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Martin Ravnaas

ROCHELLE – Martin Ravnaas, 89, of rural Rochelle, after spending the day with his children, went home to his Heavenly Father on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17, 2012, concluding a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Martin was born Jan. 24, 1923, on the family farm north of Steward, to Ruth E. (Barnett) and M. William Ravnaas. He took over the family farm operation at the age of 17, after graduating from Steward High School in 1940, since his father was incapacitated in an automobile accident. Martin married Virginia Carmichael on Aug. 17, 1947, at Lindenwood Union Church.

Martin loved the farm, relishing the challenges of producing bountiful crops of corn and soybeans, and raising white faced Herefords and Black Angus cattle to sell as prime beef at the markets. 

Farmers must be optimistic, and Martin was unusually so. He would brush off a bad year with “Next year will be better.” A poem that hung on the wall of his boyhood home exemplified his attitude and said, “Ain’t the roses sweet?/ You get a thorn with every rose, / But ain’t the roses sweet?” He enjoyed attending the National Western Stock Show in Denver each year. He was known for planting the straightest grain rows in the area. 

He showed hospitality and neighborliness by waving at everyone who drove by or helping those with car trouble.

Martin was a lifelong member of Steward United Methodist Church, where his Christian faith and education were nurtured. Martin continued to attend even recently in his wheelchair. He served as Sunday school teacher for high school, then junior high. He was Sunday school superintendent and served on the administrative board, the board of trustees, and various committees. He had the most number of years of perfect attendance. Martin honored the Sabbath by not doing farm work other than to care for his livestock. His favorite verse was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Martin demonstrated I Thessalonians 5:11, “Encourage one another and build each other up,” by writing many letters of encouragement or empathy to family and friends who had moved out of the area, were attending college, suffering hardships or heartache, or were serving their country.

He was especially protective and kind to his sisters and respectful to his parents and elders. The bond of love he held with his sisters throughout their lives was extraordinary.

Martin was convinced of the need for a community hospital and was a charter member of the Rochelle Community Hospital Board. He also served as president.

Martin was survived by his two sons, Martin William “Bill” Ravnaas Jr. of rural Rochelle and Robert D. (Gina) Ravnaas of Fort Worth, Texas; one daughter, Mary (Tom) Gilbert of Kingwood, Texas; two sisters, Shirley Kersten and Rose Anne (Wayne) Kersten, both of rural Rochelle; and four grandchildren, Davis Ravnaas of New York City, Rand Ravnaas of Fort Worth, and Natalie and Elizabeth Gilbert of Kingwood, Texas.

He was predeceased by his wife, Virginia (1988); and three sisters, Marjorie Eiselstein (1997), Ruth Louise Totten (2010), and Phyllis Jones (2009).

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Unger-Horner Funeral Home in Rochelle and from 10 to 10:45 a.m. Saturday at Steward United Methodist Church. Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the church, with the Rev. Dr. Jin Yang Kim officiating. Interment will be at Steward Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to Steward United Methodist Church.

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