“Don was such a kind and generous man. When he told me what he planned to do with the money, I wasn’t a bit surprised. That’s just the way Don always was,” said Marjorie Ivers of Harmony.

Ivers was referring to her longtime friend, Don Wilken, who passed away on Feb. 28. The money Ivers was talking about was $30,000 Wilken had won in an Iowa Lottery game the first week in February. Wilken didn’t realize just how much money he had won when he learned he had won the Iowa jackpot after buying a $3 lottery ticket at the Casey’s convenience store in Lime Springs.

“He called me and was so excited,” Ivers recalled. “He told me he had won $3,000.”

It wasn’t until later, when he went to collect his winnings, that he was informed that he had actually won $30,000. “Boy, was he excited then,” Ivers said with a laugh.

The 91-year-old, who was a bachelor farmer, living north of Granger, didn’t have a family or any heirs to give the money to. So he decided to donate the money he had won to a number of organizations that were near and dear to his heart.

“I’m not sure exactly what organizations received money,” Ivers said. “It was his money. But he had been active in the Harmony-Granger-Lime Springs area. I think there may have been a number of organizations in that area that benefitted from Don’s generosity.”

Ivers said Wilken had been very active in St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Granger. He was always fixing things and served as the church’s volunteer janitor for many years.

“We was kind of quiet, but loved to talk, if that makes sense,” Ivers noted. “He loved to go out for coffee and spent a lot of time at the feed mill in Granger.”

When asked if Wilken was a regular purchaser of lottery tickets, Ivers replied he liked to purchase a few tickets, but wasn’t a big gambler.

“He did like to go to the casino once in a while,” she added.

“I didn’t learn about his lottery winning or the donations until I attended his funeral,” said Linda O’Connor of Preston, who was a cousin of Wilken. O’Connor’s father (Russell Arneson) and Wilken were first cousins.

O’Connor said Wilken was a very religious man, “old fashioned religious, always wore a suit and tie to church, lived by the Golden Rule.”

“Don hadn’t been feeling well for a while,” O’Connor continued. “I guess the Good Lord decided to give him one big moment and then brought him home.”

O’Connor said Wilken was a private man, but he did love to have coffee and visit. She said he was always giving people things. He had a bunch of pens made with his name on them. Giving those pens out to folks was something that really made him smile.

In fact, O’Connor’s grandson, Dylan O’Connor, proudly showed her the pen Wilken had given him recently, telling her, “I got this from Donnie.”

O’Connor was telling some of her friends about Wilken’s charitable actions during a book club meeting. One in the group suggested she contact the Rochester Post-Bulletin and let the regional daily know about this. It wasn’t long before a feature article appeared in the P-B along with a photo of Wilken.

“If Don was still alive, I don’t think he would have liked all the notoriety,” O’Connor observed. “But now I’m thinking he’s probably enjoying the recognition.”