Longtime Alaskan Robert Kabel Wilkinson, 95, died Wednesday, May 11, 2011, at home surrounded by his children.
A Memorial Celebration of Life gathering will be held at a later date. Robert's ashes will be scattered with those of his beloved wife Betty and many family pets in the Kenai River, upriver of their Keystone Estates home.
Robert was born to Irving and Matilda Wilkinson in Hartford, Michigan, on July 28, 1915. He graduated from Hartford High School in 1933 and soon after joined the Army Air Corps. While serving at Selfridge Field, near Mt. Clemes, Michigan, he met his future wife on a blind date.
During his life he served his country with distinction for 42 years, including tours in California, Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, and Japan. In January 1941 he was transferred to Alaska, traveling to Seward on the SS St. Mehiel and by train to Fort Richardson where he was assigned to the Army Air Corps until his unit was deployed to the Aleutian Theatre with stops in Dutch Harbor, Attu, and Amchitka. This was Robert's first introduction to Alaska and at that time, he resolved never to return.
Following an "airmail" courtship, he returned to Michigan in October 1943, where he proposed to and later married his sweetheart, Betty Jane Ashley. Including the courtship Robert and Betty enjoyed 68 years together, until her passing in 2004.
Robert's return to Alaska came in 1959 when the USAF transferred him from Georgia to Ladd AFB, later named Fort Wainwright. The 6,050-mile car ride, including the unpaved Alaska Highway, was the beginning of an adventure that would last a lifetime. Following his retirement as Chief Warrant Officer from the US Air Force in 1962 and from Civil Service in 1975, Robert and Betty left the big city of Anchorage behind and built their dream retirement home on the Kenai River.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers Vern and Dwight.
Robert is survived by four children, Cherie Shrader of Eagle River, Lani Jensen of Anchorage, Carla Dau of Wasilla, and Robert A. Wilkinson of Glennallen, ten grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
For those inclined, the family requests in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the charity of the donor's choice.
Arrangements were by Peninsula Memorial Chapel in Kenai.
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