Cover photo for Donald William Leffelbein's Obituary
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Donald William Leffelbein

February 9, 1920 — May 11, 2024

Cove, Utah

Donald William Leffelbein

It is hard to go over 104 years of a person’s life in just a few minutes.  I will try to touch on the high points of the life of Donald William Leffelbein in the time I have.  Don was born February 9, 1920, to William August Herman Leffelbein and Metta (or Mattie) Bosselman. He was actually born in a hospital in Dawson County, Nebraska, not at home.  He was the youngest of seven children, 5 sisters: Lillian Marie, Norma Hazel, Helene Mable, Bertha Rose, and Esther Alice Lorene, as well as one brother, Clarence Freddie August.  The family lived on a farm outside of Lexington, Nebraska.  They were never rich in dollars and cents but always had enough to eat and clothes to wear.  This was because they raised almost all their food.  They had over 100 chickens for eggs to eat and sell, cows for milk and cream to sell as well as make butter, pigs for meat along with beef and chicken, and a huge garden and orchard for fruits and vegetables. His father built their home himself as well as outbuildings for horses, tractors, and blacksmithing. 

As a child, Don pretty much made his own fun.  He loved cars and would make car shapes out of scraps of wood.  They didn’t have wheels but pushed along fine in the dirt behind the chicken coop.  I think he pretty much had the original Pinewood Derby Car.  The highlight of these years was when his aunt bought him a metal car with real wheels.  He also loved his dogs and cats and would use them to make chores fun.  For example, squirting milk in the cat's mouth as he milked (which made him a slow milker!) or putting his dog on top of corn cobs stacked in his red wagon as he brought them to the house to be used in the cook stove. 

Don started school at the age of four.  He would ride behind his big brother on his bicycle to their one-room schoolhouse.  Everyone said he was the teacher’s pet.  Each day they would sing a song from THE GOLDEN BOOK OF FAVORITE SONGS.  Later he would sing these songs to himself as he drove the tractor on the farm. 

Don loved machines.  His first love was his bicycle that he received one Christmas.  He immediately went out to where the snow had blown away beside the barn and learned to ride the bike.  After that, he didn’t get to ride behind his brother but had to use his own pedal power.  He could be heard to say, “Hey wait for me”.  He would also ride his bike on a path he made through a grove of trees on the farm.  He would go round and round on it as fast as he could. 

His second love was tractors and engines.  He did not like farming with horses at all so when they got their first tractor, he gladly made a deal with his brother; Don would do the farming and Clarence would do Don’s chores.  Clarence did not like tractors so it was a win/win situation. Then there were engines.  Don repaired his neighbor’s Model T car engine by himself at age 10 over the space of three days, “not working on it all the time," just in his spare time.  The car ran fine after that.  He also would work all day repairing the engine that pumped water from their well, rather than pump it by hand which might take five minutes to get one bucket.  Don was creative as well, working with his brother to convert an old car into a mechanical hay sweep.  This invention quickly caught on after the neighbors saw how much time and energy it saved. 

Don planned on being a farmer so he quit school after the 9th grade (which his mother insisted he attend).  Unfortunately, this dream of farming did not work out.  You had to have money to buy land so he started to hunt for work.  He first tried finding work in Omaha, Nebraska where his sister and her husband lived, but nothing.  Then he tried to find work in Lexington, where he grew up, but nothing there either.  Finally, he went to Denver, Colorado, and worked as a painter with his brother-in-law.  He wasn’t given a wage but when he needed money for something, they gave it to him. 

It was during this time that he was encouraged, by a neighbor, to sign up for the Army Air Corps National Guard.  This was just as the US was getting into WWII.  He didn’t really know what he was getting into but it turned out to be a good experience.  At first, he served along the US/Mexico border, then later in the Pacific Theater eventually rising to Master Sergeant.  He would rather have worked on planes but since he knew so much about parts, he needed to get the correct parts to the mechanics and sometimes show them how to install them. 

