On January 12, 2013, John Henry Wilkinson picked up his lunch pail for the last time in his 87 years of mortality to go home to be with his Heavenly Father, as well as family and friends who have been patiently waiting for him to finish his work on earth. On March 4, 1925, John was the seventh of 10 children to be born to John and Alice Wilkinson. While Farmington, Utah, was his birthplace, John moved shortly after his arrival with his family to Peterson, Utah, to Rosehill Cottage, where his parents dedicated themselves to raising bountiful crops and good children.
Life on the farm forged a strong family bond, and amongst his siblings John found quite willing partners in crime for his youthful imagination and mischievous ideas. Together they learned the value of hard work, staying to the end, and keeping one’s word.
John’s formal education began in a tiny one-room school in Peterson. After the consolidation of the community schools in Morgan County, John completed his public education by graduating from Morgan High School. His education did not end, however, with the awarding of a diploma. John had the ability to acquire, retain, and apply knowledge in remarkable ways. If it was broke he could fix it, if it didn’t exist he could build it, if it was built he could improve it.
In 1944 John was invited to participate in World War II as a member of the United States Army. Assigned to the 77th Division, John trained for battle on Okinawa, but after the atomic bomb was dropped, John wrapped up his service in Japan doing what he did best, construction.
Shortly after his honorable discharge, John partnered with his brothers Cole and Bert to form Wilkinson Construction in 1947. Weathering the storms of hard jobs, lean times, and tragedy (Cole was killed in a construction accident in 1959), the Wilkinson brothers built a successful construction company on a foundation of hard work and steadfast integrity.
As much as John enjoyed the association of his brothers, they could not compete with Della LoRaine Bell, a pretty Morgan girl who captured John’s heart. Once John successfully cleared the would-be suitors from his path, his eternal love story with LoRaine began with marriage on February 5, 1949 (solemnized in the Salt Lake LDS temple in 1971). Their union produced John B. (Debby) Wilkinson, Lory (Elwin) Birt, Nanette (John) Noyes, and Vicki (Rodney) Rose, who in turn blessed their lives with 18 grandchildren and 37 great grandchildren, with two on the way.
John believed entertainment was something you did for yourself, not something you paid someone else to do for you. With that in mind, John worked as hard to have fun as he did to earn a living. The family made memories on the shores of lakes, on slopes of snow, under the stars, and at the cabin he built with his brother Bert. Time was ample and precious for Wilkinson family recreation.
History can be present only if it’s preserved. After John retired (using the term loosely) from the company, he turned his attention to ensuring the past remained for his posterity. Tractors, cars, wagons, engines, carriages, farm equipment, and household items (including a player piano) that had suffered from the indignity of neglect were restored to life under John’s skillful hands.
Lasting legacies are not built on what is acquired, but on lives that are touched. John’s generosity flowed wide and deep, whether responding to perils threatening his community, serving in a variety of church positions, or simply extending a helping hand to a needful soul. His preference to render service in the shadows speaks volumes of his character.
John is numbered among those who have been called “The Greatest Generation.” They are great because they never hesitated to answer the call of duty. John served his country with honor, his community with benevolence, his church with distinction, and his family with devotion. He was truly one of the greatest.
He is survived by his two sisters, Shirley Taylor and Marge Hammer. In fitting fashion, John and Bert finished what they started together as Bert passed away just two days prior to John. He was also preceded in death by two great grandchildren.
The family would like to extend a special thanks to Tracia Francis, who provided love with the care she gave to Dad. We are also aware of the innumerable random acts of kindness that have been shown during our family’s hour of need.
Funeral services will be held at the Porterville church on Friday, January 18, at 12 noon. A viewing will be held also at the Porterville church on Thursday, January 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. and Friday from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m.
In John’s memory, contributions may be made to Huntsman Cancer Foundation, 500 Huntsman Way, SLC, UT 84108.
Interment will take place at South Morgan Cemetery.