Stories of 'Don'

abound with humor

By Jo Hall
Memories of Don
Donald "Don" Sebastian Rabenberg was a smiling, talkative and fun-loving fellow who left many memories when he died Monday, May 10, 2004, at Mobridge Regional Hospital at the age of 80. Three years ago he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He put up a good battle but it was a losing one. Through it all, he kept going. Even last year, in and out of hospitals, he wanted to get his beloved garden in. He loved flowers and growing plants.

He was born Sept. 15, 1923, on a farm north of Glenham to Rose (Lein) and John D. Rabenberg. He was baptized and confirmed in the Christian faith at St. Jacobi Lutheran Church in Glenham. His high school education was through the SDSU School of Agriculture in Brookings.

On July 19, 1949, he married Dorothy M. Frey, a longtime friend, at Christ Lutheran Church in Morristown by the Rev. Marvin Radke. They lived on a farm north of McLaughlin, in Morristown, and north of Glenham before moving to Mobridge in 1967, where they have since resided.

Through the years, Don has worked as a plumbing and electrical contractor, and had many other interests including flying, hunting, fishing, reading, woodworking and gardening -- all of which lead to stories recalled by friends and relatives.

His nephew Roger Frey worked with Don on many projects at their church and recalls many of the things Don taught him. Things such as lighting the coal furnace by dumping diesel fuel on the coal and lighting it with a torch. And how to replace the main breaker box in the parsonage without shutting off the electrical power.

"Quite a hair-raising experience," in Roger's words, adding, "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 fountain. We knew the drain line was in the wall some place, but we didn't know where. We bashed about six holes in the wall looking for the drainpipe. All those holes looked pretty silly when we finally found it!"

A niece, Kathy Krause, remembered that Don often "...picked up us kids 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 report on the radio, arguing or telling jokes."

A friend who worked with him, Ben Retzer, remembered how they were wiring one day and Don intentionally stapled the wire of the fuse box so Ben would think it wasn't long enough.

Aunt Emma Nelson said, "When he and Dorothy 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."

Several remember Don's truck with the square wheels. "It was a lot of fun but it sure was a bumpy ride!"

Sheila Frey, his niece-in-law, recalls, "Don was the number one plumber when we built our house in 1978-79. When I went over to paint, and Don was working there, 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 better let Don work alone. Then I have to thank him for the jeans he gave me to use for quilts. He said he had a 'few' pair - it turned out to be 76 pairs! They made quite a few quilts."

Don had an airplane for awhile and it, too, left memories. A longtime family friend, Grace Bubbers, said, "Before we were married, my husband Robert and Don went for a ride in Don's plane. They were both young and foolish at the time and couldn't resist doing 'tricks.' Robert hit his mouth and knocked a front tooth loose. He couldn't give me a kiss when he got back because of a sore mouth."

All agreed Don had an outlook on life that we should all mimic and duplicate - nothing phased his positive outlook or his concern for others.

Don leaves his wife Dorothy of Mobridge; sons, Marvin Rabenberg of Mobridge; Dana Rabenberg and wife Cathy of Highlands Ranch Colo., Keith Rabenberg and wife Kathy of Brentwood, Mo., and Llewellyn Rabenberg and wife Beverly of Austin, Texas; daughters, Mrs. John (Rise) Seidl of Volga, Rita Rabenberg and Mrs. Nyle (Lanita) Herbener, both of Sioux Falls; six grandsons and seven granddaughters.

Also surviving are sisters, Dorothy Becker of Mankato, Minn., Mrs. Norman (Ella) Frey of rural Mobridge, Mrs. Paul (Laila) Arndt of Glenham, Mrs. Donald (Barbara) Giese of Mobridge, and Mrs. Bill (Marie) Tucker of Custer; and brothers, John Rabenberg and wife Arlene of Wolf Point, Mont., and Ted Rabenberg and wife Marvie of Parker, Colo.

Don was preceded in death by his parents and grandparents.

Funeral services for Don were Thursday, May 13, at Zion Lutheran Church in Mobridge with the Rev. Paul Schulz officiating.

Casketbearers were Roger Frey, Doug Arndt, Denis Becker, David Rabenberg, Joel Tucker and Gery Giese. Ushers were Ralph Rabenberg and Robert Ernst.

Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery under the direction of Kesling Funeral Home of Mobridge. A prayer service was held the preceding evening at the funeral home.

Memorials were directed to Great Plains Lutheran High School in Watertown.