Obituary Listings

Gene L Raffensperger

September 27, 1929 November 13, 2018
Gene L Raffensperger
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Obituary for Gene L Raffensperger

Gene L. Raffensperger, 89, a 36-year writer and editor at the Des Moines Register, died Tuesday, Nov. 13, of heart failure at Western Home Communities-Deery Suites, Cedar Falls.

His career at the Register included beat and general assignment roles, copy desk duty, city editor, sports editor and the formation and running of the Register's Eastern Iowa News Bureau.

Raffensperger was born Sept. 27, 1929, in Waterloo, son of Leonard and Leone Raffensperger. He graduated from Waterloo East High in 1947, where as a senior he was the quarterback on the East team coached by his father, Leonard Raffensperger.

Gene attended Antioch College in Ohio for two years. It was there he met Mary Gruber of Marion, Ohio, also a student. The two transferred to the University of Iowa in 1950; Gene entered journalism school, Mary to begin training in the Iowa College of Nursing. They married in 1951. While a student at Iowa, Gene became the Iowa City correspondent for the Des Moines Register. Frank Eyerly, managing editor at the Register, liked Gene's work and asked him to apply at the Register after he completed military service.

Gene graduated from Iowa in 1952 and entered the Army, eventually being assigned to Germany. Mary and their infant son joined him there in 1954. The three returned to the United States in 1955, and Gene became a Register staff writer in September 1955.

In 1961, Register editors decided to establish a news bureau in eastern Iowa to serve the growing population in that section of the state. It was the first news operation in the state outside Des Moines. Raffensperger was chosen to run this bureau and in January 1961 opened a Register news office in Davenport. He ran it alone for six years.

This assignment saw him travel each week with notebook and camera over some part of a territory along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Missouri, and westward to include Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and surrounding counties and towns. His stories ranged from river rat characters to murder trials.

In 1965 he covered what at that time was the record flood on the Mississippi; in 1962 wrote an account of a hanging at the prison in Fort Madison; in 1965 he covered the fire and explosion that killed 20 attending a Thanksgiving-eve square dance in Keokuk; in 1964 he reported the return to Iowa of President Herbert Hoover for the dedication of his presidential library at West Branch; and later the state funeral for Mr. Hoover in West Branch.

Starting in 1962 he covered for three years the developing story in Buchanan County where Old Order Amish parents resisted state efforts to place their children in public school classrooms rather than their one-room country school houses where Amish men and women with eighth-grade educations were the teachers. Gene was there in November 1965, the day frightened Amish children fled into a cornfield rather than board a school bus for town. Pictures of running children and weeping Amish mothers taken by Register photographer Tom DeFeo were carried in newspapers and television nationwide.

At the end of 1965, the Associated Press named the top three stories for the year in Iowa -- the Mississippi River flood, the tragic Keokuk explosion and the Amish struggle with authorities about educating their children.

During his career, he won reporting awards for the President Hoover funeral and a piece how a false rumor that a Hell's Angels motorcycle gang was going to terrorize Storm Lake, Iowa, mushroomed into fear in the town.

In 1967, he left the Register and spent a year in a public relations office of Deere & Co. in Moline, Ill.

Raffensperger returned to Des Moines in 1968 and a year later was named city editor. It was a turbulent period with civil rights demonstrations and a brief strike by Des Moines firefighters. He returned to general assignment reporting in 1970. In 1976, he was named assistant sports editor and in 1977 began a five-year term as sports editor. It was a time when coverage of women's sports was greatly expanded and the Iowa-Iowa State football rivalry was renewed after several decades without the game.

He retired from the newspaper in 1993. After that, he volunteered two or three times a month as a reader for Iowa Radio Information Service reading to the sight impaired and blind.

Survivors: two daughters, Nancy (Doug) Newhoff of Cedar Falls, and Mary Lynn (Jeff) Kellen of Kuwait City, Kuwait; seven grandchildren, Lisa Raffensperger, Katie (Andy) Akright, Drew (Whitney) Newhoff, Erin (Bill) Emory, Nicolet Newhoff, Will (Allesandra) Kellen and Charlie Kellen; two great-grandchildren, Robbie Akright and Addison Newhoff; and a brother, John (Sharon) Raffensperger of Iowa City.

Prededed in death by: his wife, Mary in December 2017; a son, Terry in November 2017; a brother, Paul Raffensperger; a sister, Marcia Schellenberg; and his parents.

Services: Funeral service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 21, at St. Mark Lutheran Church, West Des Moines. Visitation will be from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., with a time of sharing at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 20, at Caldwell Parrish Funeral Home & Crematory, Urbandale.

Memorials: To St. Mark Lutheran Church, West Des Moines

Special thanks to the Register friends who trekked to Cedar Falls to visit him over the past three years, and the staff at Deery Suites for their care and love of Gene

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Previous Events





4:00 PM 11/20/2018 4:00:00 PM - 7:00 PM 11/20/2018 7:00:00 PM
Caldwell Parrish Funeral Home and Crematory

8201 Hickman Road
Urbandale, IA 50322

A time of sharing will begin at 6:00 PM.

Caldwell Parrish Funeral Home and Crematory
8201 Hickman Road Urbandale 50322 IA
United States





10:00 AM 11/21/2018 10:00:00 AM
St. Mark Lutheran Church

1105 Grand Ave
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265

St. Mark Lutheran Church
1105 Grand Ave West Des Moines 50265 Iowa
United States

Cemetery Details


Iowa Veterans Cemetery Final Resting Place

34024 Veterans Memorial Dr
Adel, Iowa 50003

34024 Veterans Memorial Dr Adel 50003 Iowa
United States

Memorial Contribution

St. Mark Lutheran Church

1105 Grand Ave
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265

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