Dr Steve Ullrich

Steven E. “Steve” Ullrich quietly passed away from complications of cancer Wednesday, March 2, 2022, in his beloved home on Paradise Ridge outside of Moscow, Idaho; he was beside his wife, Mary, and accompanied by long time friend Dave Port when he finally rested.

Steve was born Feb. 25, 1946, in Beloit, Wis. He attended The University of Michigan, where he was a member of the Les Voyageurs, an outdoor enthusiast society, and where he met his wife, Mary. Mary and Steve were married in 1968 and their first home was on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, where he worked as a wildlife biologist. Mary’s dream was to join the Peace Corps, and they next joined together and spent two years teaching in Malawi and Ghana. Long afterwards, they entertained friends and family with slide shows of their adventures in Africa.

After leaving the Peace Corps, Steve and Mary moved to Moscow to pursue graduate studies at the University of Idaho and fell in love with the west in general and the Palouse in particular. Their son, Nate, was born in 1972 and there are still pictures of the young couple escaping a flood in married student housing with a baby on the way and a cat (stowed in a hip wader) in a canoe. After graduating, Steve and Mary moved to Appleton, Wis., but soon returned to the west, where Steve worked as a ranger at Yellowstone before starting his doctoral studies at Montana State University in Bozeman. While in Bozeman, their daughter, Sarah, was born in 1975. It was reported to be below zero at the time of her birth, and the attending doctor, Dr Fox, arrived wearing cowboy boots.

Steve and Mary then returned to the Palouse and moved to Pullman, where Steve joined the faculty of Washington State University in the agronomy department. He headed the barley breeding program there, and cultivated relationships with local farmers and colleagues from around the world, working on crop development. He mentored many graduate students and particularly enjoyed forwarding the careers of foreign graduate students from places far-flung, including Africa, Turkey, Brazil and China. Steve and Mary opened their home to students far from home, often including them for Christmas dinner or other special events.

Steve was known for instilling academic integrity and scientific rigor in his students; as one former student put it, “I have never known anyone with such attention to detail.” His children can attest that he did not leave his attention to detail in his lab.

Steve’s faith was very important to him, and he served the Sacred Heart Catholic parish as a liturgical minister and ensured that the largest Christmas tree that would fit graced the church each holiday season. After moving to Moscow, Steve and Mary became active members of St. Mary’s Parish there. He expressed his faith in everyday life, generously supporting many causes benefiting disadvantaged humans and the care of the planet.

Steve had a love for nature and the outdoors. He was passionate about hiking, camping, fishing and cross-country skiing. He pursued outdoor activities alone but especially loved sharing his love for the outdoors. He led family vacations and weekend outings in nature. He served as a Boy Scout leader. He dragged visiting family and friends from out of town on “death marches” so they could enjoy the beauty of North Idaho, always insisting on seeing what was around the next bend when everyone else was ready to turn around. He led nature hikes for youth summer programs and became a Master Naturalist. He also served on the Whitman County Parks Board for several decades. Perhaps the pinnacle of sharing his love of the outdoors was when he helped foster a similar love in his grandchildren.

Steve also loved working outside and often was late to dinner or an outing because he was finishing one more thing in the yard. After their children finished college, Steve and Mary fulfilled a dream — purchasing land on Paradise Ridge outside of Moscow and building a new home. They created a forest-like oasis of vegetation on what was once a wheat field that stands out from the surroundings on Google Maps. He landscaped their home with hundreds of interesting rocks gathered from wherever he went. He sometimes returned from overseas with rocks tucked into his luggage and could tell the origin and mineral composition of most of these rocks to anyone who would listen. In his last days, he convinced Mary to move three of his favourite yard rocks into the house so he could keep an eye on them.

Steve is survived by Mary, his wife of 53 years; his children, Sarah and Nate, and their spouses, Brian and Livi; grandchildren Gavin, Elise, Soren and Evan; and his sister, Linda, and her children, Michael and Pieter.

There will be a celebration of Steve’s life at 3 p.m. March 26 at the Ensminger Pavilion on the WSU campus.

Source: DNews.com.