Leonard Lee Gambrell
1941 - 2020
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Leonard Lee Gambrell

Las Cruces - Dr. Leonard Gambrell

Leonard Lee Gambrell was born May 17th, 1941 and passed away at home in Mesilla on June 10th, 2020. To quote James Joyce "(He) lived and laughed and loved and left".

Leonard was brought up in Sentinel, Oklahoma. The eldest of six children, he was expected to coax the younger siblings to keep the farm running while his dad went to his day job. By sixteen Leonard was driving the local school bus, picking up kids in the countryside. He raised pigs in the local FFA chapter and won state awards. Leonard graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor's and master's degree in Political Science. He was offered and accepted a position at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1966 and in 1970 he earned his Ph.D. in Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia.

Son Brian was born in 1968 and daughter Rochelle followed in 1972. Leonard would eventually meet Lori Miller and they were married in 1981. Son Lance was born in 1984.

Leonard's lifelong academic interest lie in the study of war and peace and the area of International Conflict Management. His introductory class 'Reflections on War and Peace in the 20th Century' was always full. He taught course work on the United Nations and Conflict Management and mentored the Model UN program for students. In 1979 he attended a planning section in Prague Czechoslovakia, conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to organize an International Congress on Disarmament Education. It was nearly impossible for a world event to take place during his tenure at UWEC without the local tv or radio station calling for an interview with Leonard to share his knowledge and expertise.

The Vietnam War was a special topic for Leonard in which he team-taught a multi-disciplinary class for 20 years. Students enrolled ranged from Vietnam era vets, to their children trying to understand what their parent had experienced. He eventually started leading tours of Vietnam to students and community members.

In 1990 Leonard participated in a Faculty Exchange Program with New Mexico State University and then took a year sabbatical in 1991 - 1992 to return to Las Cruces and NMSU bringing the family this time. It would be another ten years for Leonard, Lori and Lance to move back to Las Cruces for good in 2002 after retirement. Within weeks of the move, Leonard was notified that he was chosen out of 6000 University faculty for the 2002 Wisconsin Regents Teaching Excellence Award. An extraordinary end to an extraordinary career. He continued to teach the Vietnam War class at NMSU in the Honors Program for 10 years.

Leonard enjoyed sharing a beer out on Friday night to catch up on the events of the week. He was passionate about and protective of his family. Leonard loved baseball, his favorite team being the Minnesota Twins. He coached Little League and Babe Ruth, coaching his son Brian and enlisting Rochelle as bat girl. He umpired youth baseball, then back to coaching son Lance. Leonard was a natural farmer and enjoyed backyard gardening. He grew vegetables and flowers from seed in the basement with shop lights. He always had plenty of plants to share with friends and neighbors. He was known for his canning skills and secret salsa recipe.

Leonard eventually would succumb to his battle with Lewy Body Dementia. His intelligence and humor were severely challenged. It was difficult to see the wit and remember his wonderful life through the cloudy veil of dementia. But he flung his head back to laugh only five days before he passed. He was a good man and will be missed.

Leonard was preceded in death by parents G.L. (Doc) and Helen Gambrell, sons Brian and Lance Gambrell, sister in-law Diane (Miller) Stanek and brother in-law Joe Spradling. He is survived by wife, Lori Miller of Mesilla, daughter Rochelle Gambrell and granddaughter Olivia Byrd-Gambrell of Savage Minnesota and grandson Carter Tweith of Eau Claire Wisconsin. Surviving siblings in Oklahoma include Geary and Jeri of Oklahoma City, Larry and Leona of Kingfisher and Reba and Gene Schmidt of Cordell, Margaret and Allen Demel of Elk City and Sharon Spradling of Cordell. Leonard was also survived by in-laws Lloyd and Jan Miller of Eureka, SD, Den and Karen Miller of Vinton, IA, Joe and Ruth Stanek of Melvina, WI, Curt and Terri Miller of Phoenix, AZ, Connie Miller and Dave Schultz of Winona, MN, Marilyn and Dick Krause of Milton, WI and Arne and Sue Miller of Rock Hill, SC as well as numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions and travel distances of family, a Celebration of Life is pending. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Leonard Gambrell World Politics Fund at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Leonard used the cash award from his Wisconsin Regents Teaching Excellence Award to establish this scholarship.

Arrangements are made with La Paz-Graham's Funeral Home, 555 West Amador Las Cruces, NM 88005. To sign the on-line guestbook visit www.lapaz-grahams.com.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Las Cruces Sun News from Jun. 24 to Jun. 27, 2020.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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6 entries
July 4, 2020
Enjoyed my classes at UW Eau Claire with him back in the 70s.
Tom Galazen
July 2, 2020
Great Teacher and Friend
Marlin Hardinger
July 1, 2020
I am so sorry to hear this. I had Leonard for several classes at the UW-EC, grew and learned a lot from him. He was also my advisor in Political Science. Lots of fond and engaging memories.
Will Fantle
June 28, 2020
When my wife and I moved to Mesilla in 2014 we had the good fortune to meet Lori and Leonard who just happened to live next door to my wife's cousin.

In a short time Leonard invited me to join him volunteering at Casa de Peregrinos, the food pantry serving Dona Ana County. We served together for a few years until he was no longer to physically able. We loved to refer to the pantry as the Casa de Pair of Gringos! I will always hold Leonard in my memory as my gringo amigo!
Eric Walkinshaw
June 26, 2020
Leonard was one of the smartest and funniest men I ever met. I enjoyed time in his home in Eau Claire, and always looked forward to the times he came to hot Oklahoma for family reunions. You will be missed, Leonard. My heartfelt prayer is with Lori, Rochelle, and the rest of the family.
Deneen Gambrell
June 12, 2020
You were the most amazing and wonderful Brother in the whole world. I love you so much and I am so going to miss you. Love you Margaret ( Gambrell) Demel and Allen Demel.
Margaret and Allen Demel
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