RAPID CITY - William (Bill) Eilers, 73, of Rapid City, with his family at his side, passed on peacefully January 1 after a courageous battle with esophageal cancer.
Born in Sioux City, Iowa, on December 19, 1929, to William and Ethel (Lennon) Eilers, the family later moved to Huron, South Dakota, where his father and mother began Eilers Furs. He attended the University of South Dakota and graduated from the School of Business in 1951.
After graduating he moved to Paris, France, and worked for The New York Tribune - Paris Edition with Art Buchwald.
Following that he worked for the fashion designer Jean Deses in Paris with coworker Guy Lorche.
He was a Veteran of the Korean War, having served in the Army Corp of Engineers as a First Lieutenant - Aide de Camp in Paris, France. In 1955, he married his college sweetheart, Barbara Burke, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in Paris, France, where they lived for a short while before returning back to South Dakota.
In 1956, he and his family moved to Rapid City, where he and Barbara started Eilers Furs of Rapid City and later assumed the operations of the family store in Huron and Sioux Falls. In 1980, he and his sons operated fur operations in the Federated Department stores in Billings, Montana, Seattle, Washington, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Eilers Furs became one of Mid America's largest fur retailers.
A long-time resident of Rapid City, Bill was actively involved in the community, including supporting many individuals who faced the challenges of alcoholism.
He served on the board of directors of Black Hills Playhouse and the local chapter of the Salvation Army.
Interment will follow at Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, with VFW Post 1273 providing military honors.
Estella Barbara Burke Eilers
1929–2019 (m. 1955)
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