***FUNERAL SERVICE WILL BE LIVE-STREAMED***
Robert L. Chilson, age 96, of Florence, SD, passed away on Friday, April 17, 2020, at a local care center. Private family funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, at Goodhue Lutheran Church in rural Florence, SD. Funeral service will be live streamed. Rev. Mindy Erhke will officiate. Music will be provided by Jim Chilson as organist.
Burial will be at Goodhue Lutheran Cemetery in rural Florence, SD. Honorary pallbearers will be the Watertown Gideons Camp Members. Pallbearers will be Jim Chilson, Joel Chilson, Corbin Chilson, Tanner Chilson, Larry Bergh and Nathan Meland.
Robert Lowell Chilson was born to Alfred and Anna (Ohnstad) Chilson in Watertown SD on January 20, 1924. He grew up in a loving and caring family home during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era, he would often say “no one knew we were poor since we were all in the same boat”. The Chilsons were known for hosting large family gatherings. Robert was baptized into the Christian faith at Goodhue Lutheran Church in which he was a lifelong and active member. When Robert was 8 years old, he had lost his father, brother and grandmother to the tuberculosis epidemic all within 2 years. After which a kind and caring Aunt “Auntie” who had come from Norway came to live with them, so together with his older brother Leonard now 19 and his mother, they continued to live on the farm and had a blessed and good life. He attended the one room “Meland” school near his home and continued his education, graduating from Florence High School in 1941. During his Junior year in high school he started his farming career that he continued for nearly 70 years. With WWII he was part of the essential farm workers, but often told of his possible induction into the war in 1945 for the invasion of Japan with preliminary screenings at Fort Snelling during which he heard of the death of President Roosevelt, followed by the end of the war in August. During free times, after the war he learned how to fly at the old army base, but never continued after the loss of his log book to a fire at the airport.
After the marriage of his bother Leonard, in 1952 he and his mother built a house and moved into Watertown. He continued his career as a farmer while working at Swift’s Meat Packing Plant. Later, he worked at Dugan’s Appliance Store as an installation and repair technician, and continued to farm in the summer.
In 1957 Robert met the love of his life, June Margaret Boyd, when both were asked to be baptismal sponsors for the daughter of one of Robert’s cousins and a college roommate of June’s. The two were married on June 20, 1959, at First Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park, MN. After the birth of their first child, Randy, they moved to the homestead of Robert’s grandfather, just across the road from Robert’s birth place. To the family two more sons where born, Steven and Lynn.
Robert took great pride in his farm, which received a Family Century Farm award and has remained in the family for over 138 years. He was meticulous in his care for the appearance of the farmyard and buildings. People often commented on the outstanding condition in which the farm was kept. Robert’s evenings were often spent “touring” the crops. He was always supportive of his family, taking time off work at the farm to attend their events. Robert and June continued the Chilson tradition of hosting large family gatherings and reunions. Vacations were spent visiting relatives across the country. He relished in taking his family out to restaurants for dinner (and always insisted on paying the bill).
Robert was an active community member. He was on the Eden Township Board for decades as well as a leader in an early National Farmers Organization. His love of Christ, kept him involved in the local church leadership as well as many synod level committees and groups, a key group was assisting in the formation of the current Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in South Dakota from the old American Lutheran Church and other Lutheran faiths. He was also a lifelong member of Lutheran Brotherhood and of the Gideons Association.
Robert had a great memory and love of history especially family history. He had a passion for keeping a journal of his life with brief periods during his high school years and a winter visit to California. He kept a continuous journal from 1971 until shortly before entering the nursing home in 2016 when it became difficult to write. His family will treasure these memories forever.
Robert is survived by three sons: Randy Chilson of Florence, SD; Steven (Sherisse) Chilson of Watertown, SD; and Lynn Chilson of Canton, SD; two grandchildren: Tanner Chilson and Corbin Chilson; and brother-in-law: Rev. James Allen Boyd of La Grange, TX, several nephews, nieces, great and great-great nieces and nephews.
He is preceded in death by his, wife, parents and two brothers: Arnold and Leonard (Elsie) Chilson; and sister-in-law Carolyn Boyd.
The family requests memorials to Goodhue Lutheran Church Cemetery Association.
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