Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Al Wilkening, age 74, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at his home in Brooklyn, Wisconsin after a fierce battle with pancreatic cancer. He was born in Freeport, N.Y., on Feb. 1, 1946, the only son of the late Albert M. Wilkening and Madeline E. Wilkening (Wanser). He married Patricia Lynne Anderson on July 10, 1971, in Brooklyn, Wis., and had two daughters, Jessica Elise and Allison Celeste.
Al graduated from Massapequa High School, N.Y., in 1963. He graduated from Long Island University (C.W. Post) in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree cum laude in psychology. He completed his master’s degree in guidance counseling and personnel at Mississippi State University in 1973. He is also a distinguished graduate of the National Security Management Course, which he completed in 1989.
Al enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1968 and was commissioned a second lieutenant on March 28 of that year. Following pilot training at Webb Air Force Base, Texas, he served as a flight training instructor at Columbus Air Force Base, MS, until May 1973. In August 1973, he joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard. He served in a variety of command and staff positions including as commander of the 176th Tactical Fighter Squadron and deputy commander for operations, 128th Tactical Fighter Wing, until November 1990. During this period of military service, he was also employed as a human resource professional and manager for two Wisconsin corporations. From December 1990, to August 2002, he served as Deputy Adjutant General for air, the commander of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. He was named Adjutant General by Governor Scott McCallum and assumed office on Aug. 9, 2002. On March 18, 2003, Governor Jim Doyle appointed him Homeland Security Advisor and chairman of the Governor’s Homeland Security Council. He served in these positions until his retirement on Sept. 1, 2007.
General Wilkening was a command pilot with more than 3,300 flying hours in the T-41, T-37, T-38, O-2A, OA-37, and A-10 aircraft. His military awards include the U.S. Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Army Commendation Medal, the Combat Readiness Medal with two oak leaf clusters, and others.
Major General Wilkening completed a 39-plus-year military and civilian career on Sept. 1, 2007, as Adjutant General of Wisconsin, where he was responsible for both the federal and state missions of the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard and the Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management.
Following Retirement, Al was selected to Chair two Wisconsin Volunteer Organizations. He received a Department of Defense appointment as Chair of the Wisconsin Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and was appointed by Governor Doyle to Chair Wisconsin’s Citizens Corps Council. He completed these assignments in January 2009. He also served as a consultant to Oshkosh Defense, a division of the Oshkosh Corporation and as a consultant and senior mentor for senior military officers attending the Joint Task Force Commanders Course at Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Al served on the Board of Advisers for the North Central Group. He also served on the Campaign Executive Committee for the Wisconsin Historical Society Foundation. He continued to be an active member of the Badger Air Community Council. Al had been inducted into the Massapequa, New York High School Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Air National Guard Hall of Fame. He was a member of the Brooklyn Community United Methodist Church.
Throughout his life Al enjoyed road trips across America with his family, spending February in Marco Island, Fla. with friends, gardening and swimming. Al cherished family events: family vacations, teaching the grandchildren to swim, cooking out, and entertaining. He especially enjoyed Easter egg hunts and Halloween fright walks on the path through the woods that he lovingly prepared for the grandchildren. His heart swelled with pride when attending the kids’ sporting, dance or musical events.
Al is survived by his wife, Pat; his daughter, Jessica and her children, Cole, Carsten and Keira; his daughter, Allison (Mike) and their sons, Jameson and Anderson; his sister, Susan (Ed); his sister, Nancy (David); his brother-in-law, Dick (Julie); his sister-in-law, Jan (Jim); and his brother-in-law, Denny (fiancé Sherry); as well as multiple nieces and nephews. Al was preceded in death by his parents, Al and Madeline; his father and mother-in-law, Arthur and Marian Anderson; and his sister-in-law, Shirley Erfurth.
A tentative visitation will be held at Gunderson Oregon Funeral and Cremation Care, 1150 Park St., Oregon from 4 — 7 p.m., on Friday, July 24, 2020, and a tentative memorial service with military honors will be held at People’s United Methodist Church, 103 N. Alpine Parkway, Oregon, at 11 a.m., on Saturday, July 25, 2020, with fellowship, food and refreshments to follow. Interment will be private at Mount Hope Cemetery in Brooklyn.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in Al’s name may be given to the Wisconsin Historical Foundation, the Brooklyn Community United Methodist Church or the UW Carbone Cancer Center. Special thanks to Dr. Mulkerin, his team and the incredible staff at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. Your compassion and care will always be remembered with deep gratitude. Online condolences may be made at www.gundersonfh.com.
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