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Donald James Wilcox was born March 28th, 1944 in Algonac, Michigan. The oldest son of Alfred and Norma Wilcox, he grew up enjoying the waters of the St. Clair River. He graduated from Algonac High School as a proud Algonac Muskrat.
Moving on to larger mammals, Don enrolled at Western Michigan University and became a Bronco. At Western Michigan he acquired a bachelor’s degree in economics. He went on to complete his MBA and began his career in credit management. He met and married Dawn Beyer, and they settled in the Chicagoland area. In 1976 they welcomed a son, David. In 1983 they adopted a two-year old girl from South Korea. They named her Dacia.
For the next three decades, Don lived and worked throughout the midwest, in Michigan, Wisconsin, and St. Louis, Missouri. Along the way he established lasting friendships and solidified his reputation for friendly sarcasm, love of wit and laughter, stubbornness, and a deep vein of kindness running just under the surface of his wisecracking exterior.
On April 26, 2003, Don married Janet Marie Willis, otherwise known as Jan. They moved to Louisville and began 11 ½ years of marriage, during which Don flourished as never before. He became stepfather to David, Jarrett and Sarah. Between Don and Jan’s five children, they welcomed nine grandchildren, plus a fairy godson named Barrett, to whom they became known as Papa Don and JanJan. They traveled memorably, including a hilariously disastrous hike out of the Grand Canyon. They spent many hours with with friends and family. Don cheered Jan on through endless training and at countless races. And Jan cared for Don faithfully and selflessly as he fought cancer in the final years of his life.
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Don was a man who richly enjoyed connecting with other people. The conduits for the connections he made varied, from Mini Coopers to food to work to medical experiences to intriguing vocabulary words, but the result was always mutual pleasure. Don benefitted, and the person with whom he connected benefitted. There was laughter, and there was the relish that comes from forming a bond with another human being.
At the memorial service celebrating Don's life, someone shared a thought about how dying well is not just about death, but about how one lives up to the moment of death. Don's final diagnosis accelerated his pursuit of relationships rather than retarding it. And the personal connections, the relational investments that Don made during his life shaped his dying days. His wife, his children, his grandchildren, his extended family, his friends flew to his side as his health declined. They wanted to be with him. And they brought him joy as he made the transition from this life to the next. Don died a wealthy man, borne out of the world on the ample arms of affection.
Those of us who were there will not forget the paradox of his last moments: sorrow and riches. Fellowship and tears. A whole room of people bound to one another by our connection to a man who found ways to connect with us.