Kenneth J. Henseler
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Kenneth John Henseler, age 95, of Yankton, South Dakota, died on Sunday, March 10, 2019 at his home.

Private family memorial service is Saturday, March 16, 2019 at Wintz & Ray Funeral Home in Yankton with Tweeter Henseler officiating, followed by military honors provided by the Ernest-Bowyer VFW Post No. 791. The family will receive friends from 2:30 to 4:30 PM on Saturday, March 16 at the Wintz & Ray Funeral Home.

Kenneth John Henseler was born June 28, 1923 to Nick and Eldora (Michels) Henseler in Marshfield, WI. His family later relocated to Worthington, MN where Ken graduated from high school in May, 1941, the year Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and took his basic training in Farragut, ID. He then attended medical training there, hoping for assignment to a large sea-going ship, but was assigned to a rifle company of the First Marine Division as a frontline Corpsman (he Marine Corps took Navy personnel for their medical help since they did not train their own medics). After repeating basic training with the Marines, he was shipped overseas to the South Pacific where he joined up with a rifle company of the First Marine Division and participated in four major island assault invasions and campaigns. Ken earned a meritorious citation for action on the final invasion of the Japanese-held island of Okinawa in 1945.

He returned to the states following the war and finished his college degree in three years at Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD. He completed his Masters degree in 1957 at South Dakota State University and earned 35 post-grad hours at various universities -- Montana, Oregon, North Dakota and South Dakota, attending numerous summer school workshops and classes.

He married Donna Millard, daughter of the Rev. Paul and Leah (Walker) Millard, Worthington, MN, on August 14, 1951. He took a teaching position at Brandon High School in 1951, and later, became High School Principal. During that time their three sons, Kevin, Todd and Jay, were born. After 10 years in Brandon, in 1961 he became Principal at Yankton High School serving in that capacity until he retired in 1985, after 24 years at the YHS helm. He served as President of the South Dakota High School Principals Association in 1968, and in 1984 was named South Dakota High School Principal of the Year by the same organization and was recognized by the South Dakota legislature. In 1971 he was the recipient of the S.D. Personnel and Guidance award. He also earned a John Hay Fellowship in Humanities, which allowed him to take graduate classes at the University of Oregon. Ken also served on the board of the North Central Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges.

After retiring from education, Ken spent a short time in the real estate business and then was elected to the Yankton County Commission, where he served three 4-year terms. After that he and Donna devoted their time to country living at Riverrun, their dream home on 96 acres overlooking Lewis and Clark Lake. He thoroughly enjoyed surveying and traveling the hills, meadows and woods of his land and loved seeing his "friends," the wildlife inhabitants - deer, coyotes, turkeys, foxes, raccoons, various large birds and the occasional rarely-seen animal or bird. He was an avid bird watcher and was successful in keeping Eastern Bluebirds as year-round guests and visitors to his heated birdbath. This, of course, led to many stories told to his grandchildren about the "six animals and birds down in the woods" -- Woody Rabbit, Squirrely Squirrel, Cautious Coyote, Tommy Turkey, Dino Deer and Bernie Bear. He loved it when one of the "grands" would say, "Grampa, tell us a story about the animals down in the woods." No matter how tired, he always accommodated them with a story.

Ken and Donna were longtime breeders of show dogs. They began in the 1960s, raising Bassett Hounds, producing some American Kennel Club (AKC) champions. They transitioned to raising and showing English Bulldogs, and then found the breed they truly enjoyed, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers. Ken and Donna raised, showed and sold many AKC champions, and were recognized as one of the top Wheaten breeders in the world. Even after they cut back, they continued to keep several "Wheaties" around Riverrun as devoted companions.

Ken contributed time and money to volunteerism, including many local blood drives, where he spent hours recruiting donors. He served on the Yankton County library and county historical society boards (as Yankton Co. Commission representative), and thoroughly enjoyed his political party activities, which included annual picnics at Riverrun. As part of his birding activities, he served as County Coordinator for the Bluebirds Across Nebraska organization. He maintained membership in several military fraternal organizations, including life memberships in the Minnesota Chapter and National Chapter of the First Marine Division Association as well as the Yankton VFW Post 791, where he served a term as Commander. He was also a member of the Yankton American Legion Roy Anderson Post 12.

