Bruce Wendell Wilkinson

March 22, 2016

Retired professor of chemical engineering Bruce Wendell Wilkinson, of Norton Shores, Mich., and formerly of Crossville, Tenn., died March 16, 2016. He was 87. 

He was born Aug. 9, 1928, in Shelby, Ohio, to Clair Whitman and Ruth House Wilkinson. He grew up in Willard, Ohio.

He studied chemical engineering at The Ohio State University, where he received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. While at O.S.U., he met his wife, Berdella Arlene Tonk, and they were married Oct. 17, 1953. 

Wilkinson worked for Dow Chemical in Midland, Mich., for 15 years before becoming a professor of chemical engineering at Michigan State University in 1966. During his 25-year tenure at MSU, he was instrumental in the installation and operation of a research nuclear reactor. He retired from MSU in 1991. 

The couple relocated to Crossville, Tenn., in their retirement years, and traveled the United States in their motor home, often volunteering as they travelled. 

He was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Berdella Arlene (Tonk) Wilkinson; parents, Clair and Ruth Wilkinson; sister, Jane Slessman; brothers-in-law, Harold Slessman and Merle A. Tonk Sr.; sister-in-law, Ruth Tonk; and niece, Barbara Slessman Hendrickson.

He is survived by his daughter, Kathy (Mark) Mitchell of Norton Shores, and son, Lee Wilkinson of Wheaton, Ill. Also surviving are his grandsons, Peter (Emily), David and Matthew Mitchell; niece Nancy (Pete) VanKleek; and nephews, Merle Jr. and Andy Tonk.

A memorial service honored him on March 21 at Forest Park Covenant Church in Norton Shores. Memorials may be made to Olivet Nazarene University School of Engineering, One University Ave. Bourbonnais, Ill., 60914. 

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