July 30, 1934 - December 15, 2020
Gordon Colliss Wassell, Jr., informally known as “Skip” to most, was born in Halstead, Kansas on July 30, 1934, to Jane (Shumway) Wassell, later “Jane Dennis,” and Gordon Colliss Wassell, Sr. While still just a small baby, Skip acquired his nickname from his Grandfather Shumway, when his grandfather affectionately lifted him high with delight and pronounced this new grandchild, “the skipper of my ship." The name was permanently fixed from that moment on. Skip spent his early years in Fredonia, Kansas, residing with his grandparents while his mother attended nursing school. Later, while he was still in the young years of grade school, Skip and his mother moved to Eureka where Skip completed his early education, graduating from Eureka High School. While in high school, he worked for his step father, Harold Dennis, in the construction business, played football on the high school team, and was a life guard at the Eureka city swimming pool. Also while in high school and later during the summertime while attending college, he worked as an oilfield roughneck and cable tool driller, and as a construction foreman. Soon after graduation from Eureka High School, Skip was married to his high school sweetheart, Bonnie Minard from Madison, Kansas. Their union produced two children, a son and a daughter. In keeping with family tradition, Skip enrolled at Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas in the fall of 1952, and attended school there. But after making the decision to pursue education in areas not offered at Baker, he transferred to Kansas State University in the spring of 1953 and attended K-State through the spring of 1954 when his education was temporarily placed on hold. In the wake of the Korean War, Skip served in the United States Army from October 5, 1954 through July 13, 1956 when he was honorably released from active duty with the rank of Specialist Third Class. Stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, he attended a 54-week advanced electronics school and was responsible for the maintenance of a Nike guided missile radar site. From October 1956 to July 1958, Skip worked as an Electronics Technician for Boeing Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas. Returning to K-State in the fall of 1958, he completed a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Geology, graduating from K-State in 1960 at Manhattan, Kansas. While attending Kansas State University, he worked as an assistant manager of a major appliance and home electronics service operation in Manhattan to support himself and his family, and he belonged to the Sigma Nu Fraternity. From July 1960 to November 1963, Skip was a Senior Engineer for the Lane-Wells Division of Dresser Industries, Field Engineering, in Hobbs, New Mexico. At this job he was responsible for the planning and coordination of field engineering work with all major oil companies, the supervision of three junior engineers and fourteen engineer aids, the planning and execution of six-month training programs for new engineers, and the evaluation of oil and gas wells for major oil companies in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming. In 1964, Skip began a long-term career with Northern Natural Gas. One of the benefits of working for Northern was the many opportunities it provided for Skip to travel to foreign countries. At various times, he traveled on business overseas to Iran, Poland, Scotland, England, Japan, Holland, and Thailand. He also traveled to Canada, and several South American countries. From December 1963 to January 1970 he was a Senior Engineer in the Engineering Design and Research Department for Northern Natural Gas out of Omaha, Nebraska. There, he supervised twelve other workers, managed multi-million dollar projects, performed purchasing and bid and research evaluation, managed a small applied research facility plant, and worked with plant communication design and electro-mechanical design. From January 1970 to July 1975 he held the position of Supervisor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering in the Design Department of the Corporate Engineering Division for Northern Natural Gas in Omaha, Nebraska. In this position he supervised five civil engineers and twelve mechanical engineers in the scoping, design and operation of compressor stations, gas and liquid pipelines, gas treating plants, petrochemical plants, and cryogenic plants. He also designed and supervised at the Arctic Research Facilities in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. During this time, he was Chairman of the Arctic Gas Pipeline Design Committee, and project leader on the South American pipeline project. In 1971 while employed by Northern Natural Gas, Skip graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He accumulated 12 hours of credit toward a Master of Business Administration degree, and attended numerous industry and professional seminars, courses, and workshops while employed