Ralph D. Engardt
September 18, 1931 – January 28, 2021
Ralph Duane Engardt was born on September 18, 1931, to Rudy and Myrtle Engardt. They lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and had three children: Ralph, JoAnne (Eledge) (deceased), and Jerry (who still lives in Omaha.) Ralph graduated from South High School in Omaha in 1949, and was awarded an ROTC scholarship. He continued his education at Iowa State University.
Before Ralph graduated with his BS degree and his Doctorate in Physics from Iowa State University in 1964, 3 significant events shaped the rest of his life:
• He met and married the love of his life: Edith Paskach, on June 15, 1953 she is the youngest of 9 children, and they were partners and the best of friends for the rest of Ralph’s life. (Married 67 years, 7 months, and 13 days!)
• Ralph was commissioned into the Navy on 12 June 1953, and served for 2 years, 11 months, and 19 days. Lieutenant Junior Grade (02) Ralph D Engardt received 2 medals, and was honorably discharged on 31 May 31 1956. While in the Navy, Ralph was separated from his wife in service of his country while event #3 occurred:
• Edith gave birth to their first of 5 children: A GIRL! Debbie Lynne (King) was born on November 12, 1954. Before Ralph graduated with his Doctorate in Physics in 1964—4 more children were added to the family (and into the “cozy” 2-bedroom apartment in Student Housing): Cindi, Sue, Bob, & Gary.
Ralph accepted a position as a Professor in Physics at the University of Northern Iowa, where he taught for 30 years, until his retirement in 1995. The family moved to Cedar Falls—which is still the ‘family home’ to this day. They became regulars at the United Methodist Church of Cedar Falls—slipping into the back row of the balcony with the first or second song, and slipping out with the last hymn!
Ralph also put his physics to work in a ‘practical’ way for a period of time: From 1979 to 1983, Ralph and his long-time friend and colleague Roy Unruh, built and sold Terra Domes (earth-sheltered, modern looking, energy-efficient homes.) This also provided gainful employment to Ralph’s sons Bob and Gary for a period of time.
After Ralph’s retirement in 1995, he helped care for his parents in Omaha. By then, 4 of his children had headed west: Sue to Seattle, WA; Gary to San Diego, CA; Bob to Solana Beach, CA; and Cindi with her husband Ty Guy to Dana Point, CA. Ralph and Edie began a period of their life of traveling to the West Coast for just less than ½ the year. Gary helped them purchase a condo in Solana Beach, and Bob and dog Leprechaun have helped them keep it occupied.
Ralph was a life-long learner. He was always curious and inquisitive. He had a fascination with airplanes and flying—he flew and executed over 200 take-offs and landings with an instructor. Ralph would regularly engage people in topics of their interests, rather than his own. He was always alert and thinking about others, and about safety. If he were a passenger in your vehicle—he was watching the road as much/or more than you—and he would be quick to teach a lesson on keeping a safe distance from the car in front of you—“the simplest way to avoid preventable accidents.” (Must’ve had something to do with physics!)
About 18 months ago, Ralph and Edie went from their home in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to visit Deb and Steve in Ames, Iowa—and then one health concern/crisis after another prevented their returning home. They were given expert, steady, and consistent loving care by Deb and Steve all the way through numerous Doctor visits, hospital stays, and Ralph’s bout with cancer. On the day of his death, Ralph was surrounded by his wife and 5 adult children, all attending to him and showing their love and concern.
Ralph was a wonderful man with a brilliant sense of humor, a sincere love of others, and a great passion for life. He will be greatly missed by his dear wife Edith, his 5 children and their spouses, his 9 grandchildren, and his 24 great-grandchildren, extended family, students, and many friends.
May he rest in peace.
Visitation: Wednesday, February 3, 2021, from 9:30am to 11:00am, followed by Service at 11:00am, all at the West Center Chapel. Graveside Service: Ralph will be buried at Omaha National Cemetery on Wednesday at 2pm with full military rites.