Obituary and Condolences

Joseph R. Ascroft

July 6, 1934 September 24, 2018
Joseph  R.  Ascroft
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Obituary for Joseph R. Ascroft

Professor Emeritus Jospeh Raymond Ascroft was born in 1934 in Blantyre, Malawi to John and Frances Ascroft. His childhood saw him move with his parents and beloved sister Clare to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) as a child before travelling to Cape Town, South Africa at age 12 where he spent the next 10 years furthering his education. During his first year of university at The University of Cape Town, apartheid was introduced meaning he was not allowed to pursue his dream of studying to become an architect and instead he graduated with a degree in social work, one of the few subjects available for a coloured (mixed race) man at that time.

Upon graduation Joseph returned to Rhodesia where he he met Irene Steblecki, who was to become the love of his life, his wife, mother to his children and his partner in life’s adventures for more than 55 years. And adventures they had. After marrying in Nairobi in 1963, where he gained a masters degree in Sociology, they moved to East Lansing, Michigan where Joseph earned his PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications from Michigan State University. What followed was an exciting career straddling higher education and his work as one of the foremost international consultants in development support communications for various departments of the United Nations (FAO, Unicef, UNDP) that took him to countries like Kenya, Ghana, Nepal and many more, all the while maintaining his base as a Professor at the University of Iowa where he became a teacher and a mentor to many who would go on in his footsteps, becoming part of the family in the process.

Joseph was not only a mentor to his students but also to his family. His inability as a young adult to follow his passion due to apartheid meant he became a champion of choice and opportunity. He was an inspiration not only to his children and grandchildren but also to his entire extended family where he was a beloved Patriarch of the community. He lived most of his adult life in Iowa City Ia but he never forgot where he came from. His yearly trips to Africa to see his ailing sister kept him deeply connected with his roots and allowed him to influence and inspire generation after generation of nephews and nieces.

He was a man that both loved and embraced life. A consummate professional, he joined the University of Iowa School of Journalism in 1972 and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2012. He remained an enthusiastic amateur architect and a passionate golfer to the end. A loyal brother, loving husband, a wise and inspirational father, bemused grandfather, a born raconteur and the true entertainer of the family, we choose to celebrate 84 years of a life well lived. Joseph is survived by his wife of 55 years, Irene Ascroft, his children Michael Ascroft (Becca Bartleson), Richard Ascroft and Samantha Pieczynski (Gabe), his grandchildren Edwin and Devin Ascroft and Gabriella Pieczynski his foster mother Mary Conde and foster siblings Beryl Bhend, Millicent Ravenour, Miranda Staal, Adelaide Baltensperger and Dudley Gibbs, his nephew and business partner Carl Peters, and his entire extended family spanning at least 4 continents and including all those he mentored in life.

He was preceded in death by his parents John and Frances Ascroft, his sister Clare and his son Raymond Selous.

There will be no service at this time as his body was deeded to the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine for scientific purposes.


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