Lester David Savage Jr, PhD, passed away peacefully on October 12, 2019 in Urbana, Illinois, at age 92.
Lester was born in Hennepin County, Minnesota on September 24, 1927, to Gladys Margaret (née Swenson) and Lester David Savage Sr.
He was a World War II veteran, serving in the US Navy. The first member of his family to attend university, he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota. Subsequently he traveled to Scotland, where he received his doctorate from the University of Glasgow in 1961.
Lester became a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where he remained for his career. Inspired by a lifelong fascination with the mercurial powers of fire, he specialized in teaching and researching thermodynamics. His work included consulting on Project Apollo in 1965. He became Professor Emeritus in 1990.
Deeply affected by the Great Depression that shadowed his childhood, Lester spent his life giving back to the community. As a eucharistic minister with St Mary’s Catholic Parish in Urbana, he visited parishioners to help them celebrate the Sacrament for over 20 years. He was mentor and father figure to a wide circle of friends, and was a staunch ally of, and advocate for, LGBTQ individuals and their rights from the early 1980s on.
Lester’s personal passions included bowling, rock tumbling, all things mechanical, and composing classical music for piano. His quiet thoughtfulness, methodical curiosity, impish bearded smile, and occasional frowns of disapprobation will be deeply missed by his family, his friends, and the countless students he influenced over his long life.
He was preceded in death by his brother Robert, his niece Terry, and nephew Dewey. He is survived by his daughter Jennifer, son-in-law Neil Guy, nephews Ken Sarno, David, and Dale, niece Joni, and sister-in-law Ruth.
A celebration of his life will be held at Renner-Wikoff Chapel, 1900 S. Philo Rd. in Urbana IL, on Sunday October 20, 2019 at 2pm. In lieu of flowers, please donate generously to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
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