the "stump" firmly. The visual effect was that the last tree in the row had been cut down. To enhance the effect, Dad sprinkled sawdust around the stump.
Ted returned home late at night; very tired, he went straight to bed. The next morning, he was at Dad and Mom's back door, quite early. He was so agitated and upset he almost couldn't speak. He finally got his question out: "Did you see someone cut down one of my trees?" Dad replied innocently that he had not. This made Ted even more agitated as he exclaimed, "Someone cut down one of my trees!"
Dad, feigning surprise, asked to see. Ted led him to the stump. Dad looked at it, and then kicked it. Of course, being securely anchored, it did not budge. "But I didn't have a tree there!" Ted cried out in bewilderment and frustration. At that point, Dad could no longer maintain his poker face, and so he reached down and pulled the stump up. Ted's eyes grew bigger and bigger as he realized how he'd been had by Dad.
Of all Dad's jokes and pranks, this one certainly was among the most memorable!