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Obituaries are not written because someone died, they are written because someone lived. And living was what Don did with an overabundance of energy, passion, fun, and joy. He was born Donald Gene Reuter on September 2, 1939, in Sacramento, CA. to Walter Reuter and Agnes (Stewart) Reuter. His parents divorced when he was about two years old. He and his brother Wally, who was one-year older, were left in the care of their father. He never saw his mother again nor had any contact with her. But that’s when his great childhood began. For the next eleven years he would be raised in the Projects with scores of other playmates. World War II was raging. His father worked for The Corp of Engineers and was at work every day. Most other fathers were in the war, which left just a handful of mothers to reign over the hooligans. No one could hope for a better youth as a young boy than to be without supervision. He learned life lessons, which were many, in the trenches from the other kids.
His father remarried a wonderful woman, Dorothy, in 1951 when Don was almost 13 years old. A quick succession of five children followed. His days were busy delivering the Sacramento Bee to a big trailer park on his bike. That’s where he learned his business sense that people will tell you to come back later in the day and they would pay him then, but when he did the trailer would be gone. In Jr. high school he had to physically fight his way into school every day. Another life lesson, keep your cool, hit first even though you’re going to lose. Afterall, he was the kid who got free milk because he was the skinniest kid in the class.
In May of 1955 his Uncle Dan Reuter was killed in a tractor accident in Sedgwick, CO. Dan’s widow asked Don, who was 15 years old, to come help her with the farm. Marge changed his life forever because from that moment on he had found his forever-perfect calling in life. He was going to be a farmer. He said many times he would do it over and over again. It was a great life for all his family.
In 1956 his Dad and family moved to Sedgwick to take over Dan’s farm. It was the middle of Don’s 11th year of high school. He didn’t need many credits as he had most of the classes required in Sacramento. That was a fun time for him, and he graduated with the Class of 1957. By the time he was 17 he had rented 20 acres of land from Frosty Toyne to farm sugar beets, earning a Hi-10 award and he never looked back. His Dad believed in a college education, so he attended CSU for a year and a half, while still farming sugarbeets, but his heart was in farming, and he came back to the country. Never to leave again.
In 1961 he met “the one thing he loved more than anything on this earth” ….Lora Rae Repp entered his life on a blind date. They met in May and were married six months later on November 26, 1961, (after harvest!). The emotion of the moment overwhelmed her as she walked down the aisle crying. He took her hand and “with a wink and a smile” he encouraged her that everything would be fine. These words are now permanently etched on their tombstone. Their deep and profound love story lasted 62 years and every day they loved each other more. Since he didn’t have a mother, he often said Lora Rae taught him how to love.
In 1963 another Sedgwick friend, Raymond Gerk, heard they were building a new sugarbeet factory in Hereford, TX. The two teamed up and only with the nerve of two young ambitious men (24 and 27) they went to the bank there to ask for a loan. Not only did the banker give them the loan, but he also gave them the names of farmers to rent land from. The banker told them, “I’ve been waiting for you”. He needed new, young blood to make the factory a success. Don moved his family of three, which now included his oldest daughter, Toni, who was born in Julesburg in 1962. Son, Christopher, was born in Hereford, TX in July of 1964.
Don often commented, as an older, wiser man, that was the gutsiest thing he ever did to plant hundreds of acres of sugarbeets before the factory was completely built. However, it was completed, and he was on his way.
After one year of partnership with Raymond they split the rented acres, and he was on his own. They did partner for two years raising lettuce in 1965/66. A beautiful crop he loved.
After harvest of 1966 he became a gypsy farmer again. He bought land in Phillips County where the water was good. He was a family man first and Holyoke was a good place to raise kids.
While his wife was in Julesburg with her mother awaiting the birth of their twins, Michael and Danette, who were born April 2, 1967. Don was in Holyoke leveling land, tilling soil and with the help of his brother-in-law Elliott Woitalewicz, physically building the house they have called home now for almost 57 years. They moved in on May 2, 1967. The neighborhood was soon teeming with 15 kids. All who have moved on to successful lives. He was always proud of their accomplishments. They were good kids with good parents. Moving here was a good decision.
1969 was his first Holyoke sugarbeet crop on the farm he now owned, and they froze in the ground. Every expense possible, except harvest, had been invested and lost. They could not be dug. Another lesson from the hard knocks club. Move forward. Through the years if/when he got hail, he would go to the grocery store and come home with crab legs (expensive for our taste). His way of saying, without saying, we would be fine.
He stopped farming in 2004. He and Lora Rae had enjoyed traveling and continued to do so, visiting over 43 different countries. They had 19 more years of enjoying life with each other and their growing family. Life is good he said so often. We were blessed.
