John Fordys Denholm, age 87, of Milbank, SD, passed away on Monday, October 16,2023, at Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, SD.
Funeral services will be on Saturday, November 18, at 1 p.m. at Central Church in Milbank, SD. Pastors Thom Bowsher and DeVern Schwenn will officiate. Inurnment will be at the Scotland Township Cemetery in Day County.
John Fordys Denholm was born in the pickup while his parents were in transit to a hospital in Britton, SD, on March 7, 1936. He was the third child of Millard and Sabilla (Gorter) Denholm of rural Andover, SD.
John grew up on the family farm and was active in agricultural work beginning in his youth. He attended Sunbeam School in Day County through the eighth grade. He then attended Bristol High School and graduated in 1954. His parents valued education and insisted that their children attend college. John enrolled at Northern State Teachers College, now Northern State University. He completed one year of college and graduated from the rural education program, which enabled him to start teaching the next fall. As he was a full-time teacher, John continued his studies and worked toward two-year and then four-year degrees. He graduated Suma Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Education, and a minor in English.
John and Marlys Ruth Miller of Bristol, SD, were married on March 22, 1957, in the Methodist Church of Andover. The couple lived at rural Andover until 1967, and rural Bristol until 2014, when they retired to Milbank. John was baptized as a teen, and became a member of the Methodist Church in Andover as a young adult. He was a member of the Bristol Methodist Church for much of his life. After moving to Milbank, he attended Central United Methodist Church.
John’s tenure as a teacher included five years in rural schools and 19 years in Bristol. For much of his career, John taught middle school math, science and English, and was a homeroom teacher. He remained in the role with such dedication that he eventually taught the children of his earlier students. John would sometimes surprise his students by reading poetry from authors such as Robert Service. A former student stated in a birthday card to him, “You left a legacy at the Bristol School and on many of us alumni – stern, yet fair – and none of us will ever forget Bessie’s Boil.”
John loved to teach and was a teacher by his very nature, not just by career choice. One couldn’t spend an hour with him and not learn something. He served on the church council and was a member of the South Dakota Educators Association. He received an award of appreciation for his dedication as an educator.
In the years while John was teaching, he also served as one of the district’s school bus drivers and spent the summers working in the fields for Herr Farms of Butler.
After 25 years as an educator, John left the profession and worked full-time for Herr Farms and Hansmeier and Sons Farms of Bristol. He worked full-time until retiring in the fall of 2014 at the age of 78. He was proficient in working with livestock and machinery. His farming career began in the days when farmers had walk-behind horse-drawn equipment and continued through the time of the huge quad-tracks equipped with satellite guidance.
John loved being outdoors, enjoyed fishing with family members or hunting with friends. The family kept horses and regularly rode horseback together around the area. For many years they also enjoyed attending trail rides where they would spend the weekend camping and riding.
Survivors include his wife, Marlys of Milbank, SD; children: Tammie Denholm of Mora, MN; Chris Denholm of Austin, TX; and Holli (Jeff) Seehafer of Twin Brooks, SD; grandchildren: Brad (Kristy) VanderVegt of Roseville, MN; Justin (Jen) VanderVegt of Brooklyn Park, MN; Tom Vandervegt of Mora, MN; Scott VanderVegt of Stanchfield, MN; Jessica Seehafer of Sioux Falls, SD; and Jennifer Seehafer of Sioux Falls, SD. Great-grandchildren: Isabelle, Ryan, Camden, Cody, Sydney, Hailey, Nolan, Zoey, Henry, and Laney VanderVegt; siblings: Alys Williams of Thompson Station, TN; Arden Lowery of Mesa, AZ; Dolly (Roger) Schmidt of Aberdeen, SD; Dennis (Lillian) Denholm of Ipswich, SD; and Nathan Denholm of Rapid City, SD; and sister-in-law, Nyla Mandel of Watertown, SD.
He was preceded in death by his parents: Millard and Sabilla Denholm; infant sister, Mabel; brothers-in-law: William Williams, Jimmie Lowery, David Miller, Darrell Miller, and Jerome Mandel; sisters-in-law: Janice Miller and Donna Miller; and parents-in-law: Henry and Evelyn Miller.