RAPID CITY | Donald LeRoy Austin, 92, went home to Jesus on Sept. 5, 2019 at St. Martin Village in Rapid City. He was born on April 6, 1927, along with his twin sister, Dorothy, to Otto and Esther Austin in Nunda, SD.
In 1929, his father accepted a call to serve as the pastor at Trinity Lutheran in Newman Grove, NE. The family moved there with Don, his twin sister, and three older siblings. When Otto died in 1935, Esther went to work as a school teacher to support the family. Don always dreaded Latin class with his mother as the teacher. He graduated from Newman Grove High School.
Don served his country in the Navy toward the end of World War II. He attended various colleges, Luther College, University of Nebraska, and Van Sant School of Business, between odd jobs at C&NW Railroad, Farmers Coop, and Newman Grove Creamery. At Chillicothe Business College he learned telegraphy and went to work for the Union Pacific Railroad as a telegrapher in 1950. He met Elsa Friesen, his waitress, at a restaurant in Laramie, WY, in 1951 and they were married that August in Powell, WY. Their first daughter, Johanna, was born on Valentine’s Day 1954 in Kimball, NE.
Don sought a new career in the oil industry so in 1955 moved his little family to Casper, WY, to work for Standard Oil. Two more daughters were added to his nest while they lived there, Donna and Peggy. They made another move to Powell, WY, to work for Texaco Oil and another to Scottsbluff, NE, to work for Meadow Gold, this time as a milkman. Elsa must have wondered about Don’s restlessness, because shortly after that, they moved to Rapid City. Their fourth daughter, Amy, was born there. They never moved away from Rapid City even though they moved from house to house quite frequently.
Don worked for Douglas Candy and Pacific Produce in Rapid City before he settled on a career as a letter carrier for the US Post Office. He accomplished 26 years as a letter carrier and was probably one of the best they had ever seen. His wife, Elsa, died of cancer the same year he retired from the Post Office, in 1987. They had been married 36 years.
A year later he married Mary Hausle, his wife of almost 31 years. She had raised two boys, so Don finally had a couple sons to add to his four daughters. They lived in a house on San Marco Drive for 16 years and an apartment building on Shaver Street for 14 years. Mary was not as willing to move as often as Don was accustomed. They moved to St. Martin Village in 2018 when it was apparent Don needed more assistance for day-to-day tasks.
A lifelong Lutheran, Don attended Faith Lutheran Church (1967-1978) and South Canyon Lutheran Church (1961-1967, 1978-2018) in Rapid City. He was a willing servant for any task that did not require speaking, although he was an excellent reader. He enjoyed playing cards with anyone who was up for the challenge. He loved cars and driving them and would take his family on Sunday drives and long road trips to visit friends and family. His family remembers him as a faithful provider and caring husband, father, and brother.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Austin; his daughters, Johanna Soli (Bob), Donna Fletcher (Jim), Peggy Williams (Joel), Amy Stec (Mike); his stepsons, Don Hausle (Sandy), Randy Hausle (Tina); sisters-in-law, Annette Oppedahl (Dick) and Elaine Salmon; 10 grandchildren; three step-grandsons; many great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Elsa Austin; his parents, Otto and Esther Austin; brothers, Arthur Austin and Paul Austin; sisters, Margaret Poulsen and Dorothy Sorenson; and brother-in-law, Donald Salmon.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 9, at South Canyon Lutheran Church, with Rev. Erik Thone and Rev. Herb Cleveland officiating. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service at the church. Interment will be at 2 p.m. at Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established in Donald’s name to South Canyon Lutheran Church.