MORTON – Ronald Smallenberger, a native of and long-time resident of Morton, Illinois, passed away at Apostolic Christian Restmor in Morton on June 26, 2022, following a long illness that he braved with his characteristic blend of stoicism and good cheer. He was 81 years old.
Born December 13, 1940, in Peoria, Ron was the son of Ernest and Leah (Rapp) Smallenberger, who were life-long Morton residents.
From a young age, Ron was an outstanding athlete and excelled as a baseball player through his years at Morton High School, where he pitched, played shortstop and led the team in hitting. After graduating in 1959, Ron enrolled at Bradley University before transferring to Illinois State University, where he graduated in 1964 with a BA in Industrial Arts.
Ron began his teaching career at Belvidere High School, in Belvidere, Illinois, where he taught architectural and mechanical drafting. It was in Belvidere where he first met his future wife, Vicki Burger. She was interested in learning drafting skills and was the first girl to be allowed to take the "all-boys" class.
In 1967, Ron enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado, where he earned his MA in Industrial Technology the next year. Ron returned to Illinois, and, on August 24, 1968, he and Vicki were married at the First Methodist Church in Belvidere. They lived in Normal for a year, where Ron taught at Normal Community High School while Vicki completed her BA at Illinois State.
With their degrees in hand, Ron and Vicki moved to St. Joseph, Missouri, where Ron had received an offer to teach Industrial Technology at Missouri Western College (now Missouri Western State University). Vicki began her own career in the classroom,
teaching English at Spring Garden School.
After two years in St. Joseph, Ron and Vicki returned to Illinois to be closer to their families. Vicki began teaching at Washington High School in Washington, Illinois, while Ron took a position as a draftsman at Rocker Cabinet Company. They designed and built a house in Washington that was their home for 14 years, seeing them through the births of their three children, Jason (1975), Jodi (1977), and James (1980).
In 1978, Ron and Vicki opened their own kitchen-design company, Creative Kitchens of Morton. Over the next 25 years, Ron designed kitchens, bathrooms, and cabinetry installations of all kinds for hundreds of homeowners across Central Illinois, winning numerous design and sales awards along the way.
In 1987 Ron and Vicki moved from Washington to a new home of their own design in Morton.
The Creative Kitchens showroom and offices were destroyed by a tornado that hit Morton in May of 2003. Ron and Vicki decided not to rebuild, but Ron continued to design projects for the next three years until he retired from the business.
A devoted husband, father, and grandfather, Ron enjoyed traveling and was an avid skier, something he picked up during his graduate-school years in Colorado. He and Vicki, both good golfers, enjoyed Pine Lakes Golf Club in Washington, and enjoyed many golf trips to Florida.
Following his retirement, Ron volunteered as a Red Cross driver and for the Midwest Food Bank. He also took great pleasure looking after a family-gathering home they built northwest of town, on land very close to where their business once stood.
Ron was preceded in death by his parents, his sister, Sandra Rebholz, who died in 2015, her husband, Albert Rebholz, who died in 2007, and an infant brother, Gordon, who died in 1936.
Ron is survived by Vicki and their children Jason (wife Melissa) Smallenberger, Jodi Ciotti (husband Erik Ciotti), and James (wife Jillian) Smallenberger, and five grandchildren: Jason and Melissa's daughter Ella Smallenberger, Jodi and Erik's sons Evan and Andrew Ciotti, and James and Jillian's sons Henry and Jack Smallenberger. He leaves niece Kelly (Mike) Marquardt, nephew Brian (Angie) Rebholz, both of Morton, and niece Lora (husband Brian) Eleam, of Redmond, Washington, children of his sister.
He also leaves sister-in-law Linda Tillis (spouse of Vicki's late sister Joan), brother-in-law Bill Burger (Vicki's brother) and his wife, Susan Greenberg, and nieces and nephew Devon, Jordan, and Carly Burger.
The family will hold a private burial at Morton Apostolic Christian Church Cemetery and requests that any contributions in Ron's honor be made to Community United Church of Christ or Midwest Food Bank.
Knapp-Johnson Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Morton is handling arrangements.
To leave an online condolence for the family, visit www.knappjohnson.com.