WATERTOWN — Craig L. Atkins, 51, of Watertown, passed away on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, at his residence.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 6, at First United Methodist Church in Watertown., with Rev. Sara Nelson and Rev. Elmer Brinkman officiating. Music will be provided by Blair Titze as organist with Lucas Schwarzrock as soloist and Shawn Lenning on the guitar. The family is requested to meet at 10:30 a.m. at the church on Thursday for a family prayer service. Visitation will be at Crawford-Osthus Funeral Chapel in Watertown on Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. with a prayer service at 70 p.m.
Visitation will also be prior to the service at the church on Thursday. Burial will be at Esterly Cemetery, rural Florence. Active pallbearers are; Dave Gilbert, Mike Cole, Dan Wehde, Kevin Atkins, Adam Ronke, Bob McManus and Brad Ibach.
Craig was born in Huron on February 15, 1966, to Leroy and Sandy (Fish) Atkins. He was a 1984 graduate of Huron High School. Craig attended the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, majoring in Political Science with an emphasis in Public Administration.
Afterward, he spent more than 27 years in economic development, serving 14 of those years at the Watertown Development Company (WDC). Mark Roby, Regional Publisher for the Dakota Media Group in Watertown, was Chair of the WDC board when Craig competed for and won the job as the WDC’s Executive Director. Roby stated that “Craig knew his “stuff” when it came to development agreements, working with businesses, and growing Watertown. His skills often made the difference in whether we succeeded or failed.”
As President and Executive Director of the Watertown Development Company, Craig set the strategic direction in marketing Watertown to companies and global industries. He was considered an important partner to the S.D. Governor’s Office of Economic Development and an active participant in committees and trade shows to market South Dakota and Watertown. He was a well-respected expert in the economic development arena, providing his expertise at many meetings and conferences on the subjects of economic development, the financing of large economic development projects, and project management.
Prior to coming to the WDC, he served as Executive Director for the Vermillion Development Company in Vermillion, the Redfield Development Corporation in Redfield, the Southwest Regional Development Commission in Slayton, Minn., and the South Dakota Association of Towns and Townships in Huron. He also worked as Manager of the S.D. State Fair, as a Rural Development Specialist for the S.D. Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and as an intern for the South Dakota State Senate.
Craig was a Certified Economic Developer through the National Development Council. He served on several boards and committees throughout his career, including the Mid-America Economic Development Council and H2O-20. He also took the lead in the creation of a capital fund for area entrepreneurs called Kampeska Capital, LLC of which he was an active member of the board. The Watertown Development Company, in partnership with the South Dakota Enterprise Institute (EI), launched the fund which provides financial resources for local startup companies that exhibit potential for growth and high economic impact.
Craig met the love of his life, Bonnie Schwarzrock, and they were married on January 26, 2013, in Watertown. His family and close friends all noted the amazing contentment and joy that marriage brought him.
Craig was a member of the Rotary Club. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing, especially with his nephew, Adam Ronke, golfing with his friends, traveling with Bonnie and spending time with his extended family. He was well known among his friends and family for a quick wit and great sense of humor.
Craig is survived by his wife, Bonnie, of Watertown; his step-children, Cody (Liberty) Harstad of Hillsboro, N.D., Jody (Mark) Long of Brentwood, England UK, Julianna (Shaun) Carlson of Detroit Lakes, Minn., and Nick Harstad of Detroit Lakes, Minn.; nine step-grandchildren; his parents, Leroy and Sandy Atkins of Huron; his sister, Kristy Ronke of Watertown; two nieces, Samantha (Kenny) Knopp and Ashley Ronke (fiancé Beau Wensing) both of Watertown; one nephew, Adam Ronke of Watertown; one great-niece; his mother-in-law, Donna Schwarzrock of Frazee, Minn.; and his eight year old Labrador, Chip.
He was preceded in death by his father-in-law, Edward Schwarzrock; his brother-in-law, Gene Ronke and his cousin, Keith Houck.