Charles LaVerne Ross, 86, died Tuesday, April 9, 2013, at Midland Hospice, Topeka, KS, following a short illness. He was born April 24, 1926, near McLouth, KS, the son of William Ira and Irma Regina (Sayler) Ross. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy after graduating from Washburn Rural High School, Topeka, in 1944, and served in combat in the South Pacific during WWII. After his discharge he attended Kansas State University, graduating in 3 years with honors.
Charles’ varied professional career always adhered closely to his rural Kansas roots. For 6 ½ years, he taught Vocational Agriculture in LaCygne, KS, and Washburn Rural high schools; he spent 2 years as an agricultural sales rep in Northeast Kansas. In 1957, Charles became a Farm Broadcaster for WIBW-TV and AM-FM radio; his 12 ½-year broadcasting career included promotions to TV News Director and TV Information Manager. He became Station Manager on June 8, 1966, the day an F-5 tornado hit Topeka. As manager, Charles broke protocol and ordered his newsman to broadcast a tornado warning to Topekans 9 minutes before the Weather Bureau had confirmed the tornado’s existence. That decision saved countless lives.
In 1969, Charles left WIBW to begin a 20-year career in the rural electric field, first as Executive Vice President of Kansas Electric Cooperative, Inc., then as the first Executive Vice President, CEO of Kansas Electric Power Cooperative, Inc., from which he retired in 1988. During his tenure he was instrumental in obtaining hydroelectric power from federal reservoirs that continues to benefit rural Kansans. He also was an incorporator of the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation and served on its original board of directors and executive committee.
Charles participated in dozens of state, regional, and national committees and organizations, often in leadership positions. A small sample includes: President of the National Rural Electric Statewide Managers Association, Vice Chair of the Central Area Data Processing Corporation, National Food and Energy Council’s Board of Directors, U.S. Department of Energy’s National Fuel Oil Marketing Advisory Council, Governor’s Energy Council, Kansas State University’s Agricultural Research and Advisory Council, and the first state PRIDE program steering committee.
Charles was a 54-year member of the Seabrook United Church of Christ (Congregational), serving as church moderator, chairman of the boards of deacons and trustees, and youth leader. He helped incorporate and served on the original board of directors of Brewster Place Care Center. He also was an adult leader for Boy Scouts and FFA and a lifetime member of the Kansas State Alumni Association.
Charles was a voracious reader and loved to travel. He and his wife of 68-plus years visited 47 state capitol cities and most of Canada’s provinces. As an avid outdoorsman, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, cutting firewood, and working in his pasture. He had an uncanny ability to be able to repair almost anything broken and was gifted with an encyclopedic memory for geography. Charles especially loved family gatherings, which often included marathon pinochle card games.
Charles and Doris Loraine Rowe, high school sweethearts, were married at Vallejo, CA, November 22, 1944. She passed away March 17, 2013. Survivors include a daughter, Marcia K. Ross, Fort Collins, CO; four sons, Steven L. (Louise), Carthage, MO; Gary B. (Linda), Manchester, MO; Richard D., Topeka; Mark K. (Julie), Overland Park, KS; one brother, Merle E. (Ina) Ross, Topeka; four grandchildren, William (Tara), Des Moines, IA; Scott, Hannibal, MO; Robert, Denver, CO; Kristin, Topeka; and four step-great-granddaughters, Morgan, Mandy, Jessica, and Stephanie.
Cremation has taken place, and a memorial service will be held at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, April 13, at Penwell-Gabel Southwest Chapel, 3700 SW Wanamaker Road, Topeka. Inurnment with military honors will follow at Mount Hope Cemetery, Topeka. The family will receive friends at the funeral home on Friday, April 12, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to Midland Care, 200 SW Frazier Circle, Topeka, KS 66606.