Ralph Merle Stalder was born November 27, 1928, in Sabetha, Kansas to Ralph Jacob Stalder and Virginia Mae (Crook) Stalder. He passed away December 25, 2020, in Kansas City, Missouri. Merle’s older sister Mellicent and his aunts took over much of his care when his mother passed away April 21, 1931. He was confirmed in 1942 at Zion Evangelical & Reformed Church, Dawson and graduated from Honey Creek School in 1946. He cherished his friendships from those years and kept in touch with many church and school friends.
Merle attended the University of Nebraska, graduating in June, 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture. He was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, the drama group Kosmet Klub, Alpha Zeta, and Block & Bridle. Merle also served on the staff of the Daily Nebraskan. He and several friends organized the original university rodeo with Merle as the announcer. Those friends held “Old Cowboy” reunions for many years. Merle was inducted into the Chancellor’s senior honorary society, the Innocents, where he served as president.
Merle served in the U.S. Army from January, 1952 to January, 1954. He was stationed in Austria and served in the Signal Corps. His love of history reveled in the chance to explore World War II and other sites in postwar Europe. He delighted in sharing a picture from his visit to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Following his discharge, he and his Aunt Mina met for an extended tour of the continent. He noted many times that he was grateful to his father’s sisters Mina and Nell for introducing him to the worlds of history, art and music when he was very young. He fondly remembered them taking him to the New York World’s Fair in 1939.
Merle and his father formed a partnership and led Stalder Cattle Company from the homeplace owned by the family since 1893. Merle was the fourth generation of Stalders who came to Richardson County in the 1850’s. Merle and his father were among the first to receive feeder cattle by train at Sabetha, KS and Salem. They operated a sizable feedlot and farmed ground in the Salem area. They helped found the Richardson County Livestock Feeders and Breeders Association. Merle also spent time announcing at many rodeos, building his art collection, and indulging in his love of jazz, opera, and history.
On August 22, 1985, he married Marcia Jane Stenger Bordelon in Falls City. Together they continued their love of foreign travel, art collecting, jazz, good books and history. They participated in many community organizations and helped found the Brownville Concert Series. They formed an unbeatable Trivial Pursuit team as their combined interests covered nearly every subject. In 1992, Merle retired from daily management of Stalder Cattle Company. He and Marcia began splitting their time between a Kansas City condo and their Falls City home. Marcia passed away January 15, 2002.
Merle served on the Board of Directors for the Museum of Nebraska Art. He was awarded the Thomas C. Woods III (Partner in the Arts) Governor’s Art Award in 2008. When the new Falls City Library and Arts Center was built, he provided the funds to build the Stalder Gallery as part of the new library, and commissioned a sculpture for the front of the library. Merle and Marcia donated most of their extensive art collection to Richardson County Library & Community Foundation. That art has been part of shows in the Stalder Gallery and in other gallery and museum shows. He served on the board of directors of the Richardson County Bank. He was an active and enthusiastic member of the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church, Falls City and served as an elder and a deacon. He was an amazing world traveler and thoroughly researched each destination before departing. He always brought home artwork, music programs, pictures and stories. Favorite trips included finding Stalder family roots in Switzerland, the bullfights in Madrid, the Salzburger Festspiele celebrating Mozart, and a jazz tour of Cuba. Some trips were annual events and he kept in touch with favorite hotel managers and guides.
Merle is survived by nephews and niece, Brent (Susan) Adams, Bart (Regina) Adams, and Maere Kay (Rick) Lashmit, Dunn, North Carolina, sister-in-law and brother-in-law Cindy and John Harris, Denver, CO, long-time manager Lonnie (Kim) Goff, Falls City, special cousins Pat Morris and Jerry Aistrup, and many other cousins, great-nephews and great-nieces. He was preceded in death by his parents, his stepmother Erva Stalder, his sister and brother-in-law Mellicent and Hoover Adams, nephew Eddie Norris, special cousin Dick Morris, and other cousins.
The funeral service will be held on Thursday, December 31, 2020 at 10:30 am at First Presbyterian Church with Pastor Rick Martin officiating. Interment will be in Steele Cemetery with military graveside honors by Falls City Ceremonial Honor Guard.
Because of Covid safety guidelines, seating will be limited with social distancing and masks required.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Richardson County Library & Community Foundation (P.O. Box 37, Falls City, NE 68355).