William C. Kurth, age 86, of Decorah passed away peacefully of complications from Parkinson’s disease on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah, surrounded by his loved ones.
Memorial Services were held Dec. 17, 2018, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Decorah with Rev. Chad Huebner officiating. Private Family Burial will be in Phelps Cemetery in the spring.
William Charles Kurth was born in Waterloo, Iowa, on Oct. 23, 1932, the second of two children of Wilhem and Elma (Christensen) Kurth. His family lived a simple life, yet William enjoyed a happy childhood. He was adored by his older sister Jackie, who referred to him as Billy. In school he played in the band and was a bright student. He graduated from West High School in Waterloo. After graduation, he attended Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) as a classics major.
Bill served in the United States Army. His time in the service was spent in Texas.
Bill attended the University of Texas in Austin. During that time he married Eleanor Ann Alton. In 1959 he earned a Master of Arts. Their next move was to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he completed his Ph.D. Their first child, Amelia, was born in 1962. Bill then retained a teaching position at the University of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana, Illinois. In 1966, their second child, Emily, was born. In 1967, the family moved to Decorah, Iowa, where Bill started his career in the Classics department at Luther College. He taught Latin, Greek and mythology. Being a professor was truly his calling. Teaching brought him great joy. He was most happy in the classroom, bringing his subjects alive with his dynamic style of instruction. He also loved taking students abroad for January interim.
In 1971 their third child, William, was born. Bill was very involved in the Arc of the United States and served as the organization's state president for a year.
After 31 years teaching, he retired from Luther College as professor emeritus. His years at Luther rewarded him with many dear friends, who remained faithful through the years.
Some memories of him were the smell of his fresh baked bread, the model train that ran around the ceiling of his home office, the waft of his pipe smoke, his love of sailing that he learned from his brother-in-law George and their epic Mississippi sailing trip, the story of going to campus with his brother-in-law Ken and laughing so hard trying to get out of the car that they almost fell down in front of the Luther Union, the treehouse he built for Emily, his overloaded bookshelves that reflected his love of reading, his trips with William on the houseboat, his booming voice and engaging smile, his fast paced stride as he walked to and from Luther each day, his classic style of khaki pants, dress shoes and the always present cap.
In 2000 and 2002 Bill welcomed his two grandchildren, Grayson and Ainsley. He loved them dearly, and they lovingly referred to him as Ampa.
Bill spent 27 years with his long-time companion, Judy Koutny. Together they enjoyed camping, cooking and traveling. They kept the highway very busy between Decorah and Cedar Rapids.
Bill was a devoted patron of the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, Minn., and he was a member of their Million Dollar Club.
Ten years ago, Bill was diagnosed with Parkinsons. He was a supporter of and contributor to the Parkinson Research Foundation. He received care at Wellington Place nursing home where he resided the past six years. His visits from the Emeriti group were a favorite part of his week.
He was a member of First Lutheran Church. He was also a grateful member of a 12-step program.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
Bill is survived by his children, Amelia Kurth ‘84 of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Emily Kurth-Christensen (Michael Christensen) of Harlan, Iowa, William Alton Kurth of Iowa City, Iowa; Grandchildren Grayson and Ainsley Christensen; his sister, Jacqueline Hanson of Eureka, Illinois; and his long-time companion, Judith Koutny of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and many nieces and nephews.