by Northern. From 1975 to 1978, Skip was Director of Mechanical Engineering in the Design Department of the Corporate Engineering Division of Northern Natural Gas in Omaha, Nebraska. During this time he was responsible for projects ranging from several thousand dollars to as much as one hundred million dollars. Skip completed his years with Northern Natural Gas with a position as Manager of Special Projects from 1978 to 1989, then taking early retirement at the age of fifty-five, followed by the pursuit of various interests including operating his own engineering consulting business. He purchased land near Eureka and farmed in conjunction with operating his engineering consulting business from 1990 to 1993, after which time he sold the farm and moved to Denver, Colorado, purchasing a real estate company at Highlands Ranch. He operated that company through 1996, then purchased a new farm property and moved back home east of Eureka to farm part time and pursue his hobbies, including among other things, raising Brittany Spaniels, photography, and building and flying model airplanes. Professionally, Skip was involved with the activities of several organizations. He was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and presented three papers at their national conference. He also presented three papers for the American Gas Association, and served on a new gas measurement task group for that organization. He was a member of the Society of Petroleum Geology. Other written publications and oral presentations authored and delivered by Skip were four articles printed in several nationally circulated magazines, and twelve papers presented to engineers of Northern Natural Gas. While living in the Eureka community, Skip was a member of the Eureka Area Chamber of Commerce, the Greenwood County Industrial Board, the committee for the Eureka All School Class Reunion, and the Eureka Alumni Scholarship Committee. He held positions as President of the Eureka Country Club, and President of the 125th Celebration Corporation of Eureka Kansas. He also served as Greenwood County Kansas Commissioner for the 2nd District. In his earlier years, Skip was active within the three Masonic organizations of Blue Lodge, Scottish Rite, and Knights Templar; and he enjoyed performing with the Motor B Patrol as a member of the Midian Shrine. He was a Master Mason affiliated with the Grand Lodge AF and AM, Centennial Lodge Number 326 of Omaha, Nebraska. During his lifetime, Skip had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with actor John Wayne, and escorting U. S. President Richard Nixon on a tour of a Northern Natural Gas project in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. As a guest on November 9, 1998, Skip met Kathleen Straight in Eureka, Kansas on the occasion of her employer’s birthday celebration. Having become acquainted with her that evening at the party, Skip was devastated when the event was over and she went home. Skip took remedial action by calling her on the phone the next day and asking to see her. From that point on, Skip and Kathy were solid companions, later becoming husband and wife, supporting each other through major life events, and sharing treasured time together for a period exceeding twenty-two years. They always looked forward to spending time in Colorado among the beautiful Rocky Mountains, and loved their time at the farm six miles east of Eureka. Having completed his life here on Earth, departing peacefully from his home, Skip Wassell entered into eternity on December 15, 2020, at the age of eighty-six. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen Straight Wassell, and their faithful dog, Socks, both of the home; his son Ricky Wayne Wassell and his wife Diana and former wife Radine of Sioux City, Iowa; his daughter Lori Rene McKeon and her husband Robert “Bob” of Omaha, Nebraska; four grandchildren; great-grandchildren; other family members and friends. He was preceded in death by his grandparents; his mother Jane Dennis; his father Gordon Collis Wassell, Sr; his step fathers Harold Dennis, and later Hugh Dennis; and his step-brother Dean Dennis. Memorial services will be held at 2:00 P.M., Monday, December 28, at Greenwood Cemetery in Eureka, with Rev. Hyun Jung Choi of the Eureka United Methodist Church officiating. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, masks should be worn and social distancing observed. Memorials have been established with the Masonic Children’s Hospital and Good Shepherd Hospice. Contributions may be sent in care of Koup Family Funeral Home, P.O. Box 595, Eureka, KS 67045, which is overseeing arrangements. Condolences may be shared online at koupfunerals.com.
Gordon Colliss Wassell, Jr., informally known as “Skip” to most, was born in Halstead, Kansas on July 30, 1934, to Jane (Shumway) Wassell, later “Jane Dennis,” and Gordon Colliss Wassell, Sr. While still just a small... View Obituary & Service Information
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