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In memoriam: John Robert Rice

John Robert Rice, 87, of Dysart, passed away on August 30, 2023. A visitation will be held on Wednesday, September 13, from 4 to 7:00 p.m. at Overton Funeral Home in Dysart.


John was born April 4, 1936, in Mesick, Mich., in the home of his grandparents. John spent most of his childhood in Mesick, graduating from Mesick High School in 1954.

In 1955 he enlisted in the United States Army, serving his country for three years of active duty, and an additional five years of inactive duty. During his service he was stationed in Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Carson, Colo.; and Huntsville, Ala.; eventually finishing his service at the White Sands Proving Grounds near Las Cruces, N.M., where he worked assembling missiles and missile systems as a Nike Missile Technician.

While stationed in New Mexico he enrolled in college courses, attending classes at night and on weekends. After his discharge from the Army, he enrolled full time at New Mexico State University (NMSU), taking classes in calculus, surveying, and metallurgy, while working toward an engineering degree.

John graduated from NMSU in 1960 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering.

One of his first jobs after graduation was working for Merritt-Chapman and Scott on the Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona, as a junior engineer. He left Arizona in 1961 to work for Powers and Assoc. in Iowa City, Iowa, as a Design Engineer, focused primarily on highway and structural projects. He also enrolled at the University of Iowa at this time. While attending the University of Iowa he met Margie Ales, whom he married in 1962, with whom he would eventually raise six children.

John graduated from the University of Iowa in 1964 with a master's degree in Structural Engineering. Accepting a position with the Pittsburgh Des Moines Steel Company (PDM), he moved his family, now including two children, to Des Moines, Iowa. While with PDM he gained invaluable experience working on buildings, bridges, and water towers, including involvement with the construction of the St. Louis Arch. John was the Field Engineer with the Holly Sugar Building, the first high-rise building in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In 1968 John accepted a position with C.W. Shirey Co. in Waterloo, Iowa, as a Prestressed Concrete Representative Advisor. He and Margie, now with four boys, moved to Dysart, Iowa. While living in Dysart John and Margie were surprised by the addition of two daughters to the family.

While still employed with C.W. Shirey Co. John started his own business, Custom Metal Fabricators, located in Dysart, in 1969. This eventually became a family business, with all four of his boys working in the shop and office, and his wife Margie, with two little girls in tow, overseeing the office management; including financial oversight, billing, and payroll. Custom Metal Fabricators was hugely successful, supplying structural steel for buildings across Iowa and the Midwest for 32 years, including the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa. John sold the business and retired in 2001.

While managing his own business, John continued to pursue educational opportunities. He earned a bachelor's degree in business management from Upper Iowa University and concluded his formal education with a Doctoral Degree in Industrial Technology from the University of Northern Iowa.

John eventually became an avid runner and biker, competing in numerous marathons, and triathlons. Races included the Drake Marathon, Pikes Peak Marathon, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Marathon, as well as various 5K and 10K races across the state. He also participated in bike rides all over the United States and in Europe.

In 2019, due to health reasons, John moved to Western Homes Retirement Community in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where he resided until his death. While there he continued to spend time in Dysart for holidays and other family activities. John also stayed active with jogging, walking, swimming and of course continuing to ride his bike.

John was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Bill, and one grandchild. He is survived by his sister Linda Norton, his wife of 61 years, Margie; and six children, Steve Rice (Dawn), Doug Rice (Jill), Jim Rice, David Rice (Tina), Jennifer Rice, and Katie Rice (Tyler). He is also survived by 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.