Irving Hinderaker, RIP

When my mother died in 2011, at age 90, I wrote a tribute to her on this site. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was received kindly by our readers. My father survived her, and finally died on Monday at age 101. He was the most universally respected man I have ever known, and the only one who had a profound influence on my life.

This time, I will not attempt a personal reminiscence. Instead, this is the obituary that my brothers and I wrote for the South Dakota newspapers:

Irving Alden Hinderaker, 101, of Watertown, SD, passed away on Monday, January 16, 2023. He was born on December 1, 1921 in Hendricks, Minnesota, the son of Hoseas Hinderaker and Dagny Paulson Hinderaker. He grew up in Astoria, South Dakota, one of six siblings. He attended Augustana College, where he met Eula Mae Jertson, who became his wife of 65 years. Irving left college to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1943. He served in Europe following D-Day and narrowly escaped death in the Battle of the Bulge. He graduated from the University of South Dakota Law School in 1948 and began practicing in Watertown, SD.

Irving and Eula welcomed their first son, Paul, in 1948. Three more sons followed: John in 1950, James in 1956, and Eric in 1959.

Austin, Hinderaker and Hackett grew into one of the largest law firms in Eastern South Dakota. Irving practiced law for more than 50 years. He finally retired at age 80. Irving earned many accolades as a lawyer: he was a member of the South Dakota State Board of Bar Commissioners, the Chairman of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the South Dakota State Bar, a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, and was repeatedly listed in Best Lawyers In America. But his clients valued him most for his wise counsel and integrity.

For more than 50 years, Irving devoted himself to the well-being of his community. Among many other contributions, he was a member of the Board of Directors of Memorial Hospital, a Member of the South Dakota Commission on Higher Education Facilities, a President of the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Board of the Watertown Community Foundation, an original member of the South Dakota Board of Economic Development, a member of the Board of Directors of the Lake Area Technical Institute Foundation, and a member of the Board of Directors of the South Dakota Community Foundation.

Irving was a member of the Watertown Rotary Club for more than five decades. He was active in Boy Scouts, as President of the BSA Pheasant Council, and holder of the Silver Beaver Award from the Pheasant Council and the Lamb Award from the American Lutheran Church.

He felt a deep affinity for his alma mater, Augustana, where he served for many years as a member of the Board of Regents and as a Charter Member of the Fellows of Augustana College.

Church activities were even closer to Irving’s heart than civic organizations. His family and friends knew him as a man of deep and always tolerant faith. He was the first President of Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Watertown. He was active at the national and international levels of the American Lutheran Church, as a member of the Executive Committee of the South Dakota District of the ALC, a member of the Commission on Evangelism of the ALC, a member of the ALC Foundation Standing Committee, and a member of the committee that advised Lutheran World Ministries on two International Human Rights Covenants proposed by the U.S. Department of State. In 1963, he was one of a handful of lay American delegates to the Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation in Helsinki, Finland.

In recognition of his civic contributions, Irving Hinderaker became a member of the Watertown Hall of Fame in 2014.

Irving was preceded in death by his wife Eula and daughter-in-law Carol. He is survived by his four sons, Paul, John (Loree), James (Susan), Eric (Carrie), nine grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. All mourn his passing. To his family, he will always be remembered, not just for his life of service, but for his nurturing love, good humor, and integrity.

I will only add this comment, which was posted on the funeral home’s web site by another Watertown lawyer:

If you could find a joint dictionary definition of the terms “gentleman” and “integrity,” there would be a photo of Irv Hinderaker to illustrate both.

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