Stevens Memorial Chapel

607 28th Street, Ames, IA


Irving Theodore Carlson

July 14, 1926February 23, 2019

Irving Theodore Carlson passed away at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Illinois on Saturday, February 23, 2019.

Irving was born on his family’s farm in Colbert, Washington on July 14, 1926 to Joseph August and Anna (Ingo) Carlson. He grew up in the Spokane area. Irving loved life on the farm even though there was never any indoor plumbing and no electricity before he was 13. He graduated from Mead High School in 1944. He continued his education initially at Whitworth College where he was inspired by an exceptional Botany professor. He then transferred to Washington State University where he majored in Agronomy and earned his Bachelors and Masters. During his time there he met the love of his life, Elizabeth Emtman, and they were married on June 15, 1952. Following the wedding they took their first cross country road trip to Madison, Wisconsin. There, in 1955, Irving obtained his PhD in Agronomy specializing in Plant Breeding from the University of Wisconsin.

In 1956 Irving launched his career as a plant breeder at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In 1960 he took a position in the Agronomy department at Iowa State University. A key focus of his work was the development of new varieties of orchard grass and other cool season forage crops. In addition, Irving advised many graduate students from around the country and around the world.

Irving and Elizabeth were blessed with 2 children, 4 grandchildren, and 1 great-grandchild. He had a strong interest in the lives of all of his offspring – visiting them, traveling with them, sending them interesting newspaper clippings, and discussing the weather with them.

Irving enjoyed traveling. Each summer the family took a 3-4 week road trip, exploring all corners of the US. Later Irv and Liz expanded their scope to Europe, Russia, Japan, and Australia. A memorable trip was one to visit extended family in Sweden, Finland, and Germany.

Irving was an avid reader, especially enjoying nonfiction historical books about the lives of interesting people. The Lewis & Clark Expedition and Native American history were special interests. On his travels he would often visit the places he had read about.

In Ames he enjoyed hiking in the woods near his home. He was a fan of ISU football and basketball. And as a long-time Chicago Cubs fan, he was excited when they won the World Series in 2016. Irving was a member of St. Andrews Lutheran Church for nearly 60 years.

Irving will be remembered by those who knew him as a kind, gentle, humble, and friendly person who cared for others and took a genuine interest in their lives.

Irving was preceded in death by his wife Elizabeth, his parents, his brother Ivar, and his sister Mildred. Irving is survived by his sister Margaret; children Susan (Terry) and Steven (Karen); grandchildren John (Sherry), Christian, Scott, and Kate; and great-grandson Leif.


  • Joseph August Carlson, Father (deceased)
  • Anna Carlson, Mother (deceased)
  • Elizabeth Carlson, Wife (deceased)
  • Irving was preceded in death by his wife Elizabeth, his parents, his brother Ivar and sister Mildred.

    Irving is survived by his sister Margaret, children Susan and Steven, grandchildren John, Christian, Scott and Kate, and great-grandson Leif.

Learn more about the Carlson name


  • Visitation

    Friday, March 8, 2019

  • Funeral Service

    Saturday, March 9, 2019


Irving Theodore Carlson

have a memory or condolence to add?

Mary Ann Shao

June 2, 2019

Irv was my parent's (Eino and Genevieve Kainlauri) neighbor and good friend. I have fond memories of him talking about our shared Finnish ancestry. He was a warm and kind person, who will be greatly missed.

Sandy Hunerdosse

March 7, 2019

My thoughts to the family. I used to deliver mail to Irving when I carried on Ross Road. Always poked his head out (w his Cub hat on) to say hi and we’d share our thoughts about the Cubs now and then after they’d played a game. Such a pleasant and gentle man. I will always remember him w a smile


Learn more about the Carlson name