Joel Cronbaugh, whose brother David referred to him as the purest, most innocent soul he ever knew, transitioned to his Heavenley home peacefully on May 5, 2020. A person of few words but many, many stories, Joel was a man of action who distinguished himself in many ways during his long, fore-filled life. Mostly we will all remember him for his selfless kindness, goofy sense of humor and many years of taking his fellow truck driver friends, his family of nieces and nephews and all his devoted friends to The Brick Haus in Amana for weekly and often twice a week "Cowboy" lunches.
A graduate of McKinley High in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as his younger brothers David and Steve shoved each other down the laundry chute, Joel was making his name as a car engine genius. As a member of the famous Cedar Rapids motor club, The Rod Benders, Joel was the go-to guy for making a car engine "scream." This passion for anything with a motor and wheels resulted in him becoming an avid, lifelong collector of bicycles, motocross bikes and cars. Joel drove in motocross well into his 70s, putting much younger competitors to shame.
When his niece and nephew Tara and Todd were young, Joel and his brother David helped them construct national class caliber Soap Box Derby Cars. Tara's car actually finished second in the All-American Championship. During this period, Joel became a friend and mentor to Todd's buddy James Burns, also a Derby Car driver. Both Todd and James took Joel's endless hours of meticulous lessons and teaching and went on to pursue master's degrees in engineering and law at Ivy League schools. Their love and friendship lasted throughout Joel's life. Joel, the man who never told a dirty joke or even used a naughty word, went on to make the long drive to New York City to stand up in James's wedding and proceeded to drive back to Iowa with a $500 parking ticket for parking in Times Square that he "refused" to pay. (The conservative Iowa guy had no idea how to park in NYC.)
Joel cut his mechanical teeth helping his father Melvin W (W for work, he always joked), at Tubb's Transport Service on old Highway 30. Initially helping with car and transport servicing, Joel prided himself on being the electrical wizard at the once-largest truck stop in Iowa. Drivers would scratch their heads as the tall, scrawny kid would solve elusive electrical problems in minutes. Joel's natural ability to troubleshoot or fabricate anything electronic inspired him to follow in his father, Melvin's, footsteps as a longtime businessman in Cedar Rapids. After operating Cronbaugh Transport during the early 1980s, Joel made his mark in the trucking and tank wash industry. Cronbaugh Tank Wash offered interior tank washes for liquid product transport tankers. Joel once again used his diligent, meticulous skill to design one of his own mechanical spinner washers, a washing technique still used today. His scrupulous cleaning process set the gold standard in the liquid tank washing industry. Joel retired from his love of the trucking industry in 1997, when he sold the business to Kevin Smith, an employee at the time but later grew into a devoted, trusted friend. The family would like to extend appreciation to Kevin for all his support during Joel's illness.
Joel spent his retirement years mentoring his niece Tara, as she continued the family trait of business ownership. Until 2017, alongside his brother David, Joel pursued his love to fabricate, troubleshoot and fix anything at The Java House, Tara's company in Iowa City. When Joel was not fixing odds and ends around his farmstead in Norway, he was tinkering on his pride and joy, Ducati motocross bikes, collecting bicycles to rebuild and later donate, or attending Sunday church service, a life-time member at Calvary Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids. He got a kick out of retelling jokes, reciting Bible verses to those he loved (Romans 8:28 was his favorite) and doing favors for people he cared about most. He wore a denim jean shirt every day, carried a tire pressure gauge in his shirt pocket and handed out hundreds of mini-LED flashlights to each of his friends. A man of simple pleasures, he loved hamburgers at The Hamburg Inn and his weekly visits for Beef & Noodles at Maid-Rite in Cedar Rapids, where he would take his Maid-Rite lunch to his longtime high school friend, Evelynn Strait, each week for many years. The family would like to extend deep appreciation to Evelynn for her loving, unconditional and daily support, and friendship to Joel.
Joel Richard was born Feb. 28, 1935, to Katherine Maxine Hepler and Melvin W Cronbaugh. Joel entered the U.S. Army in 1964 and did basic at Fort Leonard Wood. At the age of 41, Joel graduated at LeTourneau College, Longview, Texas.
Joel was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers, David and Stephen.
Surviving are nieces and nephews, Tara Cronbaugh, Todd Miller, Anya Schmitz, Barbara Wolfe and Stephen Cronbaugh; and many great-nieces and -nephews.
The family would like to thank Brown Deer Place and ManorCare, Cedar Rapids, for Joel's last months of care during a long-progressive disease. Thank you to Mercy Hospice Cedar Rapids and specifically, Amy Harris, Mercy Hospice nurse and friend, who offered special attention and love during Joel's last hours. Tara Cronbaugh, Joel's niece, was devoted to Joel's wellbeing during the last, fragile years of his life and we all want to thank her for it. Indeed, it takes a village.
The family will be holding a graveside service at noon Saturday, May 9, in the Honey Creek Township, in Koszta, Iowa, at the Koszta Cemetery. Located outside of Marengo, Highwwy 212 to F Avenue in Koszta. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Mercy Hospice, Cedar Rapids.
Online condolences may be made at www.lensingfuneral.com.