Born August 27, 1957, Jeffrey Winkler was the youngest of three sons born to Emil W and Gertrude Mae Winkler.
Jeff was born in Seymour, Indiana, because that was the closest hospital to the home place in the sticks of Jackson County. As a young boy, he helped at the Winkler Gulf Station on State Road 135, the family business, where he would collect glass pop bottles and watch Gert make her famous ham salad to sell to the customers. He would live in Jackson County until the eighth grade when Bakalar Air Force base closed, and Emil was transferred to Grissom Air Base. This brought the family to Peru in 1970. He always called Jackson County, “down home”, and was forever a Brownstown Brave.
Jeff would go on to graduate from Peru High School in 1975. During high school and after, Jeff worked at Scott’s Grocery Store, a place where he made lifelong friends and continued to learn the grocery business. Jeff would earn an associate’s degree from Purdue University, although he always rooted for the Hoosiers.
After college, he went into grocery management and began his career with the Kroger company. It was while toiling away at the Peru Kroger that he was introduced to the love of his life, Rhonda Hileman. Rhonda’s aunt just so happened to work in the Kroger deli. They would marry on September 25, 1982, at Salem Christian Church, a church community that was near and dear to him.
Life and work would take Jeff and Rhonda to Fort Wayne, and on Christmas Day 1983, during a blizzard so bad and cold that neither of their cars would start, they had their first son, Jacob. Luckily good friends were able to get them to the hospital, despite the weather.
Life and work would take the young family back to Peru where they would remain. On March 25, 1988, Jeff and Rhonda would have a second son, Cory, making their family of four complete.
Jeff loved music. He loved to sing and listen to great records, once owning well over 500 LPs. The boys would often be wakened for school with Harry Nillson’s “Gotta Get Up” off the iconic Nilsson Schmillson record. He loved to have pickins’ with his family and friends where everybody would bring an instrument and a song.
Jeff also loved the written word and was quite the poet. He often wrote insightful words and poems to his loved ones, especially in times of grief. Boy could we use him now. He often used his talents by officiating a few weddings and delivering communion meditations at Salem Christian Church.
Luckily, Jeff got to enjoy early retirement early in May 2019. He enjoyed sunny days in the pool, barbecues, good books, and writing his memoir. Most of all he enjoyed a fantastic Arizona vacation with those he loved most, and of course, there was music involved.
Jeffrey Duane Winkler, born August 27, 1957, passed into the arms of his Savior, on March 11, 2020.
Jeff was preceded in death by his parents and a grandson, Silas. He is survived by his wife, Rhonda, his boys Jacob (Ann-Elise) Winkler (Greentown) and Cory Winkler (Peru). He is also survived by his grandchildren: Tyce, Elleri, and Nori Winkler. He is also survived by his brothers, Michael (Connie) Winkler (Kokomo) and James (Ruth-Ellen) Winkler (Peru). Jeff said he had the best in-laws a fella could ask for and considered them his best friends. He is survived by his father and mother in-law, Ron and Mary Hileman (Denver); brother in-law Ronnie “Mark” (Joy) Hileman (Warren); and Derek (Marriott) Hileman (Phoenix, AZ). Jeff is also survived by several nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews who he dearly loved.
A service celebrating the life of Jeffrey D. Winkler will be held at 10:00AM on Monday, March 16, 2020 at the Eikenberry-Eddy Funeral Home, 84 W. Main St Peru, IN with Pastor Tom Daugherty officiating. Burial will follow at Rankin Cemetery. Visitation will be held from 2:00 to 6:00PM Sunday, March 15, 2020 at the Eikenberry-Eddy Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made through the funeral to the Salem Christian Church.
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