Kenneth Richard Deka, age 73 years, former longtime South Bend, Indiana Westsider died peacefully at 11:27 p.m. on Friday, August 13, 2021 with his family gathered around at his home in Niles, Michigan following a brief illness. The family is grateful for the kind and compassionate care provided by the staff of Caring Circle Hospice at Home.
He was born on December 11, 1947 in South Bend to Richard W. and Irene (Duff) Deka who raised him in the Saint Hedwig Catholic Church and school. He attended South Bend Washington High School before leaving early to enlist in the United States Army. He served in the Transportation Corps as an aircraft repairman at the Fort Rucker (Alabama) Aviation Center, and completed his three-year term of service as an Honorable Veteran of the Vietnam Era, but based stateside for his entire obligation.
Having completed his GED in the Army, he continued his education at the Indiana Vocational Technical College (now Ivy Tech) studying the emerging field of computer science. During his career as a programmer, he was employed by South Bend’s greatest firms including Wheelabrator, Chase Financial, and the former Wheel Horse Company.
Ken’s grandfather, Walter Deka had established Deka’s Tavern across the street from the Studebaker Foundry, and Ken’s father - commonly known as Dick Deka – continued that family tradition until the foundry closed. Deka’s is where Ken began his interest in billiards, becoming quite proficient at both the 8-Ball and 9-Ball variants, winning many trophies at the Rum Village Inn on Kemble Avenue. He also enjoyed golfing - often at Erskine Park Golf Course and Juday Creek Golf Course – and pursued other outdoor interests including astronomy and chasing storms.
Ken was a member of the American Legion Largo Post #119 in Florida and Pulaski Post #357 in South Bend. When taking his young family to Weko Beach in Bridgman, Michigan, he developed an appreciation for the bugler playing “Taps” at sunset every evening. After retiring to Largo, Florida he began playing “Taps” daily at sunset at Indian Rocks Beach, and became greatly appreciated there. He continued to play daily for six years before his health intervened, but the local community celebrated his final performance including several television interviews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Dick and Irene Deka and by Ken’s siblings, Ronald Deka and Susie Deka.
Surviving family includes his children, Samantha (& Scott) Thalman of Niles and Jason (& Amy) Deka of Edwardsburg, Michigan; grandchildren Samson Thalman and Scarlet Thalman; and several nieces and nephews. He was previously married to Kathy (Robinson) Deka.
Services for Kenneth Deka will be at Noon on Monday, August 23, 2021 at the Memorial Chapel in Saint Joseph Catholic Cemetery, 24980 State Road 2 in South Bend with the Rev. Christian Johnston of Saint Mary Catholic Church in Niles officiating. The services will conclude with the Full Military Honors offered by the United States Army Honor Guard assisted by the American Legion Bendix Post #284 and – of course – a final rendition of “Taps”. Those unable to attend may witness the services via the livestreamed broadcast on the Halbritter-Wickens Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/halbritterwickensfuneralservices/ .
Contributions in memory of Ken may be made to the City of Bridgman to support Taps at Weko Beach, 9765 Maple Street, Bridgman, Michigan, 49106, https://www.bridgman.org/236/Weko-Beach ; or to Caring Circle Hospice at Home, 4025 Health Park Lane, Saint Joseph, Michigan, 49085, https://www.spectrumhealthlakeland.org/caring-circle/programs/hospice-at-home-cares . Arrangements were made at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles. Online condolences may be left at:
Ken was known for his phenomenal smile. He made his name known amongst computer programmers and the billiards competitions; and was well-known as the beach “Taps” bugler. But the name that he loved the most was “Dad” and “grandpa”.