Rolfe A. Leary
Dr. Leary was born in Waterloo, IA on March 5, 1938 to Robert and Agnes (née Moe) Leary. After graduating from Jesup High School he went on to graduate from Iowa State with a bachelor’s degree in Forestry. He served (1961-1963) in the newly formed Peace Corps in St. Lucia - helping to plant trees and maintain the central forest reserve. His group was invited to the White House to meet President Kennedy before leaving for St Lucia. After returning to the US he received a Master’s Degree and PhD in Forestry from Purdue University. During that time he spent 1 year at the University of Idaho. While there he saw a sign in a hardware store that read “good judgment comes from experience - experience comes from poor judgment” - he quoted this to his kids throughout his life.
Rolfe and Barbara (née Buckett) Leary married in 1967 while in school at Purdue. They moved to St Paul in 1968 and Dr. Leary took a job with the US Forest Service at the North Central Forest Research Experiment Station on the St Paul Campus of the U of MN. Dr. Leary spent his career modeling forest dynamics through differential/difference equations. He worked for the Forest Service for 28 years - including a 2 year sabbatical with the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech University in Houghton, MI. After retirement he worked for the Danish Forest Service in Horsholm, Denmark for 2 years where he met people who became life-long friends. He also volunteered for CTI (Compatible Technology International) in St Paul helping to improve people’s lives by bringing small technology that could be manufactured in-country to countries in the Caribbean and Africa.
He enjoyed many different interests throughout his life - most recently helping to increase the population of monarch butterflies through careful tending and sharing this magical process with others. Dr. Leary was a kind and compassionate person who encouraged students at his Alma Matter Jesup High School through generous scholarships, he understood the importance of caring for and sustaining the earth, and helping others in many different ways throughout his life - he was a mentor to many. He and Peter Taylor Ernest also collaborated on an entry into the design competition for the World Trade Center memorial.
He is survived by his wife of 53 years Barbara; son, Daniel; daughter, Eleanor; grandsons, Alvin and Frankie, and many other family members. He is preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Agnes; sister, Rhoda Latting and brother, Roger Leary.
Special thank you to Dr. Erica Warlick and Dr. Alan Bank.
Memorial Service will be held at 11:00 AM Saturday, July 24th (gathering from 10-11AM) at Hamline Church 1514 Englewood Ave., St. Paul, MN with Pastor Greg Renstrom presiding. A luncheon to follow at the church. Service will be live streamed at Hamlinechurch.org/livestream.
Graveside Service will be held at Cedar Crest Cemetery in Jesup, IA with Pastor Mandy McCleary presiding at 11:00 AM on Sunday, July 25th - luncheon immediately following at Riverwalk Park Bandshell at 1st Avenue and 6th street NE in Independence.
In lieu of flowers donations can be sent to the Arbor Day Foundation for their Emergency Forest Replanting Fund - ArborDay.org/replant or Arbor Day Foundation 211 N. 12th Street Lincoln, NE 68508.