Robert “Bob” Halvorson, 93 of rural Wakonda, SD died Monday, January 4, 2021 after a brief, non-Covid-related illness. Due to the pandemic, a funeral service for immediate family only will be held at Hansen Funeral Home, Irene, SD at 11am Saturday January 9, followed by internment at Riverview Cemetery, Centerville, SD at 12:15pm with graveside military honors provided by American Legion Gingrich-Dixon Post 13 of Wakonda, of which he was a member. Family viewing at Hansen Funeral Home will be Friday afternoon January 8th from 3pm to 4pm, with open viewing from 4pm to 6pm.
Robert Lee Halvorson was born March 14, 1927 to Helge and Florence (Hall) Halvorson on the family farm just north of Centerville, the third of their seven children. He was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran faith, attended country schools and was an Honor Society graduate of Centerville High School in 1944. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1945 and served at Jefferson Barracks, MO, Camp Polk, LA and finally Camp Stoneman, CA, where he was the Regimental Chief Clerk, processing troops coming back from overseas. He was honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant in 1946. As was the case with so many young men of his era, his Army service was the defining period of his life and the source of many of his stories and lifelong friendships.
Following military service, he farmed in partnership with his father north of Irene, and in June 1949 married his longtime sweetheart, Roma Dibbert of Centerville, whom he first met at the roller rink six years earlier. They lived in the second house on the home place those first few years, where they welcomed daughter Judy in April 1950 and son Jerry fifteen months later, Bob memorably stopping for a cup of coffee and a doughnut before driving Roma to the hospital this second time around. In 1954, they struck out on their own, buying a farm southeast of Wakonda just in time to be joined by a third child, Duane. Over the years, they expanded the original operation to farm almost a thousand acres of land owned and rented, fed cattle on two lots, farrowed sows and fed hogs and raised corn, beans, oats, alfalfa, chickens, and children. Keith was born in 1959, followed in regular intervals by Arlen in 1961, Paul in 1963, and Amy in 1965. Their farmhouse, originally a country schoolhouse, was enlarged and remodeled several times over the years to accommodate their growing family.
Farming was not an easy life for Bob and Roma. They dealt with drought and flooded fields in equal measure, animal disease and broken-down machinery, and a chore crew that sometimes couldn’t yet see over the top of the tractor’s steering wheel. While his dream had been to study engineering at South Dakota School of Mines, he persevered on the farm and they built a fulfilling life for themselves and a solid foundation for their family. All their children equally understood the importance of hard work, the right way to hold a shovel, when to take and when to sluff in whist, and that getting a tractor stuck in a rut wasn’t as big a deal as learning how to get it out again by yourself. The most enjoyable times were silo filling (first at the home place, when Bob and his brother Harold would fill the concrete silos by hand with pitchforks, and years later when Bob ran the field cutter and Duane pulled the wagon, the youngest kids would throw themselves into the fresh silage after Jerry packed it with the loader) and Sundays at Swan Lake when waterskiing alternated with games of penny-ante poker in the cabin. Bob grew up in an age when chores were done by hand using buckets and shovels and was said by his Bjordal cousins that he would be buried with a pitchfork in his hand. He learned early how to make do, and was adept all his life at fixing things, whether by wrench, staple, or blowtorch and welder, and at creating what he needed out of what he had. While the work went ‘til dark year-round and every day was bookended with morning and evening chores, there was always time for one more hand of cards. Bob was an early adapter to motorcycles and ATVs for use in herding cattle, but his kids, grandkids and great grandkids all enjoyed riding the original three-wheeler and later 4-wheelers up and down field roads, over gravel piles, into ditches and stock ponds and even occasionally were used to herd cattle. Bob finally retired from active farming after his 80th birthday and it was time to adapt again, this time to helping Roma with piecing and sewing quilts, and even becoming an expert hairdresser. They enjoyed traveling, usually spur of the moment trips to visit family that became cross-country expeditions. They visited 49 of 50 states (sorry, Alaska) and throughout Europe.
Bob was an active member of Pleasant Valley Lutheran Church, rural Vermillion, serving as Sunday School teacher, congregation treasurer, deacon, and president at various times over the years. A highlight for him was taking the Bethel Bible Study course with Pastor Duane Nelson, a course he subsequently taught as well. He was happy to sit down with whichever kid needed help with algebra homework or to explain Luther’s Small Catechism. As much as he loved the independence of farm life, he made sure that all his children had the chance to earn a living away from the farm, and while he never got to go to School of Mines, he was proud to be on a first-name basis with the Dean of Students as he and Roma packed off one kid after another to school there, as well as to other colleges and schools across the state and country. The accomplishments of all of his children and their spouses, grandchildren and later great-grandchildren were an endless source of pride to him.
Survivors include his wife of 71 years, Roma, and their children and spouses: Judy (John) Walker of San Antonio, TX; Jerry (Nan) of Rapid City, SD; Keith (Daisy) of Aberdeen, SD; Arlen (Candy) of Edmond, OK; Paul (Paul Scarlata) of Haymarket, VA; and Amy (Tom) Montoya of Rapid City, SD. Also grandchildren Jeanne (Jimmy) Rizzo and children Grayson Levy of Honolulu, Hawaii, Remy Levy and Ashlyn Rizzo of LaVernia, TX; Heather Walker of Dallas, TX and her son Zachary of Tulsa, OK; Sally (Mike) Wischmann and children Benjamin, Lucas, and Ellison of Cumming, GA; Jill (Jeff) Frederick and children Henry, Harrison, Evelyn and Theodore of Omaha, NE; Erik (Alecia) and children Kacie and Korbin of Brandon, SD; Tim (Abby) and children Harper, Willow and Reese of Beresford, SD; Nick (Ashley) and children Noah, Griffin and Amelia of Beresford, SD; Dylan of Sioux Falls, SD; Kimberly (Josh) Davis and children Cora, Collin and Collette of Jenks, OK; Valerie (Terry) Horton and children Liam and Vivienne of Edmond, OK; Lori (Andy) Lambert and children Rebecca and baby on the way of Lincoln, NE; Andrew Montoya of Atlanta, GA; and Natalie Montoya of Cambridge, MA.
Also surviving are his sisters Miriam Nelson of Viborg and Bonnie Torczon of Columbus, NE and brother Helge Jr. (Patty) of Yankton, SD; honorary son Jay (Becky) Jensen of Irene, SD, as well as a host of cousins, nieces and nephews.
Preceding him in death are son Duane and his wife Patricia; his parents, Helge Sr., and Florence Halvorson; brother Harold (Lucille); sister Olava (Ward) Freeburg; brothers-in-law John Nelson and Clarence Torczon; and a sister, Helen, who died in infancy.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Wakonda American Legion, Riverview Cemetery Association of Centerville, SD, or Abbott House in Mitchell, SD.
Services will be live streamed on our Facebook page at