Melvin Wilk Obituary

Melvin  Wilk
Melvin Wilk
Melvin Wilk

April 8, 1939 - April 21, 2012
Born in Brooklyn, NY
Resided in Des Moines, IA
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Melvin Wilk died in Des Moines on April 21, 2012, of cancer. Son of Morris and June Casper Wilk, he was born on April 8, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. He received a B.A. from University of Montana, M.A.'s from Boston University and Brandeis University, and a Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts. On April 22, 1967 he married Mary Beth Larson Wilk in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Melvin was preceded in death by his parents and son-in-law, Mark Anderson-Wilk. He is survived by his wife; daughter Sarah Anderson-Wilk of Corvallis OR; sons Joseph and Gabriel, future daughter in-law Emily Johnson and son Finley; two sisters Phyllis (Bernard) Sommer of Andes, NY and Boca Raton, FL and Donna (Howard) Smith of Bermuda Dunes, CA; brother Steven of Boca Raton, FL; and granddaughters Julia, Aviva, and Phoebe.

After ten years of teaching at various colleges and universities, he joined the Simpson College faculty where he taught from 1981 until his retirement in 2007. At Simpson he served on many committees including the Personnel Committee, and he was the founder of the Multicultural and Minority Affairs Committee. Mel was a generous mentor to his students. He served as the faculty advisor for the school's literary journal. As head of the Poets and Writers program, he brought in numerous nationally recognized poets for seminars and readings. In 1989 he won Simpson's Research Award, and in 2007 he won the Distinguished Teacher Award.

His scholarly book was published by University of Missouri Press, and his poetry was published nationally, over the last 45 years, including publication in The New Yorker, something almost all poets aspire to. He was a founding board member of the Des Moines National Poetry Festival and served on the board from 1991 to 2007. He volunteered to bring his observations, insights, and passion about literature to local schools and book clubs. He also was a member of the Friends of the Des Moines Public Library Committee.

Melvin took pride in his multi-cultural, multi-racial family, sharing his passion for nature, literature, art, music, social justice and his Jewish spiritual life. He took his family, his teaching, and his writing very seriously but often didn't take himself so seriously and was quick to see the humor, as well as the irony, in his own and in other's behavior.

Services will be held at Temple B'Nai Jeshurun, 51st Street and Grand Avenue Tuesday, April 24 at 10 a.m. followed by the Meal of Consolation at the Temple. Friends are invited to visit the family at their home at 3013 Terrace Drive, Des Moines on Wednesday April 25th from 7 to 9 p.m. In lieu of flowers, friends are invited to send donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center in memory of Melvin Wilk, 400 Washington Ave.; Montgomery, Alabama 36104 or to Doctors Without Borders, USA, P.O. Box 5030, Hagarstown, MD, 21741.

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Temple B'Nai Jeshurun
5101 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA US 50312
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
10:00 AM
- Show more -
Family's Home
3013 Terrace Drive
Des Moines, IA US 50312
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM


Southern Poverty Law Center
400 Washington Ave.
Montgomery, AL US 36104
Doctors Without Borders
P.O. Box 5030
Hagarstown, MD US 21741