HIGHMORE — John Zilverberg, 106, of Highmore passed away Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at Prairie Heights in Aberdeen.
Funeral service will be at 10 a.m., Tuesday, November 5, 2019, at the Hyde County Auditorium, Highmore with Father Paul T. Josten officiating. Burial with military honors will follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Highmore. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, November 4, 2019, followed by a 7 p.m. prayer service, all at the Hyde County Auditorium, Highmore.
John Zilverberg was born August 2, 1913, to Jake and Lutske (Wiersma) Zilverberg, immigrant parents from the Netherlands. He was the second of five children. He moved with his family from Tyndall to Tripp, then Wessington Springs where he graduated from the eighth grade in a country school. In 1928 when the family moved to Hyde County, he then went to work on the ranch north of Holabird, SD. This work included breaking rank broncs that his father brought home to drive and ride.
During the Great Depression in 1934 the Zilverbergs had no crop, so John hitchhiked to Iowa and handpicked corn for three cents a bushel. But then the neighbor bought a combine, and he lost his job. One night while traveling he slept in a jail cell with three other guys. He thought, “Boy, if they knew I had $53 on me, I probably wouldn’t have it in the morning, or I might not be alive. So, I didn’t sleep very well.”
As a young man he played baseball and ran a trap line until December of 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He then enlisted in the U.S. Marines where he spent most of the next four years. He participated in the initial amphibious assault on Bougainville in November of 1943 under intense enemy fire. Later he contracted malaria and was then sent to a hospital in Hawaii. From the hospital in Hawaii he went to a hospital in Klamath Falls, Oregon. From there he got a thirty day furlough.
While on furlough back in South Dakota, he married Dorothy Boehmer. To this union four children were born. After the wedding they returned to Klamath Falls where Dorothy got a job teaching school, and John was assigned to a supply depot. After the war ended John got his discharge, and they returned to the ranch. John and his brother, David worked the ranch on shares for a couple of years. They then bought it from their parents and divided it up.
John bought his first registered Hereford heifers in 1940 which was the beginning of the Bar JZ Ranches. He hosted his first production sale in 1950. In 1970 when Limousin cattle were first introduced into the United States, he became one of the founding 100 members of the North American Limousin Foundation. In 1994 John was inducted into the American Polled Hereford Association Hall of Fame for his contribution to the breed. Bar JZ Ranches continues John’s legacy in the beef cattle industry.
John was a director at the First State Bank of Highmore for a number of years until age 65. John was also a member of the school board and the township board of Valley Township. In 1965 John formed the Bar JZ bowling team that he bowled on until the bowling alley closed in 2012. In 2012 he was inducted into the South Dakota Bowling Hall of Fame. In 1985 he started participating in the South Dakota senior games and has many all time records in various sports in different age brackets. In 2005 he was honored for being the outstanding athlete over 80, and in 2010 John and his brother Dave were both inducted into the South Dakota State Senior Games Hall of Fame.
In 2000 John retired at 87 years old and went out of the cattle business. He sold the ranches to his sons and concentrated on gardening, golf, pool, cards and the Senior Center in Highmore. He wrote weekly editorials to the newspapers in eastern South Dakota. His age put up no barriers. 2007 John started going to the National Senior Games and won numerous gold, silver, and bronze medals throughout the United States over the next twelve years. He competed in his last Senior Games at age 105.
John was a lifelong learner and always put a high value on education. He has funded educational scholarships in Hyde County and at South Dakota State University. He established the John Zilverberg Family Community Fund as a perpetual endowment.
His wife, Dorothy passed away in December of 2008 after 63 years of marriage and John remained in their house until he was 104 years old. In December of 2017 he moved to Aberdeen and lived at Primrose Independent Living until he moved to Prairie Heights Healthcare.
John is survived by his children Marci (Mike) Wiedebush, Aberdeen; Donald (Peggy) Zilverberg, Holabird; Karen (Ray) Geditz, Ipswich; Gary (April) Zilverberg, Holabird; 13 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; a sister Janette (William) Kubat Patterson, Edmond, OK. He was preceded in death by his wife Dorothy, his parents, and three brothers, Mac, David, and James.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the John Zilverberg Family Foundation, which supports organizations in the Highmore area. Contributions can be mailed to: John Zilverberg Family Foundation, PO Box 296, Pierre, SD 57501
Luze Funeral Home of Highmore has been entrusted with John’s arrangements.