Dr. James LeRoy SteeleNovember 10, 1937 ~ January 4, 2018 (age 80)
Dr. James LeRoy Steele (Jim), formerly of Centerville, Iowa, Suffolk, Virginia and Manhattan, Kansas, died on January 4, 2018 after a long battle with stage 4 colon cancer.
He was a devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather. Jim was preceded in death by his parents Joseph Elmer Steele and Dena Barnes Steele of Centerville, Iowa and a sister, Joanne Steele Melody of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
Left to cherish his memory are his wife Diane L. Sumpter Steele of Manhattan, Kansas; daughters Kimberly Steele Tucker and her husband James S. Tucker, Jr. of Greeneville, Tennessee and Heather Steele Holborn and Melvin Ty Holborn of Manhattan, Kansas; two grandsons, Joshua A. Tucker and Peyton S. Holborn. He is also survived by one sister, Jeanne Steele Virtue and her husband Terry Virtue of Onawa, Iowa and their two sons and their wives; Mark and Sandra Virtue of Belleview, Washington and Todd and Caroline Virtue of Boston, Massachusetts.
Jim grew up in Centerville, Iowa In Appanoose county on the family farm. He graduated from Centerville High School in 1956, and attended Centerville Community College 1956-1957 majoring in Engineering Preparatory Studies. From there he attended Iowa State University from 1957-1967. While at Iowa State Jim earned his B.S. degree in Agricultural Engineering, an M.S. in Agricultural Engineering and his Ph.D. in Agricultural Engineering, Engineering Mechanics and Plant Physiology. During his tenure at Iowa State, Jim married his high school sweet heart, his wife of 58 years, Diane L. Sumpter Steele, on August 23, 1959. Together they moved to Ames, Iowa where they started their lives together.
In 1967 Jim’s work took them South, to Suffolk, Virginia where Jim worked for the USDA at the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station in Holland, VA from 1967 to 1987. His research on peanuts included, but was not limited to, disease research, artificial drying, storage and curing conditions of directly harvested peanut seed and, computer controlled drying related to peanut seed production. He also studied the deterioration and storage life of shelled corn. In 1993 he was invited to present testimony on grain dust and grain dust explosions before the Sub-committee on Agricultural Research, Conservation, Nutrition and Forestry on Capitol Hill before the United States Senate. While working in Virginia he held an Adjunct Professor appointment in the Department of Agricultural Engineering at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, VA.
From there, after 20 years in Virginia, his job took him and his family back to the Midwest to Manhattan, Kansas. He finished out his career in agricultural research working for the USDA at the Grain Marketing Research Lab. There he worked with a group of Agricultural Engineers to develop an instrument called a “Single Kernel Wheat Characterization System” (SKWCS). This SKWCS unit measured single wheat kernels for hardness. Jim was a lead person involved in obtaining the patent for the SKWCS unit and transferring the SKWCS unit from the USDA to a manufacturer of wheat systems, Perten Instruments. Jim and a fellow developer of the SKWCS unit were invited to Vienna, Austria in 1994 to present a talk on the SKWCS unit development. Jim was a member of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) from 1957 through present date. In 1998 Jim was nominated and elected for a Fellow Award in the ASAE, which is the highest grade of membership honor for the ASAE. Jim was given this award which recognized his research and excellence of work. During his career he was a published author. He held offices and served on committees in both professional and honorary societies. He was frequently consulted by Agricultural Extension Specialists and other scientists on peanut drying, curing and design of research equipment and facilities. He was often asked to discuss peanut harvesting and storage with foreign visitors from Japan, Israel, Egypt, West Germany and the Peoples Republic of China.
He retired in August of 2000 from the USDA and remained in Manhattan, Kansas. After retiring from government research, Jim acquired his childhood family farm in Centerville, Iowa and returned to his roots, farming. I think Jim was happiest when he spent time on the farm. It did not matter the task at hand, he just loved spending time there. He would drive back and forth from Manhattan, Kansas to Centerville, Iowa doing what he loved best, farming.
Jim enjoyed spending time with his family. Together they went camping, deep sea fishing, took trips all over the United States and would frequently go to the beach. They would all pile in the RV or car and go. Sometimes friends and neighbors would go along on the trips too. Good times and fond memories were made. Jim will be dearly missed. Jim was a strong, loving, supportive father and grandfather. He was kind, caring, encouraging and interested in his daughter’s lives. He loved his grandsons very much; always concerned with their well-being and success. He would spend time with them whenever the opportunity arose. He loved to laugh and kid around with them.
Jim will be buried in Centerville, Iowa at the Sharon Chapel Cemetery, which is just down the road from the family farm. Visitation will be at the Lange Funeral Home in Centerville, Iowa on January 18, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. The funeral service will be on January 18, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. at Lange Funeral Home in Centerville, Iowa. Interment will follow at Sharon Chapel Cemetery. Condolences can be sent to the family at Lange Funeral Home, 1900 South 18th Street, Centerville, Iowa 52544 or online at www.langefh.com. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts of remembrance can be made to The American Cancer Society, The Appanoose County 4-H Youth Foundation and the Sharon Chapel Cemetery Association Fund.