C. Grant Wilkins was born Oct. 23, 1926, in Ft. Worth, Texas to Clarence Gorham Wilkins and Elsie Duffel Grant Wilkins. Four years later his brother James was born.
His early years included belonging to the Boy Scouts and achieving the Eagle Scout Award, showing early signs of “Service Above Self.” Grant graduated from the University of Denver in 1947. There he met his first wife, Diane Schoelzel. They were married in 1947 and the couple had three children, Shari, Mark and Steve.
Both Diane and Grant were stricken with polio in 1951-1952. Grant recovered after hospitalization and therapy. Diane spent the next 13 years of her life in an iron lung, or on a respirator. Diane died in 1964.
Being an incredibly lucky man, Grant met and married Marlene Siems in 1965. The next 52 years were lived in love, loyalty and an incredible partnership. Together they traveled the world and exemplified the Rotary motto, service above self, as they worked on worldwide polio eradication, clean water, Rotary Foundation scholars and peace initiatives. Grant served as a Denver Rotary president, district governor and as a Rotary International director. He also worked to establish the Artist of America Exhibit. The show was an annual Denver event for 20 years and raised money for youth and education in Denver metro area.
Polio eradication was a passion for Grant and Marlene. As a survivor, whose family was directly impacted by polio, Grant approached the eradication and fundraising efforts with passion. Grant’s memoir, Two Drops That Changed the World (2017), is a chronicle of the ways in which polio and Rotary changed lives, in the past and in the present. Grant had been involved with the University of Denver since his graduation in 1946. In 2014 he received the Daniel L. Ritchie Award for Colorado Ethics in Business. In 2015 Grant was named Humanitarian of the Year by the DU Korbel School of International Studies. He remained active in DU Alumni activities until shortly before his death. Along the way Grant served as a board member for Swedish Hospital, the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, N.M., the Mesa Verde Foundation, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, and the Colorado History Museum. He also served as a Colorado Highway Commissioner.
Grant loved the outdoors including skiing, golf, camping, hiking, fishing, hunting and miles and miles of walking. Grant and Marlene loved all things Southwest and amassed an extensive collection of Native American art and artifacts. Grant enjoyed time with his family especially with his grandchildren Ben (Josephine), Newlin (Hallie) and Tahra and great grandchildren Teddy and Celeste.
Grant is survived by his wife, Marlene, his daughter Shari (Deborah) and son Mark (Joanne). He is also survived by his brother Jim Wilkins and many nieces and nephews. Grant was preceded in death by his first wife, Diane Schoelzel and his youngest son, Steven Grant Wilkins.
A Memorial Service for Grant was held May 30, at St. Andrew Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations be made payable to: Polio Plus, The Rotary Foundation, 14280 Collections Center Drive, Chicago, Ill. 60693.
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