Obituary for Robert Murray Wilkes at Eckersell Funeral Home (2024)

Services for Robert Wilkes can be viewed HERE.

Robert Murray Wilkes passed away peacefully Thursday June 20, 2024, in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Bob was born to Murray and Lucy Wilkes in Afton, Wyoming, on Thursday January 25, 1940. As the oldest of four children, Bob grew up as a ‘little man’ working on the family farm. At the age of 6, he began to learn the values of hard work, loyalty, and dedication as he worked daily alongside his father. Never was there a son that loved his parents more; he exemplified what it meant to honor your parents as he loyally cared for them throughout their lives.


Bob attended Star Valley High School and enjoyed school, sports, and building lifelong friendships as he grew up. He began his college career at the University of Wyoming, in Laramie, Wyoming. A verse of the Star Valley Braves Fight Song or ‘Cowboy Joe’ always signaled a party was coming to his family.


As a young man, Bob was called to serve in the Central States Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On his mission, he served as the second counselor in the mission presidency under President G. Carlos Smith. When Bob got home from his mission, he was picked up at the airport by Estella Woodruff, at the request of her uncle, President Smith. The summer he returned home from his mission, Bob had a job at a Sinclair gas station in Afton. One of his duties was a regular weekend roundtrip to pick up gas station supplies in Salt Lake City, Utah. After meeting Estella, the round trip included a courtship. On September 6, 1963, Bob was sealed to his eternal sweetheart, Estella, in the Salt Lake City Temple.


Bob and Estella established their first home in Provo, Utah, where Bob received his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Brigham Young University. Bob and Estella loved going together to BYU sporting events. They were ‘true blue’ Cougar Fans. Throughout their lives, they could make any time together a date. ‘Together with Estella’ became one of the hallmark mottos of his life.


Following his BYU graduation, Bob began teaching seminary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Enterprise, Utah. He then taught institute at the University of Nevada at Reno. While in Reno, Bob completed a Master’s Degree in Education Administration from BYU.


During the summer of 1970, Bob began his employment at Ricks College, in Rexburg, Idaho, as a faculty member in the Department of Religion. Bob loved teaching students and was a talented teacher. He had a genuineness and down to earth ‘cowboy wisdom’ easily understood as he taught great eternal gospel truths. During his career at Ricks College, Bob taught religion, horsemanship, and basketball. His infectious love of the Book of Mormon made that his favorite subject to teach. For the 1973-1974 academic year Bob was chosen as Honorary Man of the Year by the Associated Mens Students of Ricks College. He was awarded the Exemplary Faculty Award in 1987 from the Ricks College Faculty Association.


Bob was also involved in Ricks College and later BYU-Idaho administration. He served five years as a chairman of the Department of Recreation Education, five years as chairman of the Division of Religious and Family Living, and four years as chairman of the Division of Education. From 1999-2004 Bob served as the vice-president of Student Life and assisted in the transition of Ricks College to a four-year university as BYU-Idaho. During this time, he was awarded the BYU-Idaho Man of Excellence Award in 2004.


Bob was a dedicated and faithful servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He had a strong testimony of the Savior and considered it an honor to serve as a bishop (twice), a counselor in a stake presidency, a high counselor, a stake president, a Regional Representative, and as President of the Wisconsin Milwaukee Mission from 1995 to 1998 with his wife, Estella.


Building a home with Estella was one of Bob’s dreams. After Bob’s retirement a beautiful property was found in LaBelle, Idaho and construction began. Bob had a vision for the potential in the property. He began planting trees and landscaping before the framers arrived. His vision has become a beautiful reality. Mature trees surround the lovely completed home Bob and Estella lived in together for 20 years. Bob had a rare talent for seeing both the potential in a piece of ground and in the people he loved to teach, encourage, and work with. Bob knew how to build people and things. He was a talented woodworker who loved to work with oak. A dining room table and chairs, headboard, end tables, outdoor furniture were a few of the creations he built for Estella. He was a problem solver who could tackle any obstacle with a little tinkering, some creativity, a bit of duct tape and some grabber screws. The day before Bob’s final illness he happily spent mowing his landscaped yard one more time – Bob hated to leave any job unfinished.


In November of 2004, Bob was asked to return as the Interim President of BYU-Idaho. His love for the students, wealth of experience, and belief in the university’s mission allowed him to serve in a uniquely qualified way. He was released from this position in August 2005. From 2005-2008 Bob and Estella served together as Temple President and Matron for the Billings Montana Temple.


Upon their return to Idaho in 2008, Bob was called as a sealer in the Idaho Falls Temple where he served diligently for 15 years. His love for the temple, love of people, and love for Estella and his family culminated in the great joy Bob felt being in the temple.


He is survived by his beloved spouse Estella Woodruff Wilkes of Rigby, ID. His children Elizabeth (Kelly) Burgener of Rexburg, ID; Alison (Thayer) Rogers of San Antonio, TX; Robert (Suzanne) Murray Wilkes, Jr. of Farmington, UT; Amanda (Brian) Kingsford of Rexburg, ID; John (Amy) Woodruff Wilkes of Pocatello, ID; Scott (Shelly) Edmond Wilkes of Rexburg, ID; along with twenty-six grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his two sisters Annette (Larry) Ferguson, Taylorsville, UT; and Carolyn Wilkes, Afton, WY.


A viewing will be held Friday, June 28, 2024 from 6-8 p.m. at the LaBelle 3rd Ward Chapel located at 4223 East 528 North, Rigby, ID.


A second viewing will be held Saturday, June 29, 2024 from 9-10 a.m. in the John Taylor Building on the campus of BYU-Idaho located at 101 East Viking Street, Rexburg, ID. Funeral services will be held in the Taylor Chapel from 11-12 a.m. with internment following at the Rexburg Cemetery.


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Obituary for Robert Murray Wilkes at Eckersell Funeral Home (2024)
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