Lieutenant Colonel Richard D. Ross, USMC Retired, 85, of Columbia passed away from Alzheimer’s disease surrounded by family Friday, April 26, 2019, at Lenoir Woods in Columbia.
Services to celebrate his life will take place at 10 a.m. Oct. 26 at First Presbyterian Church, 16 Hitt St. A reception will take place immediately following to share fellowship, cookies and stories.
He was born Sept. 19, 1933, in Beloit, Kansas, son of the late Mervin and Mildred (Steeples) Ross. Richard, known to most as RD, spent his childhood in Lincoln, Kansas, where at an early age he battled polio. This would later fuel his desire for public service.
Son of a school teacher and the city postmaster, he was encouraged from a young age to be active and curious. Small-town Kansas life allowed RD to participate in every activity, from sports to student council. A perpetual rule follower, his lone act of rebellion was to skip class to see Duke Ellington perform in Lincoln, Nebraska. A love of jazz and music was one of the great joys of his life. He graduated as valedictorian of Lincoln High School in 1951. RD became a world traveler, but the little town in central Kansas remained his place of solace and contemplation for the rest of his days.
A NROTC scholarship led RD to the University of Kansas. While at KU, he was a member of Sigma Nu, Dean’s Honor Roll, Hawkwatch Society (president) and Scabbard & Blade (National Military Honor Society). He graduated from KU in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in history and American civilization, and then went on to receive a master’s degree in history in 1975 from MU.
Commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1955, RD’s 23-year military career took him to numerous countries, including three tours of Vietnam, Japan and Panama. Highlights include a tour as an infantry company commander in southeast Asia; commanding officer Marine Corps Embassy Security Group Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean; associate professor of naval science and executive officer with the University of Missouri NROTC; and a final assignment to Headquarters Marine Corps.
His numerous commendations include a Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal with Combat V for Valor and the RVN Armed Forces Medal.
While living and recruiting in San Francisco, he was set up on a date with a fellow Kansan, Loretta Pound. RD had met his match in this intelligent beauty who shared his love of adventure. Ten months later, they were married in 1964.
Upon retirement in 1978, RD, Loretta and family settled in Columbia. After a quick stop in real estate and banking, the call of public service came again. Gov. Ashcroft appointed RD to serve as director of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). During his tenure, he also served as president of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) and was one of the founding directors and former board chairman of CUSEC, Central United States Earthquake Consortium.
Later years brought out adventures and a new chapter of service. RD exemplified Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self.” He was past president of the Rotary Club of Columbia and past district governor for Rotary 6080. He and Loretta were actively involved in Rotary exchange programs, encouraging global community and friendship with travels to Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Japan, Croatia, England, Scotland, Vietnam and more.
RD was committed to supporting MU in various capacities and fundraising campaigns. A season ticket holder for decades, he supported Tiger sports, hiding his Jayhawk clothing as necessary. In 2000, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Missouri College of Arts and Science, an honor he was deeply humbled to receive. He was a proud member of MOAA, VFW Post 7928, and a devoted member of First Presbyterian Church.
RD often said, “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.” We, your friends and family, miss you, but we are better for having had you in our lives. Godspeed, RD.
The family extends its gratitude to friends near and far for their compassion and friendship. A special note of thanks to First Presbyterian Church, the Rotary Clubs of Columbia and the loving hands of Lenoir Woods Greenwood Memory Care staff.
Along with wife, Loretta, RD is survived by his sister, Tanya Ross Stormes of Laguna Woods, California; daughters and sons-in-law, Anne Marie and Daniel Mosqueda of Brambleton, Virginia, and Nancy and David Ross Dribin of Oak Park, Illinois; and grandchildren, Chay Mosqueda and wife Taylor, Cole Mosqueda, Liliana Rose Dribin and Zachary Ross Dribin.
Condolences may be left online for the family at www.ParkerMillard.com.