Concurrent with his service experience, Don met and married Lydia Hanna Proehl, whom he had met at church.  Their first date was a motorcycle ride on Easter afternoon.  Lydia’s mother could not understand why she would spend so much money on a dress only to come home and change into clothes she could wear on a motorcycle.  Don was 20 when he married and Lydia was 25.  This age difference caused some friction with his sisters as they felt Lydia was robbing the cradle.  However, Don didn’t let that deter him.  He knew his own mind and acted on it.  They were married on May 27, 1941.  This marriage lasted 59 years, actually just a few months short of 60 years when Lydia passed away in Dec of 2000.   

After the war, Don stayed with the National Guard until 1950.  He then had several short-term jobs, finally ending up at  McCoy Caterpillar as a mechanic’s helper.   To get this job, he had to convince the boss that he wasn’t a union “plant.”  In this, he was successful and got the job. Over 31 years he rose through the company to become the Service Manager for the greater Denver area.  McCoy was bought out by Wagner Equipment Company before Don retired.  However, he continued as a valued employee in this transition. 

After working on large machinery for his day job, Don would come home and work on watches and clocks at night.  When questioned he’d say “It’s all mechanics.”  The money he made from this sideline paid many bills.   He also bowled three nights a week, finished his first home, built a cabin, and built two garages during his life.  He loved camping and fishing, playing golf, playing pool, and generally socializing.  Mom and Dad would go to Arizona in the winter after they retired until mom’s health declined and they weren’t able to continue doing this.  Don and Lydia had two children; myself, Lois in July 1946 and my brother, Roy in December 1948.  We were both born and raised in Denver, Colorado.

After Lydia passed away, Roy moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and a year or so later, Don and his one remaining sister, Esther, there as well.  It was here he met and married his second wife, Maria Agripina Apericio Serrano Piche (Pina).  They were married for 13 wonderful years before she passed away in January 2018.  This was a surprise as Pina always planned on taking care of Don until his death.  They were very active in the establishment of and ongoing functions of the Senior Citizens Center there in the Santa Fe suburb of Eldorado where they lived.  Don was 98 when Pina passed. 

Her passing brought another change in Don’s life.  He was getting older and worried about what he would do when he couldn’t take care of his house.  He weighed his options and decided to come to Cove and live with Lois and her husband Dave.  There he stayed for four and three-quarters years.  His health remained good and he got a Utah driver's license at the age of 98.  He was very proud of this and even took the written drivers test on a computer!  Actual driving was limited to one return trip to Cove from church in Logan.  After that, he had a chauffeur wherever he needed to go.

His health was very good all his life.  He did survive 3 pneumonia infections; One in Santa Fe and two in Cove.  After the second one while living in Cove, the insurance wanted to send him home too early for me to take care of him.  This led to his decision to move to Birch Creek Assisted Living and Memory Care in Smithfield, Utah at the end of January 2023.  He lived there for one year and three months.  His comment when he first moved there was, “I never dreamt I’d have such a nice place.”  Don had loved his time with us in Cove but after an initial adjustment, he thoroughly enjoyed his time at Birch Creek.  He made many friends and was a good example to the other residents: that you could be old but still active and happy.  He received excellent care, and we were able to visit him every day.  Don passed away at Birch Creek while on Hospice at 12:15 am Saturday, May 11, 2024.  He leaves behind two children, Lois (Dave) Turner and Roy (Nancy) Leffelbein, four grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, three great-great-grandchildren, one stepdaughter, Anna (Warren) Goldberg, one step-grandson, and one step-granddaughter.  

We would like to thank all the wonderful staff who gave him such marvelous care at Logan Regional Hospital and Birch Creek Assisted Living and Memory Care, where the many CNAs, nurse Carrie, Witnee Craig and Daniela Hogen staff, and residents were so good to him.  Also, his doctors, Dr. Garr, heart doctor, and d’Nell Howard NP, his GP, my husband, Dave Turner, for being such a wonderful support and son-in-law, and Roy and Nancy Leffelbein for their care, love, and support over the years

Funeral services will be held Monday, May 20 2024 at 12:00 noon at Webb Funeral Home, 1005 South 800 East in Preston, Idaho. A viewing will be held Monday, from 11:00 -11:45 am at at the funeral home, Interment will be in the Franklin Idaho Cemetery just south of Franklin. Memories and condolences may be shared with the family at webbmortuary.com

Services will be available to stream live at 12:00 noon MDT at the following link:
https://youtube.com/live/BMhGSfnBg14?feature=share
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