Ralph J Knobel lost his earthly battle with Parkinson disease May 9th at Fairbury, NE. Ralph was born on the family farm North of Fairbury September 4th, 1933 as the second and youngest child of Ralph E and Bernice Knobel. He was baptized October 15th, 1933 at Immanuel Lutheran Church east of Daykin. On March 2nd, 1947 both Ralph and his father were confirmed during the same service at Immanuel.
Ralph attended one room district #24 school through eighth grade and graduated from Fairbury High School in 1950. During high school he was very active in the FFA and band. During the 1950-51 school year, Ralph sat out of school serving as the Nebraska State FFA President and helping on the farm. Ralph had been awarded a Union Pacific Railroad scholarship to attend the University of Nebraska. His family agreed he would attend the University until his scholarship money was gone and then he would return home to farm. Upon arrival in Lincoln some life altering events happened.
One of Ralph’s life altering happenings was being recruited by FarmHouse Fraternity. Upon pledging, Ralph had no idea of the positive impact this group of men and their ideals would have on his life. The farm would have to wait. There were a lot of things to learn and experience before farming. Many of Ralph’s life long friends were his fraternity brothers. In college besides FH, he was active in many organizations and activities including University Marching Band, ROTC, Innocents Society, and Alpha Zeta to name a few. The University is also where he met Martha Heuermann of Phillips, Nebraska; the love of his life.
On June 12th, 1955 Ralph and Martha were married at The University Lutheran Chapel. The next day was graduation day for the newlyweds. Ralph received his B.S. in Agriculture with Distinction as well as his Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He served for 2 years active duty as platoon leader for Anti Aircraft Missile units near El Paso, Texas and Chicago, Illinois. In 1957 he and Martha returned back to the farm. Besides farming, Ralph was Fairbury Chamber of Commerce Manager in the late 50’s. Ralph’s family farm was typical of the area raising tradition crops, and feeding cattle and hogs. In 1968 Ralph and Martha were named the Nebraska Honor Farm Family. Ralph and Mark began a seed enterprise in 1980. Ralph continued to be actively involved with the farm until his early 80s. While farming was a huge part of Ralph’s life it was his ideals that really drove what he did.
He was from traditional values of Faith, Family, Freedom, Self Reliance and Love of Country. He believed in trying to make a difference by involvement and lending leadership. Therefore the multitude of church, civic, agricultural and political organizations and activities that Ralph was a part of. Things ranging from being Elder and Chairman of our church, President of the local school board, county Farm Bureau, State Young Farmers to University Boards and Foundations, Ag Builders, Nebraska Cattlemen and the various political and Republican Party activities. Service directed by dedication to ideals, but engaged and encouraged by the friendships made along the way. Ralph served on advisory boards to three different U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture, served as Chair of the Ag Subcommittee of the Republican Platform in 1988, was Chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party for five Years in the 1980’s and subsequently ran for Nebraska State Governor in 1994. Many of these notable involvements were because of encouragement, nominations or recommendations from Ralph’s numerous friends. Highlights of his political service included attending several Republican National Conventions, meeting with numerous politicians, including Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Ralph even got to ride on Air Force One at the invitation of President Reagan.
God allowed Ralph a good life. There is a lot not mentioned in detail in a short obituary. Things that made Ralph – “Ralph”; like how much he loved music – especially the “big band” sound. How he loved to dance with Martha or knowing that he played in a dance band in the 50’s. Some of you didn’t realized how much he loved the outdoors, especially hunting! Opening day of pheasant season was maybe the only day of the year Ralph would actually take off work for a while. Ralph worried lately he was missing deer season. He maybe liked to build things even more than plant things. Ralph always needed or had a project to pour energy into like, helping with the restoration of the 1923 Fairbury High School Building. God allowed Ralph many experiences. Ralph felt blessed. He and Martha liked to travel and he would normally say upon return home, “Nebraska looks better every time we come back!” He loved our country – freedom, but mostly, he loved God, his family and his friends.
He cared greatly for his family, cherished his marriage to his wife of 62 years and was proud of his six grandchildren-Elizabeth, Kara, Landon, Connor, Traci and Haley.
Ralph leaves behind his three children; Mark and wife Jan of Fairbury, Gwen and husband Randy of Omaha, and Todd of Fairbury. Grandchildren Elizabeth Stahmer of Chicago, IL, Kara Knobel of Columbia, Missouri, Landon Stahmer of Los Angeles, CA, Connor Stahmer of Omaha, Traci and her husband Trevor Menke of Grand Island and Haley Knobel of Lincoln, sister Alvera Sturgeon of Centennial, CO, brother-in-law B. K. Heuermann and his wife Norma of Phillips, sisters-in-law Dorothy Nelson of Fresno, CA, Elizabeth Heuermann of Lincoln and Alma Rohlfing and husband Norman of Talmage, NE.
Preceding Ralph in death are wife Martha; parents Ralph E. and Bernice Knobel; and brothers-in-law Darren Nelson, Keith Sturgeon and Eugene Heuermann and sister-in-law Marilyn Heuermann..
Services will be Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church at Daykin. The family will greet friends on Tuesday evening at the funeral home from 6-8 p.m. Memorials have been established to the Family’s Choice. Burial will be at the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery near Daykin.
Gerdes-Meyer Funeral Home in Fairbury is in charge of the arrangements.