Ken is survived by his three children, Kevin (Mary), Sioux Falls, Todd, Omaha, NE, and Jay (Lori) Henseler, Yankton; seven grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; 15 great grandchildren, one brother Gene, Bellevue, WA, two sisters, Elaine Roberts, Sioux Falls, and Marge Miranowski, Slayton, MN; sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Pat and Don Koenig, Bella Vista, AK; and of course his canine amigo and longtime buddy Toby, his faithful Shih Tzu.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Donna, who died in April 2011, and four brothers, Neil, Don, Ozzie and Cy Henseler.

Memorials can be directed to the Heartland Humane Society or the Pathways Homeless Shelter.




Messages will be reviewed and posted within 1 business day.

Kevin, Tweeter and family, We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. May God bless you with peace in the days to come.

Todd and DelRae Abler


Sorry to hear of Uncle Ken's passing. Even though we didn't spend time with family, I loved seeing Uncle Ken on Facebook and surely you are blessed to have had a great Dad, Grandpa, and good friend. Joe and I plan on coming Saturday to see family, for now you are in our prayers. Love Marge's daughter Karen.

Karen Anderson


My prayers and condolences to the Henseler family

Reggie Davenport


Thank-you Ken for all the years of service to the Yankton schools, and community. All three of our daughter where fortunate to have Ken as their Principal at Yankton High. I don't believe there could be better principal (or finer gentlemen) then Ken. Thoughts and prayers to all his family and friends.

Leon Steffen


My condolences to the Henseler family. He was a wonderful Principal. May he rest in peace.

Carol (Cookie) Mattern


My condolences to the Henseler family on the death of Ken.

Kevin Kennedy


Ken thank you for all your years of service to the Yankton Schools, and community. All three of our daughter's where fortunate to have Ken as their principal at Yankton High. I believe Ken was the best principal and gentlemen a school, and community could have. MY thoughts, and prayers are with all of his family, and friends. God's Peace be with all of you.

Leon Steffen


So sorry for your loss. Ken lived a good life, a wonderful example for all - he gave so much to so many. I will always treasure the memories at Riverrun with many of you and all the Wheaties! May your memories bring you comfort at this time. Thinking of you all.

Lisa Ven Osdel


Kevin, Todd, Jay and Family, My heart goes out to you all. Ken was such a special man, and meant so much to so many. It's been over twenty years now since four wonderful Marines from 3/5 1st Marine Division networked together to help me find one of my Father's friends from WWII, and that friend turned out to be Ken, my Father's best friend during the War. (Corpsman Thomas H. Gouchnour). Ken and Donna were overjoyed to hear from me, and Ken and I developed a friendship that we maintained ever since. Ken was able to provide me with details of his and my Father's Corpsmen experiences, identify their buddies in identical photographs we each exchanged via email, and tell me stories behind some of the photographs. He also told me about my Dad's personality and character as a young man that long ago. He was always patient and kind with my questions, and would often share his philosophy on several issues. I can never repay him for all that he gave me in better understanding the W ar, the experiences of the men that were there, and what my own father was like as a young man. Over the years, Ken would share stories and photos of life at Riverrun with his beloved Donna and their family. Often, his email letters were more like a live conversation with me, or sometimes more like a story. He was a delightful storyteller. I could often picture him there with the grandchildren, telling them stories about the animals, especially Squirrely Squirrel and his pals. Images of him riding that mule around the apple orchard also come to mind. I was able to picture him and Donna, with their desks side by side; Donna involved in her writing that she loved, and Ken, answering emails etc. The many photos he sent me over the years taken from the back porch showed birds and animals, the landscape, and the Winter snow. I always just loved hearing from him. Ken was kind, philosophical, and intelligent, and had such a wonderful sense of humor, delighting in the smallest details of life. He absolutely adored Donna, and his love and devotio for his entire family was always apparent. For me, Ken was a Mentor, a Father Figure, and my Friend. I will miss him.

Mary Gouchnour Hudson


So sorry to learn of Ken's passing. He was a good friend to my parents, Jerry & Bridget Rupiper. He was a very special man.

Jan Rupiper Spielman


Todd, Kevin, Jay and Family, we are sorry for the loss of your dad. He was certainly an extraordinary man, dedicated to his family and community. His life of service and as the pricipal of the Yankton High School has had a great affect on many people's lives, including mine. He had a way of convincing you that you were capable of doing better. He helped to get me on the right path as well as many others! His life made a difference in the world and he will surely be missed.

With Deepest Sympathy
John and Linda Lichter


I'm so sorry for your loss. Mr. Henseler was a wonderfully kind man. He ALWAYS had a smile for me, each & every time I saw him in the halls. He made my YHS experience so much fun & I will remember him always. God Bless you, his family.

Sincerely, Tammy (Hill) Kokesh

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