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Ella Kolbe

​Ella Amanda Kolbe passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve morning of the year 2020.  


She was born March 14, 1927, in the small farming community of Hancock on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Finnish Immigrants Laina Rusi and Alex Harju.  She had three siblings, brother Jerry and sisters Louella and Florence. She spent most of her formative years on a farm in Northern Wisconsin.  There she learned the value of hard work and perseverance.  She also developed a love for animals and other living things and the importance of clean air and water.  She graduated from Wisconsin State University-Superior in 1949 and moved to New York City to live with her sister and modeled for company advertisements. She returned to Superior and married William Deforest Kolbe in 1950. 


They moved to Highland Park, Illinois, where they
had four children, Del, Jill, Val, and Ken, and began their careers in the teaching profession.  After a two-year stint in
Phoenix to help Bill with the devastating effects of malaria he contracted in the South Pacific during WWII, they received
a call from President Flowers of Southwest Texas State University to join the faculty and begin a watercolor program in the Art Department.  Ella obtained her master's degree in education and taught in San Marcos for several years before taking a position in Seguin, Tx, heading up the "gifted student" program.   
Full of life and involved in many important causes, Ella gave her time and financial resources to retired teachers, PAWS
animal rescue, food banks, Red Hat Ladies, and many other renowned charities.  She loved life, her husband, children,
and extended family.  Ella's smile could light up a room, and her sense of humor was keen, witty, and tasteful.  She had countless numbers of friends with whom she enjoyed socializing.  If there was someone in need of anything, Ella was always first to step up and aid in any way she could.  She enjoyed a long teaching career receiving numerous awards through the years for excellence in the field. She established herself as a mentor for students wanting to start a career in education. 
In 2018 Ella, joined by daughter Jill, participated in a select Honor Flight, to Washington D.C., of Hays County Veterans
from WWII, Korea, and the Vietnam War. Dedicated to her late husband William Kolbe's memory, a WWII Veteran,
she often said that it was the most fulfilling and emotional experience of her life and an event that would leave an indelible mark on her being.  Her love of life and enduring spirit will be with us for years. 


Her uplifting memory will provide inspiration and love to all those blessed with her friendship.  While she will be missed, her legacy will remain and only grow stronger throughout the years.   
In God's loving hands, Ella joins deceased family members: husband William Kolbe, son Ken Kolbe, brother Jerry Harlow, sister Lou Rhoades, brothers-in-law Richard Kolbe, Jack Kolbe, and Siebert Cox, sisters-in-law Katherine Cox, Marianne Kolbe, and Marie Kolbe. 
Survived by her children: Del Kolbe (Austin, TX), Jill Bamer/Mike (Cedar Park, TX), Val Graves/Greg (Minneapolis, MN). Granddaughters: Jacquelyn Pototsky (Alexandria, VA), Amanda Ham (Leander, TX), Lauren Graves (Minneapolis, MN). Grandsons: Nick Kolbe (San Diego, CA), Will Graves (Minneapolis, MN), Zackary Bamer (Cedar Park, TX). Great-grandchildren: Kal Pototsky (Alexandria, VA), Izayah Kolbe and Averi Ham (Leander, TX), and her sister Florence (Duluth, MN).   
In place of flowers, a contribution to the Kolbe Family Foundation, supporting many of the causes that Ella embraced, is welcome and appreciated.

William "Bill" Kolbe

William DeForest Kolbe ("Sweet William") passed away at home peacefully with his family by his side on February 15, 2018.

He was born March 22, 1925, in Duluth, Minnesota to Ida Fisher and Emil Kolbe.

Bill spent his early years in Duluth, MN, and Spooner, WI where he graduated from Spooner High School in 1943 and enlisted in the Army in WWII. He spent 3 years in the South Pacific as a mobile anti-aircraft gunner and aircraft recognition instructor.

After the service, Bill attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth, then transferred to Wisconsin State University in Superior, WI where he acted as art editor of the school newspaper and the yearbook. In 1950 he graduated with an all-level teaching degree in history and art.

Upon graduation, he married Ella Harju Kolbe and they took their first teaching jobs in Highwood, Illinois. Bill and Ella had 4 children there-Del, Jill, Val, and Ken. Later, Bill had an unusual teaching combination: head of the Art Department at Highland Park High School, Illinois, and assistant football coach. In 1960, Bill received his M.S. in Art Education from the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology.

The family headed for warmer climes in Arizona where he served as Chairman of the Art Department at North High School and evening Instructor at Phoenix College. In 1964 William was hired by President Flowers to start a watercolor program and supervise art education student teachers at then Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. He was there for over 40 years becoming Professor Emeritus during that time.


Bill was artist-in-residence for five years at the Legends of Golf (the predecessor of the Senior Golf Tour) when it was held at Onion Creek Country Club in Austin. His watercolors of the SWTSU campus became the University's Christmas cards for 10 years. He was also a member of the Texas Watercolor Society and the San Antonio Watercolor Group. Bill's specialty with watercolor was Aquarelle and his creative observation of the world led to wondrous works of fantasy and pageantry. His paintings have been in exhibitions and competitions coast to coast, along with shows in Greece and Sweden.

Sweet William was well-known to family, friends, and colleagues for his wit, humor, and ability to remember an abundance of jokes over the years. He will also be remembered for his love of music, golf, and the Minnesota Vikings.

William is predeceased by his parents; sister Katie, brothers Richard and John, and son Ken.

Survivors include son Del Kolbe of Austin, daughters Jill Bamer (Mike) of Cedar Park and Val Graves (Greg) of Crystal, MN; grandchildren Nick Kolbe (Tiffany), Jacquie Potosky (Alex), Amanda Ham (John), Zac Bamer, Will Graves and Lauren Graves; great-granddaughters Izayah Kolbe and Avri Ham.

The family would like to extend our thanks to the staff of Austin Heart Hospital and Kindred Hospice for the care they provided. Also special gratitude to Cindy R., Jill H., and Karen E. for their generous help & support of Bill and the entire family. Finally, we appreciate the camaraderie dad enjoyed with his Post Office buddies.

Memorials may be made to the William Kolbe Scholarship in Art Education or the Ken Kolbe Texas State Men's Golf Fund Endowment at Texas State University Development Foundation, 601 University Drive, JCK-480, San Marcos, TX 78666.

Dad, you created so much beauty from the scenes on earth, we can only imagine what artistic gifts you will share in heaven.

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