Whatever Don undertook in life he did it with passion. He was a voracious reader. Loved WWII history, John Wayne, chocolate and donuts. In 1969 he bought four seats in the south stands to Bronco games at $6.00 each. Those seats are now in the possession of his 2nd and 3rd generation Reuters, but at a much higher price! If there was a young child nearby, we all knew he was walking around with a ball of some sort in his hand. He had wonderful golfing buddies and played many times alone no matter what the weather. When asked who he played with that day he would always say their name and then add, “He’s a really good golfer”…..always. He was never the best player, but he might have had more fun than anyone on the course. Fly fishing was his passion, but there is a lack of great fishing rivers nearby. His five brothers, his Dad, and later on his two sons and nephews, all with the last name Reuter would meet for several days to fish some of the great rivers in the west. There was a lot of testosterone when they got together.
He enjoyed so many things, but most of all his family. He could make any chore into a game. He also loved holidays. On Christmas Eve while all four kids were huddled together wide-eyed in one bed, he was Santa Don on the roof stomping and hollering ho-ho-ho while ringing jingle bells. At Easter there was always one big chocolate egg in a box that was hidden so well by him it would take the kids hours to find. July 4th he was teaching kids to play with fire in the backyard in the days when fireworks were still legal. Halloween he was right there carving pumpkins and passing out candy. But Thanksgiving with turkey and football was his favorite.
Randy Haskell’s morning coffee at Amherst Coop and later at the tire store was a great joy for him. Don had views on a lot of subjects and enjoyed the banter. A deeply ingrained interest he had was hearing what and how a person’s children were doing. He was always so glad for their success whether it was professional or family. Kevin at the grocery store always put a smile on his face. And he found a new best friend in Richard Spillman who was a classmate of Lora Rae’s. He just loved people.
Don was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church Sacramento, CA on May 24, 1953. by C. Fickinscher. He was 14 and his only complaint was that he had to go to Catechism class on Saturdays when he would have rather been out doing ‘fun’ things. He was not the church-going type, but he had learned the lessons well and he walked-the-walk in his daily life. Saying the 23rd Psalm every night was his solace and it, too, is imprinted on their tombstone.
He always wanted to meet his Grandpa Reuter who immigrated from the Ukraine in 1913. He was killed by lightning in 1922 while carrying an irrigation shovel over his shoulder when he was just 28 yrs. old. He left behind a pregnant wife with four children. Don said aloud so many times, “Thank you Alexander Reuter for coming to America”. He loved this country and although he was never in the military his blood ran red, white, and blue. He was proud of all his children and grandchildren but took extra bragging rights of his son who was in the Marines and his two grandsons who were in the ARMY. Brandon served in Afghanistan in 2004/05.
On the morning of January 10, 2024, at the age of 84, Don’s hand slipped from the wife he loved so dearly into the arms of Jesus. A true love story has no ending. His was a life well-lived with no regrets. His love lives on in his four children, ten grandchildren, three great grandchildren, their spouses, and his siblings.
Don was preceded in death by his father, Walter Reuter, brother Kirk, two brothers-in-law, Elliott Woitalewicz and Bill Savolt, cousin Bobby Reuter (son of Dan) and special uncle Chris Bieber Step Grandson Tanner Molledor.
He is survived by his wife, Lora Rae of Holyoke, CO. Four children Toni (Ted) Mollendor of Julesburg, CO. Christopher of Oswego, IL. Michael (Kinnie) of Kimball, NE. Danette of Highlands Ranch, CO. Ten grandchildren: Brandon (Taylor and great grandson Tristan who called him “Pop-pop”) Reuter of Manchester, PA. Blythe (Travis Diamond and great grandchildren Bodie and Aria) of Kimball, NE. Tyson Reuter of Casper, WY. Caleb, and Izaac Reuter of Kimball, NE. Brody of Charolette, N.C. Paige Reuter of Coral City, Iowa. Gabriel, Seth, and Gentry Keener of Highlands Ranch, CO Step Grandson Dane Mollendor of Julesburg, CO.
Stepmother Dorothy of Eldorado Hills, CA. Brothers Walt (Linda) of Idaho Falls, ID. Allen (Connie) of Holyoke, CO. Jason (Sherri) of Sandpoint, ID. Wayne (Delight) of Folsom, CA. Sister Karen (Tim Murphy) of Eldorado Hills, CA. And a host of nieces, nephews and cousins.
A celebration of Don’s life will be held at Baucke Funeral Home in Holyoke, CO on January 25, 2024, at 10:30 AM. Live streaming through their web site will be available. Lunch will follow at the Event Center for all who wish to join. Private family inurnment will be at Hillside Cemetery in Julesburg, CO the following day.
I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6