Ronald Eugene Withem

June 9, 1946May 28, 2020

Ron Withem, former State Senator and University of Nebraska lobbyist, passed away peacefully on Thursday, May 28, at the age of 73. Ron was born on June 9, 1946, in Missouri Valley, Iowa, to James and Edna Withem. He married Patricia Diane (Weinstein) Withem on December 29, 1973.

Many will remember Ron as a dedicated public servant, a caring teacher, a visionary politician, and a tireless advocate for public education. Those who knew him best will remember him as a dedicated husband and father, a good-natured friend, and a master at lightening a dark mood with (often groan-worthy and eyeroll-inducing) jokes.

He is survived by his wife Diane, his children Suzanne and Justin (and daughter-in-law Kate Lenahan), as well as scores of other family members, close friends, and colleagues…many of whom were like family to him. His brother Don and his parents, Edna and James, preceded him in death (though he is survived by his sister-in-law Marj).

There are no memorial services scheduled at this time. There will be a Celebration of Life scheduled in the future. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Food Bank for the Heartland.


  • Celebration of Life to be held at a Later Date


Ronald Eugene Withem

have a memory or condolence to add?

Kevin and Mary Duffy

May 31, 2020

Ron was an office holder who had an unwavering vision of what is good for citizens. He was an intelligent able leader. The world is a better place for him having been here. Our sympathy to Diane, Suzanne and Justin.

Richard D. Brown

May 31, 2020

Both Ron and myself started our classroom teaching careers in the early 1970s. Although we taught in different suburban districts, it was may honor to collaborate with Ron on his "best practices" advice in teaching high school government. His students benefited from the extra strong emphasis he put on teaching the "legislative process" and the all-important time consuming simulations he led on how a bill becomes law. Through this experience, he taught his students the thinking skills, research methods, coalition-building, compromise and other factors that differentiated effective legislation. With his encouragement, UNO's political science department largely adopted his model in sponsoring a model unicameral/student congress competition that several schools participated in. Through simulations, he truly prepared Papillion-LaVista High School students for effective participatory citizenship.

Millard High/Millard South

Dr. Craig R. Christiansen

May 31, 2020

I count my friendship with Ron among the many pleasures of my life. We worked on many political issues together and I still believe we were on the right side on all of them. We didn't always agree on details, but I always knew that he was supportive of the big picture for education. When Ron gave his word on something, I knew I could count on it. He was a singular, outstanding advocate for public education, from elementary school to the university. My fondest memories were the informal, end-of-the-day debriefings. Peace to the family. And thank you for sharing Ron.

Lee Rupp

May 31, 2020

Sen.Withem and I were seated in close proximity in the Ne Unicameral, and I preceded him as the UofN lobbyist. We were good friends.
I always admired his ability to retain a good sense of humor even while projecting intensity on very serious subjects-a talent that seems to be in short supply these days!
Our Sympathy to you Diane,Suzanne and Justin
Lee and Kay Rupp

DiAnna Schimek

May 30, 2020

Ron Withem was a friend and a mentor. He sat in the desk right behind me in the legislature until he left to take a job at the University of Nebraska in 1997. He was always fun, witty, knowledgeable, familiar with the issues, and very strategic in his thinking. He was an excellent Speaker and an excellent legislator. He had a large influence on education policy in this state. Diane, thank you and Suzanne and Justin for sharing Ron with the state and for helping him to serve. It was a pleasure knowing him.

Linda Zanarini

May 29, 2020

My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Diane and the family. We had good times at Papillion High and Ron was a special individual, great teacher, and good friend.

Robb Crouch

May 29, 2020

I had the privilege of working with Ron on various external relations committees associated with the university over the years and always appreciated his thoughtfulness and wit. He was always so kind and appreciative of everything we did to support our great university system. Like others have said, the university is a much better institution because of Ron's longtime dedication and service.

Darryl Ulrich

May 29, 2020

Ron was a teacher of mind which I had great respect for. Ron also was my official score keeper and one of the assistant coaches when our sons played baseball. I have the fondest memories of our days of coaching. Our deepest sympathy goes out to Diane, Susan and Justin and all the family.

Lt. Gov. Mike Foley

May 29, 2020

I served in the Nebraska Unicameral from 2001-2007 so my time there did not coincide with Ron's service in the Legislature. However, I did get to know him later when he represented the University of Nebraska.
Ron was always helpful and forthcoming in all of his communications with me and I appreciated the opportunity to work with him on issues of mutual concern. It became very obvious why he was so highly respected in his public service.
My prayers are with Ron and his family as they grieve his passing.

Charlyne Berens

May 29, 2020

I got to know Ron when I was a member of the School Finance Review Commission that he co-chaired in the late 1980s. He was an outstanding leader: caring, kind, smart -- and funny. Later, when I wrote several books about the Unicameral, Ron was an excellent source, generous with his time and insights.

Senator Withem was the epitome of a good public servant and a fine human being. Nebraska will miss him.

Charlyne Berens, Lincoln


Learn more about the Withem name