Virgil Gene Diel was born July 12, 1937, to Marcine and Helen (Terhune) Diel in Kiowa, Kan. Gene graduated from Burlington High School in 1955. From there, he went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University, with a degree in Agricultural Economics. While at OSU, Gene began his life-long affiliation with Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity where he made many dear friends. Gene was also a member of a nationally recognized FFA Meat Judging Team, and he began his military career at OSU, proudly serving as a member of the ROTC.
After college, Gene served 20 years in the Oklahoma National Guard 45th Infantry, rising to the rank of major. During this time, he also established his family and co-vocation as a farmer/rancher in the Kiowa, Kan. and Burlington, Oklahoma area. Gene was passionate about all his roles: parenting three children with his first wife Vivian Liggenstoffer Reed, leading FFA, growing wheat and hay, buying and selling farm machinery, being a life-long member of the Barber County Masonic Lodge, participating in the Harper County Square Dancing Club, and serving on the International Board of Directors for Beginning Experiences.
This last role led Gene to the Beginning Experiences International Convention in Winnipeg Canada, the summer of 2006. Gene’s life was forever interrupted by a case of mistaken identity by his future wife Jean. On December 14, 2006, in a quiet elopement service, Gene and Jean became husband and wife. For the next 16 years, they were partners in serving and a shining example of how to love and live together.
Gene’s view of Kansas was mostly in the rearview mirror after moving to Plainview, Minn., though for several years he continued to travel south each season when it was time to plant and harvest wheat. Gene and Jean spent many miles on the road, traveling near and far to see family and friends, attend grandchildren’s 4-H animal shows, sporting events, marching band shows, band and choir concerts, plays, and dance competitions.
After their marriage, Gene and Jean became active members of the Plainview Church of Christ. They worked in the community garden to provide fresh produce to the food pantry. They also volunteered many hours to the Fare-for-All food program. Many teens enjoyed weekly youth program suppers planned and prepared by Gene and Jean. This feisty pair volunteered, ministered, and actively lived God’s love on earth.
Gene also had a great love for the bi-weekly Amish produce auction in St. Charles, Minn. and later, another weekly produce auction 90 miles away in Iowa. Gene enjoyed the friendships made at the auctions, and the jelly rolls purchased. At the auctions, Gene would purchase produce to donate or resell to family, friends, and other community members with just enough profit to cover his gas. His visits and vegetables will be greatly missed.
Gene was also a member of the Plainview American Legion. In addition, Gene played competitive two-handed bridge in Rochester twice a week, as well as in competitions, keeping his active brain sharp and busy. He also loved watching college basketball on tv, especially OSU. Gene will be missed by his morning and afternoon coffee “clubs” where he and others gathered daily to figure out the world’s problems.
Gene is survived by his beloved wife, Jean, of Plainview, Minn.
Children: Gregory (Ginger) Diel, Enid; Lanny (Christine) Diel, Ottawa, Kan.; Vanessa (Brent) Garvie, Burlington; Ann (Scott) Liebenow-Anttila, and Mark (Beth) Liebenow, Plainview, Minn.
Grandchildren: Garrett (Lindsey) Diel and their sons, Charles and Maverik, Edmond; Grant (Shannon) Diel and baby on the way, Enid; Jake (Traci) Diel and their daughters, Rhetlee and Rhyver, Ottawa, Kan.; Cooper Diel; Riley Diel, her fiancé Jeremiah Hartman, and baby on the way, all of Fallbrook, Calif.; Kate (Jerry) May, Kiowa, Kan.; Sarah Garvie, her fiancé Grant Wilber, Burlington; Jack Benson, Moline, Ill.; Amber (Mitchell) Frees and baby on the way, Oshkosh, Wis.; Jasmine Liebenow (Marcus Besse) Platteville, Wis.
Sisters: Marcelin Ackerman and Marilyn Schurter. In addition, a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, out-laws, and friends.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 10 a.m., April 22, 2023, at the Plainview, Minn. Church of Christ. Visitation will begin at the church at 9 am.
The service will be live streamed on the church’s YouTube channel.
Graveside memorial service is planned for May 6, 2023, 10 a.m., at Apostolic Cemetery, Burlington.
Schad & Zabel Funeral Home in Plainview is assisting with the arrangements.