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Ronald Wayne Sterkel

March 6, 1931 ~ July 28, 2023 (age 92) 92 Years Old
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Ronald Wayne Sterkel, 92, died peacefully in his sleep Friday, July 28, 2023 surrounded by his family at The Aspen assisted living facility in Woodland Park, Colorado.

Ron was born March 6, 1931 to parents Henry and Marie Sterkel in Lincoln, Nebraska. While attending Lincoln Northeast High School he was active in choir, using his gifted voice in one of the school’s male quartets; he was a running back on the school’s football team; and one of premiere runners on the school’s track team. As a senior he placed fourth in the 100-yard-dash at the Nebraska State High School track meet.

Ron stayed in Lincoln for college attending the University of Nebraska where he graduated with a B.A. in Industrial Design. Having been involved in the ROTC program, after college he served as a Second Lieutenant in the army based at the Presidio in San Francisco during the Korean wartime.

Following his military service Ron had a short stint working for Boeing in Wichita, Kansas. He realized that was not his calling and moved to Bloomington, Indiana to pursue a MFA at Indiana University. It was while teaching as a graduate assistant at IU that he met the love of his life, Ruth McKnight, who he soon married on Nov. 14, 1956. Upon receiving his MFA, Ron stayed on at IU as an assistant professor to oversee the newly established graphic design program.

All three of his children, son, Mark, and daughters, Sue and Janet, were born during the time in Bloomington.

In 1963 the family moved to Champaign, Illinois, where Ron had accepted a teaching position in the art department at the University of Illinois and stayed for the remainder of his teaching career. During his tenure at the U of I, he headed the graduate graphic design program; headed the visual research center; and was an assistant chairman of the art department. One of his highlights was organizing a visual arts “Happening,” as part of the university’s centennial celebration in 1967.

During his 1969 sabbatical, Ron took his family to Europe, where they toured museums, and historic and cultural sites while he did extensive photography and visited graphic design programs throughout Europe.

Ruth and he were active in many university activities involving the arts, music and culture. Enjoying gourmet foods, the two participated in groups that researched and prepared international cuisines.

Outside of his teaching at the university, he also worked as a graphic design consultant for the Federal Reserve and the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. He had an interest in architecture that came to fruition in the designing and remodeling of several houses in both Bloomington and Champaign.

He retired from the University of Illinois in 1990. He and Ruth moved from their longtime home in Champaign to a country ranch house in East Texas with 17 acres adjacent to a golf course. Ron’s love of architecture was highlighted by many of the upgrades he made to the house.

Ron was an avid golfer, having played since his college days. His being able to walk out the back door to play a round of golf was one of his joys. He continued to play until he was well into his 80s. He also enjoyed shooting pool, playing poker and was an avid hiker.

After seven years in Texas the couple found a home with a beautiful mountain view in Pueblo West, Colorado where they lived for the next 23 years. Colorado had already been a favorite family vacation destination since the 1950s, especially the town of Nederland, where in 1980 they purchased their dream log cabin next to a beautiful stream. The cabin became a family gathering place for many years, including family reunions and the site of their son Mark’s wedding in 2017.

While in Pueblo, Ron and Ruth were founding members of the community xeriscape garden. He also served on the board of directors  and honored as volunteer of the year for the Sangre de Cristo Art Museum. They split their time between their home in Pueblo West and the cabin in Nederland until Ruth’s death in 2019. They also enjoyed exploring some of the local communities throughout Colorado as well as regular trips to their favorite Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they toured the art galleries in search of Native American jewelry and pottery, and other artwork to add to their extensive collection.

Ron also loved to work with wood. Much of the artwork he made through the years incorporate finely sanded and oiled pieces of exotic woods. He loved to feel the texture and appreciated the fine grain structures of the different woods. During his retirement he built a wood shop in the Pueblo West house where he made intricate wood sculptures, jewelry, trays and furniture.

Throughout his life, he enjoyed a good pun and always enjoyed engaging someone in creative repartee. He and Ruth also loved to entertain, having a reputation for some of the best parties for friends and colleagues.

Ronald was a loving husband, devoted to Ruth in a marriage of 62 years. She died March 18, 2019.

He is survived by his three children: Mark (Beth) Sterkel of Woodland Park, Colorado; SueMarie (Ralph) Mendez of Divide, Colorado; and Janet (Gary) Sterkel Roeckner of Dayton, Ohio; grandchildren: Michael (Abigail) Smith; Paolo (Amanda) Mendez; Matthew (Amy) Mendez and Connor (Michael) Cook; and great-grandchildren: Grace, Patrick, Declan and Claire Smith; Christian, Emma and Molly Mendez; Hugo, and Llewyn Mendez; and Eden Cook.

A Memorial Service will be held at 4 p.m., Wednesday, August 2, 2023, in the chapel at the Mountain Memorial Funeral Home in Divide, Colorado.

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Memorial Service
August 2, 2023

4:00 PM
Mountain Memorial Funeral Home
51 County Road 5
Divide, CO 80814