Leonard Eugene Roberts, 87, of Iowa City, passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, after a brief illness. A visitation will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27, at Peterseim Funeral Home in Kalona. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Sharon Center United Methodist Church in Sharon Center, Iowa. Burial will follow at Sharon Center United Methodist Cemetery.
Len (known as "Gene" in his childhood) was born to Clifford and Mary Roberts on the family farm south of Oxford, Iowa, on Nov. 24, 1930. From an early age, Len charged around the farm, driving a team of horses, milking cows and occasionally teasing his two sisters. Len graduated from Parnell Consolidated High School in 1949. He served in the U.S. Army in the 224th Regimental Combat Team during the Korean War, where he was promoted to regimental sergeant major. Len's renowned organizational and administrative skills were formed in the Army. Len was proud of his service, having received his Combat Infantryman's Badge. He returned as a guest of the South Korean government in 2007, where he, along with Buzz Aldrin and other veterans, were honored for their service.
Len married Mary Joanne "Jo" Standley on June 5, 1954. Together they had four children.
Len obtained his bachelor's and master's degrees from Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) and his Ph.D. in school administration from Iowa State University. Len's long career as an educator took him from teaching in a one-room school to his retirement as superintendent of Bloomington Public Schools in Bloomington, Ill., with stops along the way in Cedar Rapids, Hudson, Jewell and Maquoketa, Iowa, as well as Lombard, Ill. Len passionately advocated for education. He exhorted his colleagues to set goals and priorities, adjuring them to "Do right things. Don't just do things right."
Those who knew Len as a driven educator, negotiator, administrator or sergeant major, may have missed his keen sense of humor. But his friends and family enjoyed his joshing and colorful expressions; see, e.g., "since Hector was a pup." Len was a constant student of history and a religious reader of the New York Times. He and Jo retired to the family Century Farm south of Oxford in 1995, but spent their time traveling the globe with their lifelong friends, Bill and Deanie Broderick. He volunteered on the Johnson County Foster Care Review Board and as a small-claims mediator. He served as clerk for Harding Township until he could finally persuade someone to replace him.
Len is survived by his wife, Jo; his children, Jon (Patty) Roberts of St. Charles, Ill., Peg Kramer of Iowa City, Carol (Ron) Hale of Groveland, Ill., and Mark (Denise) Roberts of Cedar Rapids; his grandchildren, Zarah, Sam, Will, Atticus and Ryan; and sisters, Lois Fergus and Ada Urice.
Len was preceded in death by his parents.
Len, like his father, was a longtime donor and volunteer at the Iowa City Crisis Center. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Iowa City Crisis Center or Sharon Center United Methodist Church.