Ronald K. Leonard

Devoted husband, incredible father, and doting grandpa Ronald Keith Leonard passed away of Parkinson’s on November 8, 2021.

He was born on a farm near Logan, IA, on July 10, 1934, to LaVica and Burton Leonard. He graduated from Woodbine High School in 1952, received a B.S. in Engineering from Iowa State University and his M.S in Agricultural Engineering from Michigan State University. He married high school classmate Elizabeth “Liz” Mullenix in 1954. While an undergraduate, Ron enlisted in the ROTC, served in the Amy, and was in the Army Reserves for seven years. After graduation from Iowa State University In 1956, Ron joined the Cotton Harvesting Division of the John Deere Des Moines Works and had a career with Deere & Co in Des Moines, Horicon, and Waterloo. He was responsible for designing cotton harvesters in the 60s, lawn and garden tractors, and snowmobiles in the 70s and 80s, and helped John Deere transform agricultural tractors into a worldwide success in the late 80s through global partnerships with agricultural manufacturing companies. He retired in 1998 as Director of Worldwide Tractor and Component Engineering for Deere & Co. Throughout his career as a Product Design Engineer, Ron acquired seven (7) USA patents. Upon retirement, he wrote and published “John Deere Snowmobiles” with his good friend Dick Teal. Throughout his career, Ron was an active member of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, and the Society of Automotive Engineers, serving as their President in 1998. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1999. At the time of his death, he was an Associate Professor of the ABE Department at Iowa State University.

Ron was an avid hunter, sports enthusiast, published author, and amateur poet. His outdoor interests ranged from hunting in Montana to Alaskan fishing trips with his brother-in-law. He was a lifetime runner who competed in 5Ks, half-marathons, and the corporate relays at the annual Drake Relays and loved playing pick-up basketball with his John Deere colleagues before work. He wrote new poems for friends, family, and special work occasions and in retirement, he enjoyed participating in the Key West Writers Workshop. Perhaps his greatest joy was watching his children and grandchildren grow, crafting heirloom furniture for them in his woodworking shop, and participating in their activities as much as possible. He was a member of the Methodist Church, served on various school boards, and was active in Rotary International Exchange Student activities for many years. Ron loved following the Iowa State Cyclones.

Ron is survived by his wife of 67 years, Elizabeth Jane (Mullenix) Leonard. He is survived by children: Delaine Leonard of Austin, TX, Daniel Burton Leonard of Indian Trail, NC, and Diane Kay (Thomas) Gundrum of Milwaukee, WI, two grandchildren: Megan Elizabeth Gundrum and Trevor Reed Gundrum of Milwaukee, WI, and his sisters: Mary Jane Foutch of Woodbine, IA, and Betty (Michael) Ringstad of Missouri Valley, IA.

He was preceded in death by one son, Daniel Wayne Leonard, his parents, LaVica and Burton Leonard, and sister Patricia Leonard.

Memorial contributions may be made in his honor to the Ronald and Elizabeth Leonard Leadership in Creativity and Inspiration Scholarship at Iowa State University or to the National Academy of Engineering. Friends may share a memory or send a condolence at:

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