Lyle Gordon Rhea, Ph.D. P.E., age 86 of Rolla, MO, passed away Saturday, November 17, 2018 at Rolla Manor Nursing Home.
Lyle was born on November 12, 1932, in Carrollton, MO, a son to the late Roy and Goldie (Christmas) Rhea.
At age 16, Lyle graduated from high school and spent almost a semester in college before dropping out. He then worked at various jobs, including six years at a garment factory in Kansas City. He was a member of the Naval Reserves five years before returning to college. This time he completed his Ph.D.in Mechanical Engineering from Kansas State University in Manhattan.
He arrived in Rolla in 1964 to begin his favorite job, teaching Mechanical Engineering and Heat Transfer courses at the University of Missouri-Rolla. He also spent a short stint as the University’s baseball coach in the 1970’s.
After a dozen years at UMR, he moved to New Jersey where he was the team leader for the Bradley Firing Port Weapon at Picatinny Arsenal (now called ARADOM). As part of his job he made a couple of visits to testify at Congressional Committee meetings in Washington, D.C.
In 1983 Lyle returned to teaching, this time at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro where he retired as Professor Emeritus. In addition to teaching, he appeared as an expert witness in Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee. While in Jonesboro he also coached Little League Baseball.
In 1996, Lyle moved back to his beloved farm in Rolla and became involved in politics serving as Chairman of the Phelps County Republican Committee and appearing before Higher Education Committees of both the Missouri House and Senate.
Lyle is survived by his wife of 53 years, Emerlee (Crain) Rhea, whom he met on a blind date and married six weeks later. Other survivors include his only child, Lyle Gordon Rhea II and his wife Felicity; one granddaughter, Haven; one grandson Nick as well as nieces, nephews, cousins, former students and friends.
In addition to his parents, Lyle was preceded in death by his siblings, Harrold, William Paul, Margaret and her husband Joe Snyder and Claudia and her husband Don Mills.
No funeral service will be held at this time, but a memorial service will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made to the Alzheimer's Association or to Macular Degeneration Research.