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Rodney Howard Powell


Rodney Howard Powell passed away suddenly in his home on Sept. 21. He was 75.


Born in 1947 in Strawberry Point, Iowa, Rod was the first son of Alice and Thomas Powell. As a child, he was intensely curious about the world around him, collecting rocks and arrowheads from the farm where he grew up. That curiosity took him from that farm to Iowa City where he obtained his bachelor’s degree and Juris Doctorate, and met his wife of 40 years, Sheryl Leytham.


Together, they traveled across the American West, eventually settling in San Bernadino where he was a JAG for the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. In 1977, they moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked for the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, before settling in Des Moines in 1987. In 1990, he ran for congress as the democratic candidate. After the race, he opened his own law firm (The Powell Law Firm) in Norwalk, Iowa, and stayed active there until his retirement.


Throughout his life, that love of history persisted, spreading into his family lore, and started taking his family on trips to visit long-lost relatives and forgotten cemeteries. He loved unraveling the puzzle of how that past fit into the present and was always there if you had a question about family history or the history of the state that he loved.


He was also deeply interested in stories, which became a focal point during his retirement years, where he joined many book clubs and writing groups, and wrote short stories and two different books about members of the family. He also became more involved in charity and social causes, building upon a life deeply involved in politics and the tireless pursuit of justice and equality.


He is survived by his four children, Shawna Neal (Greg Schenck), Tara Leytham-Powell (Michael Schwegmann), Aaron Powell (Christina Powell), and Cay Leytham-Powell (Matthew Holloway), four grandchildren, his siblings, Marcia Evensen, Charlene Heiar, Becky Powell-Courtney, Larita Hamlett, and Kevin Powell, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Alice Powell (née Whitcher) and Thomas Powell.


A ceremony will be at Walnut Hills Methodist Hospital on Sept. 29 at 3 p.m. with a family visitation prior at 2:30 p.m. There will be a celebration of life to follow. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Crossroads of Iowa through their website or reaching out to Jean Johnson at Bankers Trust, the Iowa Democratic Party, or the family to offset funeral expenses.