After years of weathering rough seas, Mike Ster, 86, found safe harbor with his Lord and Savior on March 3, 2018, surrounded by his loving family. Services with Military rites will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at The Church on Northland, 5200 Northland Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids. Friends may call at Cedar Memorial Park Funeral Home from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday. Michael has unselfishly donated his body to science at the University of Iowa.
Michael James Ster was born March 10, 1931, to James and Mabel (Rodewald) Ster. He was a very rambunctious lad. After getting kicked out of Chicago at the age of 14, Mike moved to South Wayne, Wis., to live with a family friend, where he met his wife of 53 years, Nancy Joan Thorpe, and successfully graduated high school.
Soon after high school, Mike joined the U.S. Navy. Nancy followed him to San Diego, where they were married on May 22, 1952 at the Navy chapel. During his six years in the Navy, he learned to scuba dive as a salvage diver stationed on the USS Reclaimer and then transferred to the submarine USS Becuna. He served in the Korean War and successfully completed a number of hazardous missions that involved diving from the submarine while submerged off the coast of Korea to take pictures of the coastline. He was also called upon to serve in informational gathering during nuclear testing in the South Pacific.
After leaving the Navy, Mike attended college at the University of Wisconsin. He earned a B.S. degree in social work and continued his passion for scuba diving by becoming a scuba instructor and began to teach diving to thousands of students in Eastern Iowa.
In 1962, Mike eventually moved his young family to Marion and started Ster's Aquatic Sports as a hobby and a way to share his love of diving. After realizing a need in the community, he started the Linn County Underwater Search and Recovery unit. He worked with the sheriff's department and the fire department in recovering lost and stolen items from the rivers, lakes and quarries in Eastern Iowa. His team also was called during drowning incidents.
To support his family, Mike worked at Rockwell Collins and then became a juvenile probation officer. After working with and helping troubled youth, he started his own private adoption agency, where he found loving families for orphaned children from Guatemala and El Salvador. When the state ended private adoptions, he worked as assistant civil defense director for Linn County.
Mike and Nancy loved to travel and would take many trips to the coast, where Nancy would be on the shore while Mike was in his second home the water. There were many great memories from family trips throughout the U.S.
In 1991, Mike developed cancer as a result of radiation exposure during his time in the Navy. The cancer eventually caused him to retire from everything, except his love for his family and scuba diving. He said the only good thing about getting cancer was that it allowed more time for scuba diving. We have no idea how many students' lives he touched and infected with his love of diving, but we know it is vast, and he truly cared for each and every one.
Mike married his second wife, Molly, in November 2006. They shared the love of travel and Starbucks, right up until her death in October 2017.
Mike was a pillar in Marion and communities throughout Linn County and beyond. He was always ready to serve in any way possible, earning respect, admiration and love from everyone he touched.
Mike is survived by his children, David Ster, Marion, (Elizabeth Rickels-Ster, Center Point), Cheri (Alan) Boots, Sunrise, Fla., Barb Novotny, Streamwood, Ill., Paul (Janelle) Ster, Robins, and Shawn Ster, Marion; his grandchildren, Adam, Beth, Nick (Allison), Justin (Angela), Joe (Laura), Jessica, Nicole (Chris), Ian, Joshua, Stephen and Allison; nine great-grandchildren; three stepchildren, Cathy (Lee) Webb, David (Nancy) Simpson and Annie Simpson; four stepgrandchildren; and three stepgreat-grandchildren; along with many adoring nieces and nephews.
Mike was preceded in death by his parents, James and Mabel; bother, James; sister, Kit; wife, Nancy; son-in-law, Mark Novotny; and second wife, Molly.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund has been established in Mike's name.
Please leave a message or tribute to the family on the website at www.cedarmemorial.com under obituaries.
Dress code for the service: Casual attire, because "it ain't no damn fashion show!"