Ross Leeper, 85
Fri, 04/26/2019 - 3:42pm admin
Nov. 27. 1933 —
April 11, 2019
Indianola - Ross Allen Leeper, age 85, of Indianola, Iowa passed away on April 11, 2019.
Services were held onApril 16, 2019 at First United Methodist Church in Indianola with burial following at the Penn Center Cemetery in Earlham, Iowa.
Ross Allen was born on Nov. 27, 1933 to Merle and Ruth (DeVault) Leeper on the family farm near Earlham. The family of five included his older sister, Lola (Leeper) Mapes and his younger sister, Janet (Leeper) Jenkins. He attended a one-room country school at first and eventually Earlham High School.
As music was always a part of the Leeper household (He was in the second ever Iowa All-State Band.), Ross pursued his own love of music by entering Simpson College as a music education major in 1951. He transferred to Drake University in 1953 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1955. (He later earned a master’s degree at Drake in 1960.) He met his wife Shirley (Paasch) during their time at Simpson College, and they married in 1956.
He taught middle school band at Exira, Iowa for one year, and knowing his draft number was up, he entered the armed services voluntarily in July 1956, so he could exit the service in the early summer when it was easier to find school job openings. He served in the U.S. Army Band for two years.
Ross then taught junior high band in Eagle Grove, Iowa from the August 1958-May 1989, a total of 31 years. His bands were consistently considered among the best in the state. He turned down many high school offers because he did not want to “mess” with marching band. At the invitation from the head of the Simpson College music department, he took over the instrumental music program and was conductor of both the band and jazz band from August 1989 to May 2000. After a brief retirement, he finished out most of the 2001-2002 school year with the Knoxville, Iowa high school band program when they needed a conductor. Although a high school job included the dreaded marching band season, he decided this was still better than retirement, so he spent a total of 11 years at Knoxville, finally accepting “early” retirement from full-time teaching in May 2012 at age 78!
When asked what he intended to do in retirement, he said, “I plan to be a professional bull rider, and at age 78 I don’t want to make any long-term commitments, and where else can success be achieved in eight seconds?” But again, he found retirement uninteresting, and for the past five years, he taught music at West Des Moines Dowling High School three part days a week, including April 11, 2019 when he died of a presumed heart attack.
In addition to his “day” job, he was first alto saxophonist and soloist with the Karl King Band of Fort Dodge from 1960-1990. He also produced the “Sounds of Karl L. King” recording and the accompanying booklet which told how Dr. King interpreted his music. He has played in many dance bands, including lead alto sax player with the Al Welsh Band from 1960 until his death. He was director and conductor of the Fort Dodge Area Symphony from 1978-1985 and conductor of the Fort Dodge Choral Society from 1985-1988.
His devotion to music was seen in many ways. He held various national offices in the American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA), including president in 1980. Additionally, he was one of five founding members of the ASBDA Education Foundation and served as chairman for over 20 years. He was also the ASBDA chairman in charge of convention planning for over 20 years. In the state of Iowa, he held various offices in the Iowa Bandmasters Association (IBA), including president in 1983. He was instrumental in getting the state of Iowa to declare May 9-10 as “Iowa Band Days” and started the Simpson College Orpheus Middle School Honor Band Festival.
Among his many awards, the most significant include being selected as one of the 10 most outstanding music educators in North America for 1977-78 by the School Musician magazine, the State of Iowa “MAC” award in 1979, the Distinguished Bandmaster of America Award from First Chair of America in 1980, the Iowa Middle Level Teacher of the Year in 1985, the IBA Karl L. King Distinguished Service Award in 1986, the ASBDA Edwin Franko Goldman Award in 1988 and the Excellence in Teaching Award from Simpson College in 1995.
In addition to teaching many thousands of students the joys of music, he became a close friend and mentor to many of them. He had an impish grin, a playful personality and enjoyed the many practical jokes he played on friends and family. He was proud of his children and grandchildren, and just as he was with his music students, he was an important and helpful figure in their lives.
Ross is survived by his wife of 62 years, Shirley Leeper of Indianola; his two children, Dr. Jeffrey Leeper (Janene) of Decorah, Iowa and Kristen (Steven) Goedtke of Colorado Springs, Colo.; foster children, Thien Tran of San Jose, Calif. and Hieu Tran of Oklahoma City; grandchildren, Rachel, Hannah and Ethan Leeper and Jessica, Rebecca, Miranda, Jonathon and Mikayla Goedtke; his sister, Janet Jenkins of Hot Springs Village, Ark.; and brothers-in-law, Franklyn Mapes of Longview, Texas and Ronald Paasch of Walnut, Iowa.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Merle and Ruth; his sister, Lola Mapes; and brother-in-law, Richard Jenkins.